Thomas Jackson questions the rush to change the structure of The Episcopal Church at the Diocese of California Pacific Church News, asking for fewer “buzz words” and some honesty about why it is needed:
They spoke in apocalyptic terms of the need for revolutionary change saying “we have hit the iceberg …and the ship is sinking.” They spoke of a “grassroots” demand for urgent change “before it is too late.” They called for inclusion of those at the margin yet their supporters did not include significant representation from the young or people of color or people who live in “blue states” or LGBT people. And for all the testimony, few spoke of the specific changes they desire.
Instead of specific we heard calls for a “flattening of the organization.” How the voices of lay people, clergy and bishops are to be included let alone balanced went unsaid.
Instead of suggesting what is holding people back, we heard the same buzzwords over and over again: everything needs to be on the table, the sacred cows must be killed, death precedes resurrection, and the church must be nimble, creative, and effective. How the current structure prevents either a parish or diocese from being creative or nimble or effective was not made clear.
If this call for revolutionary change is really about money – about spending less on the national church – then let’s be honest enough to day so. We don’t need a Special Commission or Special Convention to revise the budget.
If this call for radical change is an effort to end our church’s progressive efforts to include all of the baptized in all of our sacraments let’s be honest enough to say so. Many of the dioceses represented in the hearing were “red states,” states where LGBT inclusion has not traditionally been a priority. Not a single LGBT leader – or leader of people of color or young Episcopalians – spoke in support of this call for radical change.
To be fair many speakers emphasized the need to include young people and “those on the margins” in the “Special Commission” that is to revise everything. But those words will ring hollow until these speakers make their calls for inclusion real through action.
Many of the speakers echoed the theme of our Presiding Bishop’s opening address: a theme of accepting death to open the path of resurrection, of allowing things to be broken so they can be renewed. While that seems an accurate reflection of the budget process so far, she has not made clear what parts of the church will have the honor of being the first to gain the opportunity of resurrection. Not a single speaker reflected the concerns of our President of the House of Deputies. That’s disconcerting if you believe lay and clerical deputies should have a voice alongside out bishops in governing this church.
At stake is a way of governing our church that allows lay people and clergy to act as equals to our bishops in making decisions. Our concept of sharing power between lay, clergy and bishops is not the way much of the Anglican Communion is governed. Our General Convention is far more democratic than church councils in other nations. If we are to sacrifice the General Convention as a “sacred cow,” we’d best have a much better way of making decisions than has been suggested to date.
If you think the General Convention is broken, look at the way our young people led the House of Deputies to call for more funds for youth programs. They spoke with eloquence and focus; they touched the hearts and moved the minds of our Deputies. Or talk to someone who heard trans people testify yesterday. The forum that makes this kind of transformational change possible is by definition not a sacred cow: it is simply sacred.
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