Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Our Episopal Default Future is a Racket We Should Divest

The reality is that we, like all denominational churches, face our default future. This reality isn't unique to us.

A friend recently gave me a copy of Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan's book THE THREE LAWS OF PERFORMANCE. In it Zaffron and Logan argue that all humans typically face and receive the futures that they believe will pass. They argue that this reality illusion has more power of humans than actual facts or reasons.

It is like this, how a situation occurs to you goes hand in hand with your actions. This is amplified by the fact that what we see is all there is, and the world seemingly revolves around us as individuals. David Foster Wallace in his Kenyan College Graduation speech offered this understanding of our self-centeredness. He believed that we are deluded by the lens by which we experience the world – this is part of our problem and it hides the most obvious realities. He wrote, "A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded… [because] everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence... Think about it: There is no experience you've had that you were not at the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is right there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real” that it is difficult to hear the other voices. Wallace says, "As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head. In fact some of you are carrying on that conversation right now.”

Daniel Kahneman in his book THINKING FAST AND SLOW calls it "observation bias."

What these authors, economists, and business men are offering is the essential truth that we see the world as it occurs to us and therefore make actions that suit our observations.  We make our future - one way or the other.

The question that Bob Johansen, of Institute for the Future, is asking is what insights are you using to make your decisions.

So lets go back and think a bit about our Episcopal Church (or any denomination thinking about how to structure itself, judicatory, or congregation for that matter). This summer our Episcopal Church will meet in convention and ponder how to structure itself for mission.  It will ask the same questions it has been asking for two decades, and they are similar to all denominational churches in our time. In particular our church structure has spent enormous amounts of time and energy pondering what the future looks like - TREC. Now that TREC has returned with their version what structure could be the population of general convention is thinking - "no". There are other groups offering similar ideas as TREC. There are groups trying to amplify the work of all these people to convince the general-convention-going deputies that they need to vote positively to restructure the church.

But the deputies and bishops have not spent a lot of time on this. They have not spent three years reading and studying things, listening to consultants, dreaming about mission, and then attempting to build consensus in a wildly diverse group of people around common future scenarios of a mission church. This isn't to place a value on the lack of this work, but it is to point out that the deputy or bishop will vote based upon how the church occurs to them. And here is the rub.

The future is as it occurs and is already written by the deputies and bishops - and it isn't the future TREC or any other group is offering. The reason is that it is the default future. The deputies and bishops will vote, as all others have voted, and as of right now the vast majority of efforts towards restructuring will fail. The restructuring offers  a means to an end and that end is not how the deputies see the church; it isn't how it occurs to them. That is just the way it is.

70% of all change efforts fall short because those who are actually in charge of the change don't change but vote or act as the church has always occurred to them. 70% fall short despite our good intentions, sophisticated systems, we have put a great group of people in the room, we have a solid management plan, and good leaders who came up with TREC report (I am biased of course having been a member of the committee).

The reason is that what occurs to the vast numbers of deputies and bishops may be one of the following: a) all structure proposals fail b) I don't think our system is broken c) to change will remove power from me d) I like how things work e) our predecessors chose this system for a reason. Regardless of context, potential, crisis, problems, expressed concern about the continued loss of membership and money, or any other reason these 5 different ways in which the church occurs to the people will rule the day. The 5 different ways the church occurs to the deputies and bishops is not only a voting block to ensure no movement but it is an intimately strong web of occurrences that are not changed by reasonable argument, future forecast, power points, and graphs.

The traditional approach, Zaffron and Logan argue, is for us to make our case. Show our research. Offer a view of what is really happening. Look at the numbers. "See here it is," we might say, "it is clear." Current models for change management hold that people act based upon mental assets of skills, emotions, beliefs, values, attitudes, and knowledge. And the traditional approach is to use incentives, skill training, and motivation to manage the change. Zaffron and Logan point out that this is why the effort fails. None of this deals with how the actual church and future church occurs to the people who actually will be making a vote.

No matter how much money, resources, time we spend throwing at this problem we will fail because we have forgotten (as Simon Sinek points out) The Why.

The reality is that the unanimous vote in both houses to restructure was created by casting a vision of a future church that was involved in mission at all levels of the organization. People believed - even for a moment - that the possible was in fact, well, possible.

