Should General Convention meet as a unicameral house

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We don’t have much by way of details yet, but scuttlebutt from the House of Bishops suggests that it may be worth discussing whether the Episcopal Church would be better served if General Convention abolished the Houses of Bishops and Deputies and met unicamerally.

What are your thoughts? I don’t have a well developed opinion on this issue in the abstract, and would like to hear from people who pay attention to this sort of thing.


Obviously, the composition of this body would matter. How many bishops, how many clergy, how many laity? Also, diversity might be an issue because if we are to include all of the bishops, or even all diocesan bishops in the new assembly, we start with a very white, very male and possibly rather old group.

Also, if the bishops continued to meet twice a year (as they do now) and the other members of the unicameral assembly met only at General Convention, power in the church would shift away from convention and toward the bishops’ meeting. I don’t currently object to the bishops meeting twice a year–Being a bishop is a lonely job.–but if it became the primary place at which policy could be discussed, formulated and then brought as a package to the convention, I think it would be very difficult for lay people and clergy to play a significant role in the governance of the church.

On the other hand, the Lutherans meet unicamerally, if I am not mistaken, and if it works for them (Does it? I don’t know.) maybe it can work for us.

Just to lay my own cards on the table, disclosure wise, my communications firm does work for the President of the House of Deputies, and, at the moment, four bishops.

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FrSimmons
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FrSimmons

Jim,

I think it is quite possible you read my comments as condescending, since I'm an ordained person and there seems to have some issue there (Back to the "Thank you for the moral lecture, Father" quote. That's quite frankly a pretty cheap shot, which I find hard to believe was typed into a bulletin post at the cafe.) Since I have spent the majority of my ministry as a lay person, I don't assume I know more than you simply because I have a collar. I believe I was simply being challenging, in the same way I always was as a lay person. Is it possible you are reading a challenge to be condescending because i'm clergy? I thought we were having a debate between equals.

My point all along, is that when we use the language of "structural advantages" and "tactical advantages," we imply that church governance is a kind of Marxist struggle. I believe we need to find different language that sees it as a collaborative process rather than a clash of opposites. Appealing to the fact that such language is used in sports or secular politics does not help, because I don't really like the idea of our governance being based in either of those metaphors.

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Jim Naughton
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Jim Naughton

David, is it possible you don't realize how condescending your comments have been from the start? You write as though it is your job to hold other people accountable for their manners, but that you are above being called to account yourself.

You wanted to score some debating points by misrepresenting me. I have responded with what I think it understandable irritation to this tactic, which I do not regard as fair.

You have responded by continuing to misrepresent me and continuing to lecture me.

On top of that I think the notion that this paragraph somehow perpetuates divisiveness, when it is a hypothetical examination of an abstract situation does not stand serious scrutiny.

"But help me here, are you really arguing that the group that gets to caucus twice a year--in meetings chaired by the CEO of the church--has no tactical advantages over the group that doesn't caucus and whose members may have little contact with each other between conventions? I am not imputing any nefarious motives here. It just seems to me that the structural advantage that would accrue to the caucusing group --in any legislative body--is obvious. So I sense I am misunderstanding you somehow."

I am happy to let you have the last word here.

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FrSimmons
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FrSimmons

Jim,

The personally-directed snarkiness ("Thank you for the moral instruction, Father") is uncalled for and offensive. What's next, Ad Hominem?

I didn't say you shouldn't respond to and correct those who you feel misrepresent you. I simply pointed out that your statement about "I can't tell you how weary I am of people imputing motives to me that I do not have, and then giving me advice on how I should speak" is unrealistic. That's what public discourse is, especially on the internet.

My point on the metaphor is this. As long as we continue to use metaphors that cast the relationship between the two houses as a conflict, the longer it will remain so.

We don't have time or money to continue this pet squabble between our houses of government.

David Simmons

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Jim Naughton
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Jim Naughton

David, the fact that I have opinion and am not a neutral party does not mean that I hold the opinions you attributed to me. You can't misrepresent someone's opinions, and then reprimand them for the opinions that you attributed to them and expect them to say, Thank you for the moral instruction, Father.

I don't know if you read much politics or much sports, but I find the phrase "tactical advantage" used in that literature with some frequency.

If the General Convention becomes a unicameral legislature--a development about which I don't now have a strong opinion--then new alliances and antagonisms will sprout up. The members of competing alliances will seek tactical advantages over one another, and those of us who need to describe what is happening will continue to have need of that phrase.

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FrSimmons
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FrSimmons

Jim,

My comment was hyperbole, but surely you don't claim to be neutral in this "HOB/HOD Conflict Narrative?" (Which I find fictional, divisive and ultimately unhelpful.)

Complaints about people imputing motives to you is beneath you. You are a blogger who expresses opinions in your posts. You DO have motives, right? If so, expect your readers to impute them to you.

"Tactical Advantage" is a military term. It implies that the two houses are at war, as opposed to two parts of the same system moving in the same direction. While that certainly describes the current situation, it does not describe the ideal or even the norm. If we are to "fix" this system, we need to use a metaphor better than one of military conflict, and by all means, we need to see one another as working towards a mutual goal. Language is important, as it frames the whole governance debate.

Perhaps the advantage of the unicameral system might be that it would eliminate all of this perceived house vs. house bickering.

David Simmons

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