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TREC response round-up

TREC response round-up

I’ve been trying to keep an eye on responses to the final report form TREC.  Reactions have covered the gamut from enthusiastic to cynical, but nearly all have been able to see some positives in the report.  Everyone also seems to acknowledge the terrifically large and complex mission of the task force, and appreciating that their work was undertaken in good faith and concern for our church.

Anyway, below are my gleanings so far;


Nurya Love Parish offers up a short and concise summary of the report at her churchwork blog that is a must-read for anyone wanting a smart, concise summary of the report, clocking in at under 1000 words.

Adam Trambley, at Black Giraffe, takes a largely positive view of the task force’s work, suggesting it is a good starting point, but notes with caution that a new kind of imaginative thinking will be needed to take this report and move it into reality;

If our imaginations are stuck in our market-share of Christendom, we will continue to have a hard time reimagining a church that expands the Christian “pie”in our communities at the congregational and diocesan levels in a way necessary for any reimagining of the Episcopal Church to be truly successful.  The combination of abdicated past leadership in various church sectors and a widespread lack of imagination leaves TREC waving its arms around vaguely in some areas we really need to figure out.

But even he finds some proposals to be unworkable

The firth resolve calling on DFMS to develop a network to help everybody do everything a church should do and then report to their Diocesan officials just needs to go.  The learning of the church about networks is that people who want them form them.  DFMS could offer grants or technical assistance for those who want to form networks but don’t know how.  I can’t imagine asking someone to be on my parish vestry if they have to report their progress on becoming skilled at “creating, nurturing, and developing spaces and moments for spiritual encounters” to the Bishop annually.


The Haligweorc blog recommends the detailed analysis offered by Tom Ferguson at Crusty Old Dean, but since he is on one of the two Standing Commissions that TREC recommends to continue (Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music) he looks at the possible implications of their work if the TREC’s recommendations were accepted.

One of the current issues is the status of the “music” part of the SCLM. There are already concerns that “music” is an afterthought in the current composition of the Commission. For instance, I can hold down a bass part in a choir pretty well, but that doesn’t make me a church musician by any stretch of the imagination. Too, I am one of the few advocates for “traditional” church music on the Commission. My fear is that adding “Theology” to the Commission’s title and purview will even further dilute musical representation on the Commission. If the “music” roles are headed by one or two people, then their perspectives—whether representative or not of what the church wants or needs—will be magnified in policy-making decisions.

Second, what will the selection criteria for the Commission look like going forward? Will the addition of “Theology” in the name mean a further shift in the composition and role of the Commission? Will we be looking for musicians, liturgists, sacramental theologians, dogmatic theologians, or people who are somehow all of the above? There are many gifted, well-trained, sacramental theologians who cannot be depended upon to draft a decent collect. There are skilled liturgists who would be clueless if directed to point the new EOW canticles for Anglican chant. Are too many roles being consolidated in one Commission?


Jared Cramer at Care with Cure of Souls takes a very sympathetic view of the report, titling his post; “Don’t Hold the Presses, Approve (most of) this Thing! — Initial Reflections on the TREC Report”  He seems to especially like some of the recommendations about changes in governance outlined in the second offered resolution

A002 – Reimagine Governance Structures

OK, to be honest, this was where I decided I wanted to write something. If nothing else, I wanted to add a resounding “Yay!” to this whole section of the document, particularly the move to a unicameral convention.

However, all is not to Cramer’s liking, especially the language on clergy compensation, where he offers a refreshing (to me anyway, because I agree) argument.

Clergy Compensation

With regard to Clergy Compensation, I’m an unpopular guy on this one because I think the current paradigm of what we need more of is (a) not new anymore and (b) is very likely a failed experiment.

Everyone has been saying for years that bivocational clergy is the future  (in TREC’s language, “diverse ways for ordained clergy to make a living inside and outside the Church”). While I do think bivocational clergy (and those in yoked parishes) will continue to be present in the church, I am not convinced this is the best direction for us to continue to go as a church.

TREC, for some reason, seems to expect it as a given (on page 43, when they list the explanation that goes with the resolution, they say very clearly, “Newer clergy cannot assume that they will be able to make a sustainable living in the Church. Instead, they must have many skills they can use in both church and secular environments.”)

Why is this paradigm being assumed? Why is it not being challenged or, at the least, analyzed? Did no one on TREC read the excellent and provocative article this year in the Atlantic: Higher Calling, Lower Wages: The Vanishing of the Middle-Class Clergy?

Rather that what they propose, I would argue that what is first needed is an evaluation of whether or not the bivocational and yoked models actually work. We have enough places that have done it in enough areas that a study shouldn’t be that hard.

His overall conclusion is an optimistic one.

In the end, I think this is a great report with recommendations I mostly agree with.

I am a bit worried, of course. What people have said all along is that though GC passed the resolution calling for the creation of TREC unanimously… once people see concrete changes proposed, that unanimity will likely fade. We’ve already seen that in many of the critical (and at times strangely hostile) responses to their work.

It will be up to General Convention now. I pray that they will receive this report, maybe tweak the resolutions a bit, but not change the heart and substance of what TREC has given us. Deputies need to trust that TREC did their homework. They need to give these changes a chance.


Here at the Café, and on our Facebook posts, commenters have expressed disappointment and concerns with various proposals, with several noting concerns about a centralizing tendency in the report, but also some cautious optimism and a sense of willingness to engage in the process.  We’d also be interested hearing your thoughts in our comments or on Facebook.

Our earlier posts here and here


posted by Jon White


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Charles Everson

Here are my thoughts on the first Resolution recommended by TREC:

Michael Russell

The final report is certainly well thought out. But it is a top heavy “reimagining” of the church that gives only a passing nod to the real place where innovation occurs: the grass roots. Renewal in our church has come from grass roots since at least the later 19th century when we led the way in small group development. I continue to be hard pressed to think of a programs that has galvanized people into action that were generated at the national level. EFM may well be the best program to come from other than a grassroots beginning.

The only nod given to the actual source of innovation is to convene regional groups of planners, entrepreneurs, etc. to assist in spawning local efforts. This is just blind to how actual emergence happens. Instead of planners and experts, regional groups of listeners might be convened to see how exciting programs developed in one parish might become transferable to others. The high levels leaders actually need practice in the three principles; follow Jesus together into the neighborhoods while travelling lightly. There they might listen to the neighbors, leave institutional baggage behind and actually be present when something emerges.

The first resolved of A001 is a hash. While clergy need not be academic scholars they do need a command of the material in the canonical areas. I do not know how people develop mastery in any of the areas A001 addresses with out actually committing time to it. Replacing canonical competence with mutual ministry reviews as the blind evaluating the blind. We do not know what “best practices” are at an institutional level. If we did we’d be seeing vitality instead of ennui.
I am amazed at the notion that we have discovered “bi-vocational ministry.” I went to a Tentmaker’s conference in 1974 sponsored by the National Association for Self Supporting Active Ministries (NASSAM)
They are still out there. An actual body of Episcopal Priests who have been doing this at least 40 years. Might they have something to tell us? Might it be wise to ask them or at least acknowledge the witness they have made? They are, however quiet the may seem, an actual grassroots group that has survived despite being ignored by the higher echelons.
In all this is still the institution moving things around to preserve the jobs of people in New York. And sadly the only way to break an institutional structure is to scrape it off, leaving on the barest walls. Worship and Canons may well be those walls. But beyond that, if we can support fewer and fewer full time clergy, we must support fewer and fewer full time church bureaucrats.

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