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Responses emerging to TREC’s letter to the church

Responses emerging to TREC’s letter to the church

Reaction to the Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church’s open letter to the church has begun to emerge.


The Rev. Tom Ferguson, who blogs as the Crusty Old Dean has written an extensive analysis which includes these thoughts:

COD is concerned by their presumed mandate from the people, as they announce they will “Draft resolutions for further streamlining of churchwide structures and governance that our work tells us represent the wishes of a large segment of church members and that we believe should be debated and resolved in the 2015 General Convention.” How do they know this represents the wishes of a large segment? Have they done any kind of remotely scientific polling, or is this solely based on people who have self-selected and been in touch with TREC or taken various SurveyMonkeys? If you’re going to represent this as a mandate from the people, you damn well better be able to prove it. ….

Executive Council: To propose something this sweeping without any clarification for what kind of authority Council would exercise is inconceivable. First, TREC proposes “The role of the Executive Council clarified as a “governance” role, similar to a non-profit Board of Trustees.” For one thing, Crusty thought they did have a governance role as outlined in the canons. What is meant by the use of that word here, if it is different from that? The fact they do not define “governance” is simply astounding to COD. Do they mean some kind of policy-setting, big-picture, visioning Board? Or some kind of Board with clearly defined governance role, just different from Council exercises now? For instance, as a dean, Crusty has a Board of Trustees for a non-profit. They don’t just do the vision thing. They can fire the President and Crusty! Is that the kind of non-profit Board of Trustees you’re envisioning? If not, what? Good God, you propose not to change the office of PB but propose a drastic reduction of Council without defining what it would do!

The Rev. Jim Hammond, who blogs at Faith Fact and Fantasy, has written:

If the recommendations of TREC are implemented, there will be more efficiency in the polity of The Episcopal Church, no doubt. There will be, however, less participation in the polity of The Episcopal Church. Clergy will have more responsibility over the course and direction of TEC, and especially the Presiding Bishop, who in recent years somehow, magically and mysteriously, has become the “Primate” of TEC. The centralization of responsibilities of the church with the clergy is yet another characteristic of the Church Catholic. The influence of the laity of TEC will necessarily be diminished since there will be fewer opportunities for the laity to meet, recommend and vote – a smaller Executive Council, a smaller General Convention.

Good arguments, historical arguments, can and should be advanced for maintaining Catholic traditions within the faith and belief of TEC. Equally good and persuasive arguments can and should be advanced for maintaining the checks and balances of Protestant approach to faith and belief. I love TEC, and Anglicanism more generally, for this wonderful and ever so creative balance between Catholic and Protestant thought and belief. We stand firmly in the middle, a singular bridge between the two traditions. From my perspective, the loss of our Protestant heritage to a centralized ecclesiastical authority will significantly weaken The Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Jesse Zink, who blogs at Mission Minded wrote:

The TREC letter, building on ideas previously proposed by member Dwight Zscheile, calls for the convening of a churchwide “missionary convocation” in tandem with or possibly in place of a General Convention. I’m just not convinced that this works. The people who are elected as General Convention delegates—largely those with experience, who can take time off during the summer, have few child-care needs, etc., etc.—are not necessarily the same people who could make a missionary convocation a truly thriving event. Again, this is not a criticism. We need governance. We need resources for evangelism and mission. Those are not the same thing. (True, sometimes there is overlap.)

I’m all in favour of a both/and event—governance and mission/evangelism convocation at the same time—but some dioceses have a hard enough time sending a full deputation as it is. Part of the reality that TREC is dealing with is that the church is no longer in a both/and situation. Instead of beginning with a churchwide missionary convocation, I’d like to see more focused, regional events, whether those organized by congregations/dioceses/provinces or those by para-church organizations, such as the really successful series of conferences organized by the Global Episcopal Mission Network in recent years.

Reaction to the letter on the Episcopal Café’s blog and Facebook page has been overwhelmingly negative.

Joan Gunderson, a former deputy from the Diocese of Pittsburgh wrote:

This report outlines a structure for the 20th century, not the 21st. It does the exact opposite of its claimed goal to empower grassroots. The structure proposed will make TEC even more of a closed circle for a small inner group. Where it goes astray is presuming that the general church must DO something –that it should be the initiator of action, and that a small group of strategists should be picking the direction for the whole church. Doesn’t sound very much like empowering a grass roots.

Bishop Chris Epting wrote:

The report seems good on diagnosis, not so much on treatment. In this day and age NO ONE should serve “at the pleasure” of any one person (including a PB who is looking more and more like a Pope, replacing Province reps on Executive Council with 20 “at large” members will assure that they will be church-wide politicians not “average” Episcopalians, and was no consideration given to what many of us have been calling for – a unicameral GC (a la ELCA) rather than the clergy super-majority we have now?

