Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Draft text of the substitute structure resolution

Formatting may be a bit rough, but in my prior post I mentioned that my resolution and the diminishing resources resolution were being combined into a substitute resolution to be submitted from the floor. Here's that draft as it stands today.

Structure of the Episcopal Church and Diocese of Indianapolis

Resolved, that the 175th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis affirms Resolution C095, Structural Reform, adopted by the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church; and be it further

Resolved, that this Convention urge all members of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis to pray regularly for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to be upon the task force so established for the duration of its work, commending the Prayer for the Church found on page 816 of the Book of Common Prayer as a useful example; and be it further

Resolved, that the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis commit itself and its officers to open and prompt sharing of information and expertise with the task force if and when so called; and be it further

Resolved, that the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis believes that just as the Holy Spirit is urging the Episcopal Church to re-imagine itself, so the Holy Spirit is also urging all of the constituent members of the church to re-imagine themselves, through the conversion of individual hearts, parishes, and dioceses to more faithfully
• proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
• teach, baptize, and nurture new believers
• respond to human need by loving service
• seek to transform unjust structures of society
• strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth;
and be it further

Resolved, that this Convention, under the legislative powers vested in it by the Constitution of the Diocese of Indianapolis IV.4.(c) create a committee whose purpose is to
• study scripture and pray for God’s continual blessing upon the whole church and especially God’s people in the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis
• engage in theological and historical reflection on the diocese as the organizing unit of
​Christ’s Church
• make itself available to the task force established by C095 as fellow travelers in
​discernment of the will of God for the Church
• engage in appreciative inquiry of the programs, activities, and outreach of the Episcopal
Diocese of Indianapolis, obtaining the wisdom, perspectives, and expertise of others throughout the diocese, including those not often heard from
• discern a shared vision for the mission and ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of
Indianapolis, and the relationship among the diocese and its constituent missions, parishes, and other bodies that reflects the love of Jesus Christ and the theology and polity of the Episcopal Church calling upon any and all members of the diocese and the broader community of faith to assist in their discernment and examination,
• develop recommendations for the diocese and its constituent missions, parishes, and
​other bodies to achieve that vision together, with God’s help

• meet by Easter to establish the working structure for the committee and beginning the work, that the committee delivers an interim report to the 176th Convention and a final report to the
177th Convention, the latter to be published no later than August 6, 2014, (the Feast of the Transfiguration), on its discernment findings and recommendations, with such reports also to be published freely and made contemporaneously available online, along with such resolutions as may be necessary to implement those recommendations;
and be it further

Resolved, that the committee be composed of at least nine and no more than fifteen members, to be selected by the Executive Council through an open nominations process assuring that the members represent the diversity of the diocese in geography, demographics, talents, and order of ministry, including those at a critical distance from the power structures of the diocese, that the members of the committee be named no later than January 18, 2013, (the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter the Apostle ), that the committee select its own chair and other officers, and be it further

Resolved, that the Executive Council, using the powers granted to it by the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, make such resources available to the committee as are necessary to enable this resolution to be implemented energetically and successfully, “…for surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)


The 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church meeting in Indianapolis unanimously passed Resolution C095, Structural Reform, to re-imagine the structure of the Episcopal Church, noting:
The administrative and governance structures of The Episcopal Church have grown over the years so that they now comprise approximately 47% of the church-wide budget and sometimes hinder rather than further this Church’s engagement in God’s mission. Reform is urgently needed to facilitate this Church’s strategic engagement in mission and allow it to more fully live into its identity as the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society in a world that has changed dramatically over the years but that also presents extraordinary missional opportunity.

The 77th General Convention chartered a task force to develop a vision to restructure the high level structures of the Episcopal Church for a changed environment, to be presented at the 78th General Convention in 2015.

This resolution establishes a similar committee in the Diocese of Indianapolis.

The Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, along with many other dioceses of the church, faces a challenge. Our parishes are committed to engaging in mission and ministry to the communities around them and to people in need far away. But not everything is working – from 2000 to 2010, average Sunday attendance in the diocese fell by 19.8%. Our diocesan structures are little changed in response.

As ever, the Holy Spirit calls us to be a missional church, spreading the Good News of Jesus and doing God’s work in the world. A process of prayer, self-examination and discernment is necessary to hear God’s call to us for how we must change to empower our parishes, missions, and members to boldly, energetically, and creatively proclaim the Gospel in the world through word and deeds.

OMG I've got to finish blogging these resolutions!

Ok, there are only two resolutions left, but I've been on the road and just haven't been able to get to them. But the convention's coming up!

So, here's one: the Confronting Diminishing Resources resolution. You can read this one if you'd like, but I'm not going to spend any time on it. The sponsoring group on this resolution and I have teamed up and we're planning on introducing a substitute resolution, closely modeled on the resolution I proposed, from the convention floor. So, don't vote for this resolution, don't vote for my resolution, vote for the substitute. Unless the substitute fails - then you can vote for mine.

