President of House of Deputies clears up confusion

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Received via email from Dr. Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies:

January 29, 2012

Dear Deputies and First Alternates:

A confusing situation has arisen and I’d like to set the record straight:


On Thursday, the Presiding Bishop released a video directed to the House of Deputies expressing her opinion about legislative issues that will come before General Convention this summer. Yesterday, the Office of Communications sent an email to bishops that mischaracterized my response to the video’s release and asked the bishops to forward the video message to their diocese’s deputies.

On Thursday afternoon, I received word from the General Convention Office that the Presiding Bishop, via the Office of Communications, had directed that office to forward a video message from the Presiding Bishop to all deputies. I had neither seen the video nor been consulted about it and so I told the General Convention Office to hold it.

In my nearly 25 years as a deputy, I don’t ever recall the Presiding Bishop speaking directly to the House of Deputies outside of a joint session or without giving the House due notice, while at General Convention. I don’t ever recall a Presiding Bishop corresponding directly with deputies outside of the General Convention, without the knowledge of, or in collaboration with the President.

I was surprised because I thought that the Presiding Bishop, her staff, and I had worked through some important issues of internal communications last fall. I had talked with both Bishop Sauls and the Presiding Bishop and asked that we proceed in a more collegial and cooperative manner. I thought we had agreed to do so.

But while the General Convention Office was holding the video, it was released by the Office of Communications to the whole church just hours before the Presiding Bishop and I were scheduled to arrive in Baltimore where we could have resolved the situation in person.

I am glad to tell you that, while we have been in Baltimore, Bishop Katharine and I have shared a meal and talked in person. I told her that I’m disappointed about what’s happened in the last few days and asked that we proceed toward General Convention with collegiality and a cooperative spirit even—especially—when we disagree. I also told her that I am concerned about the use of churchwide resources to lobby General Convention on only one side of a legislative issue.

Despite this productive conversation, upon direction from the Presiding Bishop, the Office of Communications sent the second email, this time to bishops, that mischaracterized my request that the video be held, thus putting me in a difficult position and making it necessary to spell all of this out.

I am confident that we can get back on track and work productively and faithfully to prepare for General Convention. I will continue to urge that those of us who lead the church talk directly with one another to resolve differences. I will also continue to ask that the resources of the Church Center be deployed in ways that present the full range of opinions on legislation that will determine how the church meets the challenges before us.

Thank you for your commitment to our work. I am looking forward to being with all of you in Indianapolis and to the work that we will accomplish together.

Peace,

Bonnie Anderson, D. D.

President, The House of Deputies

The letter to the bishops to which Dr. Anderson is responding.

Dear Bishops,

You received this notice Thursday and thank you for your feedback.

A similar note was to be sent simultaneously to HOD deputies and alternates. However, the President of the House of Deputies, along with the Secretary of the General Convention, indicated that distribution to the HOD through their own email list would not be permitted.

In order to effectively assure that members of both houses receive this message, and to assure the HOD deputies and alternates that they were not left out of this process, it would be appreciated if you would forward this message directly to your own HOD deputation.

Thank you.

Neva Rae Fox

Public Affairs Officer

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Ann Fontaine
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Ann Fontaine

All of those. Check on Facebook, blogs, listserves -- google "cat fight" and you will find it.

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A Facebook User
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A Facebook User

Ann Fontaine,

You mentioned that "[t]his is not a new thing with KJS and BA - it is being characterized as a 'cat fight' - sexist and demeaning words."

I haven't heard anybody say that, but I certainly would like to know who did say such a thing.

Was it a blogger, deputy, Bishop, staffer, or who ?

-- Eli Havermeyer

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Ann Fontaine
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Ann Fontaine

For those who think this is about anger and turf - the letter from the Office of Public Affairs was incorrect (see text in article) and that is what the clarification is about. The HOD list is one run by and for the Deputies (an electronic version of a meeting of the Deputies). Before the Deputies' leadership knew about the video - the office told the list host to run the video - it is the same as if the PB or any bishop were to walk in and take the microphone at a meeting of the HOD (forbidden by canon). We are still finding our way in this new electronic era. This is a clarification of that too. Perhaps we need more thought about this but there is a reason for the separation of powers - in the early days of governance bishops were not part of the General Convention - and when they were allowed in - all voted together so bishops were always a minority. Now we have equality and the power of veto over each other.

In all my years as a General Convention Deputy - the Presidents have always had to resist the bishops' authority creep to become the main voice of the church. Unless you want a "curia" based church - you will appreciate the President's willingness to suffer your insults so that you maintain your voice in governance.

This is not a new thing with KJS and BA - it is being characterized as a "cat fight" - sexist and demeaning words. I have served with 4 different PHOD's and they all had the same battle to keep the system of governance we desire.

There was no attempt to "block" the video - it was released on youtube and in ENS before the PHOD had a chance to send it out to the Deputies. So there it was not a "block" but a plea for procedure. The PB and the PHOD have since reconciled this issue - time for us to let it go too. IMO

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Jim Naughton
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Jim Naughton

The suggestion is not that the Presiding Bishop does not have the right to address the whole church. Had that been the suggestion, I imagine the President of the House of Deputies would have complained about the video being posted on the church's web site. The suggestion is that there are issues with the Presiding Bishop addressing the House of Deputies without even informing the President of the House that she has plans to do so. You are entitled to your own opinion on whether this is problematic. I think it is. If the churchwide budget has resources for the Presiding Bishop to make numerous videos putting her views before the House of Deputies, and no resources for the President of the House of Deputies to put her views before her own house in this manner, I think that's a problem.

I should mention that I do consulting work for the PHoD, didn't write the letter in question, and have tried to stay out of this conversation because I am involved in the situation.

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Jared C. Cramer
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The idea that the Presiding Bishop of our church must get someone's permission before releasing a video to any segment of our church—including the Deputies—seems entirely ridiculous to me.

It does not seem to me that the tone of the Office of Communications message to the bishops involved any "public airing of grievances." It was just clarifying to the bishops why it was that the video was being sent to them rather than sent through the Deputies e-mail list.

The message from Dr. Anderson, however, seems very much to be airing a personal grievance and perceived affront. Her message, to me, is the message which is inflammatory.

In my opinion, Dr. Anderson is here fighting on behalf of those who are still angry about Bishop Katherine addressing the HoD at the last General Convention. That anger is being projected on what should be a fine and normal action—the PB releasing a video to the Deputies and the wider church, a video that does not lobby but instead calls us to mission.

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