Over the last two decades the change efforts have failed at General Convention (not because they were bad ideas) because we never changed how the church occurred to those voting. Consequently, each effort that has failed has reinforced and strengthened the resistance to change. We are so focused on the what and the what has grown stronger and stronger and more resistant to change. Not only that - we benefit from keeping it this way.

We as a church, and General Convention (or any judicatory), have a racket. The first part of our racket is this: we have a complaint about how things work. Everyone is complaining. We heard it clearly at TREC, that everyone has problems with how things work - even if they denied publicly that this was true, we heard it privately over and over again. The second part of the racket is this: we write about it, talk about, speach-ify about it, call for change, we act hopeless and bewildered at how no one will change. The third element Zaffron and Logan offer is harder to see. We all see the above two behaviors of our Episcopal racket. The next behavior is the payoff. The payoff for our particular racket is that we get to be right, the depersonalized system is wrong, avoids the reality that we are part of the system, and we maintain control of our platform or place on the convention floor. The fourth behavior to our racket is the cost. The cost is that we remain hopeless to change anything, we continue to spend money and time with very little to show for it, we disenfranchise people across the church, and we harm the mission of Christ.

We have a default future and it is a racket that costs the mission of the church dearly and hurts the community and mission of Christ. We need to divest from this racket and this way that the church occurs to us. It is not what God intends.

Here is where that old maxim about the sea comes in, attributed to Antoine de Saint Exupery, "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."

Jesus offered us a vision of nothing less than the reign of God. Jesus offered us plenteous redemption. Jesus offered us healing and forgiveness. Jesus offered us a share in his harvest ministry.  Jesus invited us to come along and to meet an intimate transformative God.  This vision held up against the way we do things today brings about change.

The solution to bringing about change will depend on Jesus' vision of the church and the following behaviors of its adherents. 
  • We need to focus on the hopeful future potential of our church and our church's mission.
  • We need to speak about the future (not the current state of affairs, not the problems, not the racket - for that we need to go to confession and seek amendment of life).
  • We must paint a compelling and vibrant future together, speaking and listening one another into a conversion that seeks to be the community that Jesus inspired.
The challenge as we enter this season of preparation and debate will must be a season of inspiration and imagination. So I invite you to lift up your eyes. Take a look towards the horizon. What does a vibrant, beautiful, living, healthy and powerful church look like as it undertakes mission through evangelism and the service of neighbor? What does the future church look like as it sails into the contextual sea that surrounds you? Leave behind the vision of the church that occurs to you, and take up the future church that you are willing to work towards?

It will be those who can cast a vision of this future church who will win the day regarding the future shape of our organization. I believe it will be the bishop who can inspire us to imagine this future church who will be the next Presiding Bishop. We should demand inspiration and vision from our leaders. We should hope together to discover the open sea that is before us. 

I think that Jesus' vision of community is worth working together to bring to light. I think that vision, the one you have in your head right now, that church is worth the labor of change.


14 comments:

James Derkits said...

Beautiful words brother. Let's go!

Gary Goldacker said...

Good thoughts and a strong vision. Unspoken, but it seems to imply that we, in the Church and in our culture, live in a climate of fear which is promoted, consciously or unconsciously by our leadership. And I believe that this is part of what "hardens" our hearts against change. As an interim serving 20 congregations, large and small, in 9 dioceses, I see it in every place. Maybe the GC, as well as the rest of us, need to se another angel inspiring us to "Be not afraid."

Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

Andy: If by "deputies" you mean all those voting at General Convention (including bishops) you might make that clear. What it sounds like currently is that deputies aren't prepared to move on these proposals, but bishops are. I think this applies to BOTH Houses.

Bonnie Anderson said...

Greetings, Bishop Doyle,
I was interested in your comments as I read them from afar in Michigan. I am thinking, perhaps you have not changed your thinking about the value of the House of Deputies since your post in August of 2009? ",,,,,,The legislative process has been wholly unsatisfactory for me and a number of other bishops. I spoke to the "discharge" motion yesterday because I believe the House of Bishops has in its power to make decisions and take actions through pastoral letters to the church without the House of Deputies....."

—andy doyle


http://texasbishop.blogspot.com/

Andy Doyle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy Doyle said...

A friend told me that I had neglected to include the bishops in my blog. I have corrected this. My blog post is really about the system itself and the nature of how human beings in the system make decisions.