The last one is to Recommit to the Work of Anti-Racism. I commend the church for taking this so seriously. One of the saddest things over the situation in the Diocese of South Carolina right now is that they were one of the last dioceses in this church to embrace desegregation, but when they did, they really did, by most reports. We could have, and still could, learn something from them. And however odious Stand Firm in Faith's #thingswhiterthantheepiscopalchurch hashtag was during the General Convention was, it at least had some sting of truth to it for many congregations. I'm not convinced that forming committees to bring about a conversion of what I am sure are already well-intentioned hearts in our parishes is the best way to achieve the goal, but we work with the tools we have.

Plus I like any resolution that starts out with an acknowledgment that the church has sinned. Indeed it has.

So, to the score:

1) Is the resolution likely to pass unanimously? Yes, -1
2) Does the resolution call for someone in the church to do something concrete? Yes, +1. But the resolution should be amended to say who, exactly, is called to do these things (right now it calls upon "the diocese" to appoint a committee and identify individuals as anti-racism trainers).
3) Might the resolution call upon the person who sponsored it to do something concrete? Yes, +1. The resolution was sponsored by members of the General Convention deputation, some of whom I know to be very interested in this topic.
4) Does the resolution contain an escape hatch? No, +1. But, I believe the work (or was it the appointment?) of the anti-racism committee has appeared on the unfinished business report before. It's all in the execution, y'all.
5) Budget miscellany: +1 - the resolution requests a budgetary allocation from the Executive Council. Given the quite small costs associated with this, I think it's appropriate that the resolution not demand a specific dollar amount or line item.

So, add it all up, and you get a +3 resolution. Pretty good. Go ahead and vote for it. And think about how we as a diocese are going to keep this from landing on the unfinished business report this time.

There are also some amendments to the constitution and canons of the diocese. These bring the constitution and canons with regard to the participation of transgendered individuals in the church in line with the resolutions adopted mandating full inclusion, including in the ordination process. You should vote for these wholeheartedly.

And that's it! See you all on Thursday! I'll be blogging under the #indydio175 hashtag.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Acts 8 Moment Comes to the Diocese of Indianapolis

During the recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, a group of people composed of deputies and volunteers; laypeople, bishops, deacons and priests; and a variety of liturgical and theological backgrounds, came together to dream a new vision for the Episcopal Church.

This group goes by the name the Acts 8 Moment, and has continued beyond General Convention. In the eighth chapter of Acts, the early apostles' vision for the church was destroyed with the martyrdom of St. Stephen. This forced the church to move beyond the vision of a church headquartered in Jerusalem, the cultural and spiritual capital of the time. But rather than be a church destroyed, this experience strengthened the Christian message, as the early Christians scattered and discovered a new vision.

Today churchgoing is no longer a social norm, and the Episcopal Church no longer commands the same cultural influence it did just a few decades ago. But this is not a cause for despair. It may instead be a sign of the Holy Spirit calling us to a new thing.

The Acts 8 Moment is moving on from General Convention to the dioceses. The Diocese of Arizona will be the first to host a local gathering; Indianapolis will be the second.

Join us during the Friday lunch break immediately following the legislative session (approx 11am on October 25) in a meeting room at the Marriott Courtyard in Bloomington to start dreaming about what the Holy Spirit is calling our diocese and our parishes to do. All people are welcome to attend - you need not be a delegate or in any "official" capacity.

Learn more about the Acts 8 Moment here:

Acts 8 Facebook Page
Acts 8 Web Page

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Blogging the Resolutions: Website and Social Media Challenge

Does every church need a web site or a Facebook page? The General Convention certainly seemed to think so, and a mirror resolution, the Website and Social Media Challenge, has made its way to the diocesan convention. There's not a lot of substance to this resolution beyond its name: it "challenge[s] every congregation or other ministry in the diocese to have an effective, dynamic, and current website [and]... to actively engage social media in its current and future manifestations", and that's pretty much it.

Let's score this, then discuss:
  • Is the resolution likely to pass unanimously? Yes. There's nothing about this that's a bad idea, and it doesn't commit anyone to any really hard work (though maintaining an effective, dynamic, and current websits is harder than it sounds). -1
  • Does the resolution call for someone in the church to do something concrete? Yes. These are concrete actions. +1
  • Might the resolution call for the person who proposed it to do something concrete? Probably not. This was put forth by the General Convention Deputation. I believe most if not all of the members of the deputation come from parishes that have already done this. -1
  • Does the resolution contain an escape hatch? Oh, yes. But I think this is as it should be, for reasons I'll get to below. Nonetheless the scoring system calls for me to give this a -1
  • If the resolution calls for an allocation from the diocesan budget, is it clear how the funding would happen? Creating a website doesn't necessarily cost money, but creating an "effective, dynamic. and current" website? That's a tall order to do on the cheap. But for the escape hatches above, this could be viewed as an unfunded mandate. Still, we've got the escape hatches and this doesn't call for anything from the diocesan budget, so it gets +1

In sum, we've got a -1 resolution here.

