Monday, July 6, 2009

Ouch.

RE: The Episcopal Church General Convention

8,000 to 10,000 Episcopalians of all stripes will descend on Anaheim, California, to debate some 500 resolutions most of which will not affect the thousands of small hamlet Episcopal parishes that can barely muster enough money to pay a full time rector.

David Virtue

5 comments:

Tregonsee said...

Actually, DV is wrong about them having no effect. These resolutions make it harder for those same struggling congregations to keep, let alone attract new members. Any of the various Continuing Churches and more recent ACNA parishes can tell from the new members when there has been a TEC GC.

Rob Eaton+ said...

Also, this is like Congress - a finite number of deputies and bishops, and a phalanx of support personnel and non-deputies assigned to interim committees and commissions, and offical visitors, and exhibitors and groups associated with exhibitors attempting to persuade the deputies and bishops.
It's easy to count up how many people will ACTUALLY be engaged in debate on the floor of convention, but it is a little more complicated to understand the influence of all those people, the political management of the floor of convention, and the behind the scenes stuff.
But to say that 8000 to 10000 are going to gather to debate is, shall we say, a bit much on Virtue's part. Let's make it up to 200 bishops, and up to 1000 deputies, in two different "Houses". 1200.
I can tell you, as well, there is a commission that provides resolutions regarding small congregations; and there are a couple of groups concerned with stipends in small places, to name on thing.
So I'm with Tregonsee on this one, even though Tregonsee was attempting a negative rebuttal.
Still, Virtue's point is valid. Although a majority of Episcopalians attend "large" churches, the majority of congregations are "small", which means an inordinate amount of energy, funds, resources, is being poured into those small outposts from within themselves, and from diocesan "Mission Department" funds for those unable to support themselves (usually meaning an ordained presence) financially.
The best thing we could do for these congregations, I believe, is fund an apostle/evangelist for each diocese who works only with the smaller congregations (which may be half or more of a diocese's number of congregations). This is not synonymous with a "congregational development" officer, although one might be so gifted. There are bishops in our history who have been A/E, and Archdeacons, and others. But without consistency. And usually serendipitously.
Now that would be a debate for the budget, wouldn't it? If General Convention budgeted for this solution, it would cost an average of $105,000 per diocese, $12,075,000 per year for all the dioceses, and $36,225,000 for the triennium budget.
What should be seen is

TLF+ said...

Rob+, looks like part of your comment got lost.

But I will be developing a post later in the week (time permitting) that takes up your point about deploying "apostle/evangelists" to the small congregations. (I'm thinking about a "what's next?" for Northern Michigan).

We send relief teams to natural disasters. Why not invest in some deployment of folks who can help with church stagnation and decline?

I think that there could be a real "bang for our buck" IF the right folks are deployed... what's dicey is, who makes the call? As you say, we have so many Bps. and others who won't even know what to look for when it comes to evangelism. Part of TEC's decline is the elevation and deployment of people with big opinions and no worthwhile record of fruitful ministry. (Maybe why a 1,200 person GenCon feels like 10,000.

TLF+ said...

Tregonsee, sorry to have posted too soon w/out typing my response to you:

You are on target. Most of GenCons business will not help the congregations, but will in fact damage them by escalating conflict and taking up resources with programs unresponsive to most congregations.

More will leave, be disciplined out or, in probably the largest group, be lost to infirmity and death.

Barna's survey on gay and straight religious attitudes showed gays more interested in private spirituality and less in "religion", with straights finding more value in traditional religious structures. Which means that TEC's model, a heavily institutional/bureaucratic/clerical/liturgical/legalistic and LGBT dominated religion, is unresponsive to the majority of both straight and gay respondents!

Rob Eaton+ said...

Tim, right...something got left off.

"What should be seen is that the office of bishop is understood by the laity who have been in the Church long enough to have a passing recognition of the office (probably 2 to 4 years with Confirmation training) as exactly having that A/E function. Young clergy, too, see it that way at least until they get into positions of diocesan leadership and have working relationships with the bishop. And, of course, the need to elect a bishop (or a rector) causes such expectations of gifting and saving ministry to quickly define the office and the person.
This would be proved by the fast-off-the-tongue argument against such an A/E diocesan position (and the money necessary to fund) which says, "Isn't that what a bishop is for?!" I might not disagree, except for the historical evidence. In fact, I would much rather have a bishop who does have those gifts. That kind of bishop pays close attention to those small congregations. But, alas, we don't elect them because we don't go looking for them -- and that means knowing what you're looking for.
There. Pushed my passion button (the passion button is the transformed peeve button where the button is no longer part of the problem but part of the solution).