My perceptions quoted back to me above are words spoken in context of a painful moment for many in 2009. I was dissatisfied in that moment about the process underway which was creating a great deal of pain in the system and had hoped we could find a way to capture some of the voices. The House of Bishops and many others did not agree with me. I did feel listened to appropriately. Other leaders, lay and ordained have since shared opinions publicly that are contrary to my own. And, I have listened and valued those voices - even when they didn't fit with my understanding. I value a system where all voices are heard. I think because I believe we are all meant to be working together. Listening is always more valuable than speaking.

The truth is that our church has given certain powers to all of its members and to the two houses - we all have roles to play. I am saddest about how we undermine lay ministry in the church. I hope you will remember I was first a deputy before I was a bishop - a ministry I enjoyed. And, I was pleased to serve the House of Deputies.

Despite what people might think I actually believe in the integrity of the two houses. I think bishops should listen to the deputies and the deputies to the bishops in a mutual conversation. Only in this way can we engage in the leadership our church has given to us all. I don't mind the deputies having more votes than the bishops. I am more than happy to have the presiding bishop and the house of deputies president elected by both houses. I am in favor of a unicameral body as long as it protects the integrity and voices of the two houses.

I am highly invested in collaboration hoped for by our founding members. It is a uniqueness that I treasure about our system. I would like to be in conversation with voices different than my own.

At the same time I believe the purpose of the structure is to serve the mission of God in Christ Jesus. I am invested in trying to figure out how that works better. I truly believe, as stated above that at the last General Convention both houses captured a vision of God's hand at work. I simply want that vision to lead us at this convention. I too get trapped. I too have the racket. I too am a prisoner of my own biases. And where any of us hold on to power too tightly (including the bishops and myself or the deputies) we should be willing to let go. I do think we could do some things better. I do think General Convention as a governing body could work better.

Moreover, I believe in it enough to have given my time to the work that is before us. I will take my place in the councils along side a whole host of beloved friends I can't wait to see. I will do my part - much of which will be to serve where asked. And, I will serve loyally no matter what is decided. I love the Episcopal Church. I love our structure AND I think it is time to change it.

At the end of the day, I want to dream together about the reign of God. I want to see the great power of true lay ministry unleashed. I want our church to become a church that is lay led and clergy supported instead of clergy led and lay supported. I dream of a church whose true baptismal ministry is unleashed.

I just sat with a priest who talked about a group of parishioners who went to the aid of another whose house was flooded. They took in a host of neighbors. They cleaned out the water damage. They saw to their safety and to their well being. The witness of the church at its best is right here in Texas as we reach out and serve following the disastrous floods. I am only wanting to have a church governance structure that supports at the end of the day this amazing work at the grass roots level.

Andy Doyle said...

It has been recently implied in comments that pastoral letters from Bishops without the consent of the House of Deputies is somehow not part of our tradition in the Episcopal Church or a bad thing.

Pastoral letters may be issued in the Episcopal Church by the Presiding Bishop, the House of Bishops, or any diocesan bishop. The canons require that pastoral letters of the House of Bishops and diocesan bishops be read or otherwise distributed to the people. While the canons do not define a pastoral letter, one issued by a diocesan bishop is to address "points of Christian doctrine, worship, or manners."

You can find the canons governing these letters in the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church here:

Of the Bishop....................................................................................................................................III.12.3(b)
Of the House of Bishops..............................................................................................III.9.5(b)(7); JR V.15
Of the Presiding Bishop....................................................................................................................... I.2.4(b)

In the early years these were reports to the church from the House of Bishops. In recent years they have taken on thematic tones and offered pastoral concern for issues facing the world and the church. I can't list them all here because there are a lot of them.

You can find a list of some of the pastoral letters here: http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/pastorals/ Over 45 Pastoral letters from William White to Katharine Jefferts Shori and every house of bishops in between. They are teaching documents which is one of the roles of bishops in our church.

A Pastoral Letter to the Members of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, from the House of Bishops of Said Church, Assembled in General Convention, at Baltimore, May, 1808.
Signed by William White.

Identity, Pilgrimage and Peace: House of Bishops Pastoral Letter, General Convention, 1982.
New Orleans: 982.

Anglican Identity, an Expectant Community of Faith and Mission: The Pastoral Letter of the House of Bishops 1987.
1987.