Reaction on the Episcopal News Service’s republication of the TREC letter was more positive. Gary Goldacker wrote:

A good first draft for setting the scene and identifying some of the characters, with just enough plot to keep me paying attention. As someone ordained during the struggle for a new prayer book and hymnal, the role of women, minorities, LGBT persons in the full ministry of the Church and development of important justice ministries, I feel like I am part of a whole new era for us as the Church. I look forward to our future and thank TREC for it’s exciting work. Prayers for your continuing faithfulness to the Gospel.

Titus Pressler wrote:

Overall this is an excellent interim report. From a first and quick reading I appreciate the missional perspective and urgency, though obviously that needs to be defined further. The suggestion of a Missionary Convocation is intriguing. Likewise important is the acknowledgment of the centrality and energy of local communities of faith. Many of the specific organizational suggestions are appropriate and timely, while some may need revising or at least fine-tuning. There can be no doubt that the task force is ministering in good faith and is not hesitating to confront long festering issues, and this should enhance its credibility in the coming debates over the further specific proposals that it plans to present.

What are your thoughts?

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Jared C. Cramer

Yes, the economic justice piece and the at-large elections to Executive Council are, to me, the most troublesome.

I've written more concrete critiques and suggestions at my own blog, here:

http://carewiththecure.blogspot.com/2014/09/a-reimagined-episcopal-church-some.html

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revsusan

Completely concur with Jan's comments above on the economic justice aspect. If we're going to "reimagine" ourselves as more "missional" church but the mission doesn't include economic justice for our own workers then I think we need to hit the re-start button.

I made my comments on the letter per se on an earlier thread here at the Café ... comments that morphed into my own blog over at "Inch At A Time" ... http://inchatatime.blogspot.com/2014/09/me-on-trec.html ... The question for me is are we a dead church in need of miraculous resuscitation? Or are we a 20th century church in need of new models and structures for the 21st?

Suffice to say everything can be improved. Even the Episcopal Church. But in my corner of the kingdom we are FAR from "DOA."My fear is they've given us such muddy bathwater that the baby of much needed re-imagining is going to get thrown out ... and they're going to have wasted a lot of time and TEC is going to have wasted a lot of resources. Not too late to fix it. But it's not off to an auspicious start.

(I did do a "word cloud" of the recommendations portion of the letter ... that's over on the blog. Kind of interesting ... )

The Reverend Canon Susan Russell

All Saints Church, Pasadena

Diocese of Los Angeles

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revsusan

Completely concur with Jan's comments above on the economic justice aspect. If we're going to "reimagine" ourselves as more "missional" church but the mission doesn't include economic justice for our own workers then I think we need to hit the re-start button.

I made my comments on the letter per se on an earlier thread here at the Café ... comments that morphed into my own blog over at "Inch At A Time" ... http://inchatatime.blogspot.com/2014/09/me-on-trec.html ... The question for me is are we a dead church in need of miraculous resuscitation? Or are we a 20th century church in need of new models and structures for the 21st?

Suffice to say everything can be improved. Even the Episcopal Church. But in my corner of the kingdom we are FAR from "DOA."My fear is they've given us such muddy bathwater that the baby of much needed re-imagining is going to get thrown out ... and they're going to have wasted a lot of time and TEC is going to have wasted a lot of resources. Not too late to fix it. But it's not off to an auspicious start.

(I did do a "word cloud" of the recommendations portion of the letter ... that's over on the blog. Kind of interesting ... )

The Reverend Canon Susan Russell

All Saints Church, Pasadena

Diocese of Los Angeles

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janinsanfran

I was extremely struck by this section from Tom Ferguson (Crusty Old Dean) linked above:

"What is meant by 'contractor-only'?

--There is the justice component here. To move to contracted staff that we will not need to pay unemployment insurance, pension, and benefits would be like trying to run a university with only adjunct faculty. This is a church which walked away from a union cleaning contract at its churchwide headquarters, without discussion or negotiation, to save money, but in turn purports to speak on matters of labor fairness and to support unions. We already have a two-tiered system, where full-time lay employees are given different compensation packages than clergy; we already burn out so many of our volunteers. Do we we want to have a two-tiered denominational staff of people in the PB's office, IT, HR, legal, and communications and a host of contractors who can be fired at will?"

We can't be proclaiming our adherence to the principles of justice if we adopt the downsizing/contingent labor practices of corporate America as our model.

I hope people considering these suggestions keep that in mind.

Jan Adams

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Bill Carroll

I don't have much use for critiques that focus on the business speak. Elizabeth's is at least focused on the content. I disagree that this is the net effect. I think that steamlining EC and downsizing church staff are both salutary and a logical consequence of what TREC was asked to do. I would like to see concrete proposals about moving money way from 815 and into dioceses to plant churches and transform society at the grass roots. I woukd like to see discussion on enhancing collaboration among bishops and deputies. And I would like to see more debate of these proposals on the merits.

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