In general: every diocesan ministry should have a decent website, and a social media presence is also a good thing. But I do wonder a bit about where this should fall in the order of priorities for any given ministry. As I observed in my earlier post on the Diocese of East Carolina, the three parishes that account for the most growth in that diocese are markedly lacking on the digital front.

What is most important, I think, is the various ministries and bodies of the church being attentive to the best ways to communicate with the communities around them, and for the diocese to offer guidance, where required, to identify those ways. In most cases, that will include, but not be limited to, the web and social media. But we focus too much on these tools at our peril, as they offer only the beginning phases of relationship. As we engage or improve our use of these tools, our communities would do well to consider what kind of welcome people who walk in the doors will receive.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I and I and I Alone

I know nothing at all about the faith or spiritual life of Zach Condon, frontman of Beirut, but I'm kind of sort of pretty sure that his addictive "Santa Fe" is not an oddly upbeat song about Good Friday. Then again, maybe it is. Watch the video and come to your own conclusions.

Lyrically the song leaves itself open to interpretation. While cheerful brass arrangements are definitely in Condon's wheelhouse, enunciation is not, so only about a third of the words are intelligible, including things like "this day undone", "full of grace", "the kind that breaks under", "on the cross", and "call your son", that certainly might lead one with ears to hear in a certain direction. Oh yeah, and then add on the repetition of the phrase "I and I and I alone" and you've all but clinched it with a veiled reference to the Holy Trinity.

Three blog posts have been itching at me recently, all from the Lead, kind of a digest of the Episcopal and to some extent mainline blogosphere that is on my daily reading list. The first is a discussion of the question of why God allows evil to exist, which concludes that in the hierarchy of things that God wills for the world, God privileges free will above elimination of evil, thus allowing humans to inflict evil on each other without divine intervention. There's a certain appeal to the argument, in that it is the existence of free will that keeps our relationship with God from being best characterized as assimilation into the Borg.

But strict observance of this prioritization seems to place God in the camp of the Pharisees, which doesn't feel right. I don't know what the answer here is, other than that if you've never read it, Job is one of the most horrifying, cynical, and mysterious books of the Bible, and is as satisfying an answer to the question as I think can be given. Which is to say, not very satisfying, but at least it involves no simplification or platitudes.

The second is one about why Jesus had to die, via the Huffington Post. Here, Derek Flood tears down the notion of substitutionary atonement, which is the idea that Jesus was punished instead of us. There's a certain appeal to that, perhaps expressed most clearly (though, one must say, not unambiguously) in Paul's letter to the Romans: "If, because of the one man's [Adam's] trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ" (5:17). 

Taken out of abstraction, this idea is pretty troubling, because it turns us into a religion that practices human sacrifice. Of course the followers of Jesus didn't kill him, but if we recognize that we needed him to die, then really all we're saying is that we outsourced it to the Romans. And just because we don't sacrifice humans today doesn't absolve us of being a faith that relies on one guy having been murdered by our hit men 2,000 years ago. Can we say that a religion that only kills a guy once in a few thousand years is better than one that kills a guy every week sheerly by virtue of quantity of our actions rather than their quality?

Enter "I and I and I alone", and why as little as "Santa Fe" probably has to do with Good Friday, it still takes me there. The idea of the substitutionary atonement, that Jesus died to shield us from the wrath of a vengeful deity, is contrary to the idea of the Trinity. Because Jesus, dying on the cross, is acting out the will of the undivided Trinity. God the Father does not allow Jesus to be crucified because it His will for Jesus to substitute for a kind of mass death penalty. He is not so powerless that he cannot rescue Jesus from the cross if he so chooses. But the Trinity, the I and I and I alone, decides instead to take the incarnation to its obvious conclusion. Namely that in joining us in life, God chooses to join us in death as well, and take us through to the other side, whatever that is.

I don't know what that is.

I mentioned a third blog post that was bugging me. This was an obituary, presented three years late, of Nancy Eiesland. I don't know a lot about Eiesland, but I was moved by this excerpt of her obituary that reflects on her writing about Jesus appearing to the disciples after the resurrection, still wounded:
“In presenting his impaired body to his startled friends, the resurrected Jesus is revealed as the disabled God,” she wrote. God remains a God the disabled can identify with, she argued — he is not cured and made whole; his injury is part of him, neither a divine punishment nor an opportunity for healing.
 I think if we worry too much about the what and the why - the why of evil, the why of Jesus' death, the what of the next life - we tie ourselves in knots that we'll never get out of. I prefer instead to focus on faith as a sort of divine mirror to our lived experience. I don't know why God permits evil but where the Gospel trumps Job is that it shows that God does not inflict harm but suffers it with us. God does not die for us, but dies with us. And on the other side, I don't know. But we and our creator are changed.