The Sin of Racism, 1994

The Unfolding Environmental Crisis, 2011

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori issues pastoral letter on the Doctrine of Discovery and Indigenous Peoples, 2012

Jim Littrell said...

I have read carefully and tried to digest this blog post, a challenging effort in and of itself. I am in absolute agreement with the Bishop's assertion that compelling vision is what best motivates and drives change, structural or personal. For that vision to compel us into genuinely new space and endeavor, though, it must ITSELF transcend--indeed leap far beyond--what, in the Bishop's locution, "occurs" to us. And for me, it is precisely at the point of describing a transcendent, vividly imagined new vision, exactly at that place, that the Bishop's argument fails. For instead of offering a new or even newly imagined vision, he at that moment, reverts to a language about God that is regressive and descriptions of God's being and activity with and in the human condition couched in a regressive and exhausted vocabulary: redemption, forgiveness, sin, confession, reign (a word he uses repeatedly to describe the cosmos filled with the enterprise of the Divine and a word so rooted in the malignancies of our Episcopal past that for me at least it completely violates the nature of what must be God's own self), and so on, and on. This vision is driven by the Bishop's own understanding of what he claims is our common understanding of who "Jesus" was, what was his intention for us, what were his most defining acts, indeed of the most fundamental nature and being of "Jesus." BUT, all of those things are asserted as universal when they are in fact precisely and only the Bishop's "occurrences." Both the regressive and distinctly non-imaginative vocabulary and the appeal to a privately understood Jesus fail the "leap" test and land us over and over again in the same sinking sands. For who is to say whose "occurrence" of Jesus, whose definition of "lay," whose meaning of the community that arose from the cross of Jesus, whose experience of the Divine, is definitive? I would assert that we are wandering because we are wandering, in terrain that is almost completely beyond our ken. Or anyone's ken, except perhaps that of God's own being. We cannot "restructure" by taking refuge in what are finally old platitudes, words that have long since ceased to reverberate outside our own self-understanding, a vocabulary of self- and God- description and definition that is retrogressive at best, and a vision that attempts transcendence by engaging with an old and failed homiletic and exegesis. It just doesn't work. No matter how many current popular list makers and experts we invoke--and over the years we have invoked hundreds in service to our various attempts at revitalization--we're not going to be able to transcend our condition as strangers in a strange land, wanderers headed toward what we hope is promise.

What I long for is a community of wanderers and wonderers, held together by compassion and faith, joined in some kind of Godly excitement, made safe on the unknown journey by the touch of those with whom I share the journey, and summoned forward by the always transcendent call toward justice and mercy. Digging sewer sludge out of flooded basements, standing firm against massive weapons of cosmic destruction, putting lives on the line for human well being, freeing the oppressed and the prisoners, welcoming the billions of struggling poor into our fortunate plenty--all this defines and exemplifies my imagined community as it wanders. The rest is chaff; or if not, will find a way to serve.

Katie Sherrod said...

When I read this. . .

"He wrote, 'A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded… [because] everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence... Think about it: There is no experience you've had that you were not at the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is right there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real” that it is difficult to hear the other voices. Wallace says, "As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head. In fact some of you are carrying on that conversation right now.'”

. . . my immediate reaction was -- and remains -- this could only have been written by a white male steeped in male privilege. That's an observation, not a judgement. Certainly few women and, I suspect, few people of color in the United States, can relate to constantly thinking of themselves as the center of the universe. Yes, I "get" the construct that we all can experience the world only through our own enfleshed reality. But it does NOT necessarily follow that it becomes the only reality we see. For one thing, most women and people are color are reminded daily, often hourly, that they are emphatically NOT the center of the universe. It may be hard for "guys" to hear what others are saying because of the noise of their own thoughts but I maintain it's not such a problem for everyone. The whole idea that the male experience of the world can be extrapolated to the entire world is, in fact, the very definition of male privilege. Extrapolating it to the entire population of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops is equally problematic, in my opinion, and certainly not helpful.

Andy Doyle said...

I simply meant it as you say a, "construct that we all can experience the world only through our own enfleshed reality."

And I would hope we could all do better and listen to one another and allow one another's voices to be heard. Sometimes we are mean to one another or shame people because they have ideas that are different than our own. Sometimes we try and shut down voices of difference. We do this as a church, on line, in debate, and to one another.

I am invested in a more open listening system where the diversity of its many parts are valued and heard.

Systems are systems and the thinking about systems applies to our system of church - even if we don't want it to apply.

I am in favor of a diverse representative gathering of voices who are truly listened to and whose ideas are shared and multiplied as we try and bring about an organization that is doing its best for the church.

I would be interested in this feed and in other feeds about ideas that our church has and how to make the system better. I haven't heard a lot of that engagement. I have heard a lot about how ideas are bad or biased or wrong.

What do you think would help? How could General Convention, the Executive Council, the Presiding Bishop's role, the Episcopal Church staff, or judicatories be reshaped to make our work more efficient, impactful and transformative for the sake of the Gospel? That is the conversation I am interested in having.

Reverend Thomas Brackett said...

Bishop Andy,

Thank you for inviting us to engage. I admire you for taking the risk of posting this call to action, even on your own blog! From my experiences across the Episcopal & Lutheran churches, you are pointing out glaring needs that are best addressed in local conversations between participants who learn to trust each other over time. Those conversations seem to happen best in circles via participatory leadership. The compelling vision you’ve described emerge in lively form from the center of those circles via processes that look so different from those that we have inherited in mainline Christendom.

For example, if I were in circle with you, I'm not sure I'd know where to engage your heart in this lovely writing you've offered. I think I might be tempted to imagine that I know perfectly well where you're headed, but REALLY ... I cannot. We'd need to share some meals. I'd need to watch you for a while - learn how you live out your values - how you greet your friends - how you embrace those who wear our brokenness on their sleeves. Maybe we'd share stories and discern the shape of each other's hopes, from across that circle.

After a while, I'd understand how you came to write this piece and better yet, we'd have the relationship needed to try on some fresh responses to these conundrums you've named, but together. I'd welcome that and I can tell that it wouldn't take long to really appreciate what you are holding out, here.

In the meantime, presumption of good will is not a reflexive response in venues like this. Blogger.com doesn't let me watch your body language when you answer the question, "What is the vision of our shared future that has compelled you to offer your best self, Bishop Andy?" It doesn't give us the space to be silent and then ask, "What do you need from us in order to bring your whole self / best self into this venture?" I'd need to take some notes and then gently offer those back to you as invitation into behavioral covenants that transform all of us. And my heart would leap within me when you'd ask the same of me/us!

In the meantime, these conversations are already happening - in the Diocese of Texas (I know from many who are grateful for your leadership there!) and across our Network formerly known as "Denomination." It takes chutzpa to make the shift from processes designed to produce agreement to processes that nurture commitment. I am coming to believe that this shift can only start locally and spread from there. It takes heart and the vulnerability that holy longings open up in us.

In the meantime, thank you for letting me imagine that we will have these conversations and ask each other these questions, sooner than later!

With gratitude for you and your vocation among us,


Tom Brackett
646.203.6266

It is when our longings match or exceed our fears of loss that we can access the new behaviors needed to offer our “Yes!” to the Spirit.

Reverend Thomas Brackett said...

Bishop Andy,

Thank you for inviting us to engage this conversation, especially three weeks from General Convention. I admire you for taking the risk of posting this call to action, even on your own blog!

From my experiences across the Episcopal & Lutheran churches, I know that you are pointing out glaring needs that are best addressed in local conversations between participants who learn to trust each other over time. Those conversations seem to happen best in circles via participatory leadership. The compelling vision you’ve described emerges from the center of those circles via processes that look so different from those that we have inherited.

For example, if I were in circle with you, I'm not sure I'd know where to engage your heart in this lovely writing you've offered. I think I might be tempted to imagine that I know perfectly well where you're headed, but REALLY ... I cannot. We'd need to share some meals. I'd need to watch you for a while - learn how you live out your values - how you greet your friends - how you embrace those who wear our brokenness on their sleeves. Maybe we'd share stories and discern the shape of each other's hopes, from across that circle.

After a while, I'd understand how you came to write this piece and better yet, we'd have the relationship needed to try on some fresh responses to these conundrums you've named, but together. I'd welcome that and I can tell that it wouldn't take long to really appreciate what you are holding out, here.

In the meantime, presumption of good will is not a reflexive response in venues like this. Blogger.com doesn't let me watch your body language when you answer the question, "What is the vision of our shared future that compels you to offer your best self, Bishop Andy?" It doesn't give us the space to be silent and then ask, "What do you need from us in order to bring your whole self / best self into this venture?" I'd need to take some notes and then gently offer those back to you as invitation into behavioral covenants that transform all of us. And my heart would leap within me when you'd ask the same of me/us!

In the meantime, these conversations are already happening - in the Diocese of Texas (I know from many who are grateful for your leadership there!) and across our Network formerly known as "Denomination." It takes chutzpa to make the shift from processes designed to produce agreement to processes that nurture commitment. I am coming to believe that this shift can only start locally and spread from there. It takes heart and the vulnerability that holy longings open up in us.

In the meantime, thank you for letting me imagine that we will have these conversations and ask each other these questions, sooner than later!

With gratitude for you and your vocation among us,

Tom

It is when our longings match or exceed our fears of loss that we can access the new behaviors needed to offer our “Yes!” to the Spirit.

Katie Sherrod said...

I share your desire for a "more open listening system where the diversity of its many parts are valued and heard." I actually think General Convention is an amazingly open listening system, where many voices are heard -- sadly not always valued, but heard. And the genius of General Convention is that it -- like all relatively democratic legislative bodies -- is a constantly evolving work in progress. People can raise up issues out of their local contexts, bring them to General Convention via resolutions, and get the attention of the whole church. This is what happened in 1976 with Louie Crews' resolution A069 -- " Resolved, That it is the sense of this General Convention that homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church." That resolution was put forward by Louie at his local convention, then taken up by a brand new group called Integrity, whose members worked hard to educate deputies and bishops about the resolution and the thinking behind it. Its passage was the beginning of what a lot of people saw as the bending of the arc of history toward justice in the church -- and what others saw as a slippery slope to sin. Both sides worked hard for the next three decades to make their voices heard. General Convention listened and deliberated, and much too slowly for some, must too fast for others, moved through a 30-plus-years-long discussion that boiled down essentially to what baptism means with regard to full inclusion in the life and ministries of the church.
Should the church have been more "nimble" in this discussion? Some think it moved too fast anyway. Did the governance structure work well in this instance? As with all similar bodies, the structure works best for those who understand it best. This will remain true of any structure we put in place.
I am not convinced that borrowing business school strategies and techniques works well when applied to a church governance system. For one thing, the expectations of the participants -- of the system, of one another, and even, I dare say, of themselves -- are different within a church than within a business. And thank God.
I think the answer is in front of us, in the idea that the orders of ministry are the laity, deacons, priests, bishops. But the key, I think, is envisioning those ministries in a circle, not a pyramid. It doesn't matter who you put on top of a pyramid -- bishops or laity -- that top tier is going to have problems hearing the voices from the bottom tier. And vice versa. What matters is what you put in the middle of the circle, and that's Jesus. If this circle of ministries is constantly feeding one into the other, all are empowered and the ideas and energies they generate are shared and multiplied.
If our system is envisioned as a series of these circles -- at the parish level, at the diocesan level, at the provincial level, and the General Convention/Executive Council/Church-Wide staff level -- what difference does that make in our structure? Should it make in our structure?
Will structures that work at a congregational or diocesan level work at the PB/Executive Council/General Convention level?Some will, others probably won't, for reasons of scale if nothing else.
A PB is not a diocesan bishop, yet we seem to want to structure the enormous and widely varied responsibilities of a PB like we do that of a diocesan bishop. We call the staff a church-wide staff but we don't want it to be responsible to a church-wide body.
I don't have the answers, but these are the questions I am chewing on.

Andy Doyle said...

The last is a great comment and I too share these questions.

I ponder am I listening to people's voices that are different than my own and how does that help me discern? Sometimes we decided that we shouldn't listen to voices outside of our circles because they are not our experience or there is some kind of secular/sacred divide.

I find that God is in the world and that God is moving and wisdom is flowing from all places. The church is a healthy diaspora in the midst of the culture when it engages, listens, applies, and ponders wisdom from outside of itself. The church is an unhealthy diaspora when it shuts out - lets say science, the business world, or music from the context. In this way we seem to protect things that are important while actually harming the organization we hope to conserve. The difference is between conservation and preservation. Preservation keeps change from happening conservation helps the very best parts to be used wisely.

I want us to heal history, live with difference and celebrate our diversity, and to create a culture of peace and collaboration. This is the reconciliation I want to invest in and I am eager to have an organization that will help with that mission.

Quotes

  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball