Friday, April 17, 2009

UPDATED: SD Bishop Candidate Douglas Dunn

This is the first profile to draw some comments. Please check them out.

Good Stuff:

Of the four candidates, he’s the one who has been given props for “Sense of Humor,” which was an element of our Diocesan profile!

I like his response to questions about Mutual Ministry, because he uses one of my favorite Biblical approaches. Dunn’s thinking on leadership and ministry is “grounded in St. Paul’s image in I Corinthians of the Church as the Body of Jesus Christ, Jesus being the head and all of us as connected and related to each other in him… having every spiritual gift and blessing (needed) to carry on the ministry that God desires and expects from their community.”

He presents an interesting and refreshing take on the Church and social issues: “The Church has traditionally addressed issues by passing proclamations and resolutions… They may give our consciences a bath, but generally end up on a shelf… there are three levels of approach to social concerns and moral choices… First, the local community is the place most in touch with its own needs and issues… Second, the wider community can contribute… Third and ultimately, Christian responsibility is in the mind and heart of the individual Christian…free to say, “I choose to do something about it… The world can be changed, especially when all three (local congregation, wider community of faith, and personal responsibility) come together.”

Question Marks:

There are many.

Some of Dunn’s answers seem breezy and superficial. In his three priorities, he leads off with, “I have a commitment to youth and young adult ministry” – but then invokes a list of hypothetical ideas, vaguely about the Bishop interacting with youth during annual church visits. Yes, the profile calls for youth emphasis, but this answer seems tailored to meet the profile rather than tell us much about candidate Dunn.

Dunn presents very little for in-depth consideration. It is impossible to find Dunn's sermons, newsletters or much else. There is a lack of detail in his answers and a lack of public communication that raises a big red flag, especially when our Diocesan profile lists “Communication” as a highly desired quality in the next Bishop.

A worrisome implication arises from the way Dunn explains one of his other priorities, “unity.” He conspicuously omits traditional Episcopalians or “conservatives” from his list of groups deserving inclusion. Meanwhile, one of the national church’s most militant lesbian activists operates from Dunn's parish and his assisting priest supports that agenda as well as advocating for abortion. A red flag: might his light, cheery presentation cover for a more aggressive “agenda”? He serves closely with the staff of a diocese (Colorado) which has not handled conflict well, losing many people and spending large amounts on lawsuits, "church trials" and other unhealthy approaches to disagreement.

He's also advocating "Churches Uniting," which
represents just one end of the church spectrum. This raises concerns about his ability to build unity within this Diocese.

In the last few weeks, the Episcopal Church has released a substantial self-analysis, with strong statistical and survey evidence showing the amount of conflict and membership loss accelerated by gay/lesbian activism in the church. Because of Dunn's South Dakota family origins, one worry is that people's votes will be uninformed by research of the facts and based on name recognition. There are many well intentioned lay people who look back to the church's better days, and the appeal of a family name from a happier time can't be denied. But to elect a candidate based on his old family ties and then discover him carrying a factional agenda would be a setback for this Diocese, which is already suffering all the problems documented in the State of the Church report.

The biggest worry with Dunn is the Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) of his Denver parish. It was more than 300 in 2002, but has fallen to about 180 since then. That is a terrible decline, and a big red flag. Our Diocesan profile speaks of bringing people back into our churches, and for whatever reason the opposite has happened where Dunn currently serves.

Can Dunn, like the first Missionary Bishop of South Dakota, represent the true middle way of apostolic faith and apostolic order, or is he among the clergy who have redefined the middle way as something extreme?

“But the Episcopal Church has its distinct calling and we must have a right self-confidence. We should give liberty to all and should have no hesitation in claiming it for ourselves. Influences from the ultra-Protestant world, which in some quarters in Japan have perhaps overborne us in the past, should be resisted and we should boldly, though generously, hold aloft apostolic faith and apostolic order, bearing the double witness against extremes on both sides of us which has been historically our calling.” (quoted in Howe’s biography of Hare)


Undergroundpewster said...

You have properly raised some red flags about this candidate.

Anonymous said...

I attended Fr. Dunn’s parish in Denver for over a year. My experience: many people appreciated that communion was totally open, with no baptismal or other restriction, though honestly, I was not comfortable with that. Fr. Dunn stated that while he didn’t have a problem with the consecration of Gene Robinson, he didn’t think the church was ready for it. I remember him saying that a relationship with God is not being able to tell where you stop and God begins; and that the evidence for the resurrection isn’t factual or historical, but in our own experience of the risen Christ in our hearts. He also said that he wouldn’t state that Jesus is the only way to God, since we don’t want to limit God. Though Fr. Dunn talked a lot about Jesus, I finally discerned that he did not see Jesus or the Bible in the same way I do. After a while, I began to feel my point of view was unwelcome and I found another church.

TLF+ said...

Anonymous, that is very serious. "Open Communion" (Communion of those who are not baptized) is specifically prohibited by Episcopal Church Canon Law. This calls into question the candidate's ability to take the oath to "guard the faith, unity and discipline" of the church (Prayer Book, p. 518 and to "minister the sacraments of our redemption."

On top of that, "open communion" is one of those bad practices sold to us as "a way to get more people into church" - but Dunn's church has lost more than 100 attenders since 2002.

Thank you for posting - as I've argued in other places, candidate statements need to be explored and we need facts.

Anonymous said...

I respectfully disagree: I wish the Church could allow open communion, I think it furthers the unity that the Church is supposed to be about. Why would we want to exclude anyone who was drawn to God? This questioned aspect of Dunn interests me.

I also found it to be a breath of fresh air that he is committed to furthering an eccumenical unity. Of course we should work on unity in the diocese, but a further unity is needed in order to move closer to the Kingdom of God.

Anonymous said...

Good intentions aside, if he is elected he will make a public promise to uphold Episcopal Church Canons. Open Communion is not allowed in our church. Ignoring our own standards breeds chaos, not unity. Our own General Convention says that we lack common language and identity. The Church is hurting enough without more of this kind of behavior.

Anonymous said...

Tell you the truth, I'm a pretty good judge of character, always have been since I was a child. I honestly think that they would all make good Bishops....except for Tarrant. I see him as Robertson's personal pick. By the way, at the last election, I DID NOT vote for Robertson. Robertson was elected in an evil way. He had Ken Owens and Frank Gangone going table to table telling lies about the other candidate. When they came to our table, they told us that the other guy wanted to ordain gays and lesbians. Next thing you know, the votes started swaying towards Robertson! :/

I think your site is very informative, Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous -- [fourth comment down] -- can you tell me what you mean by this?

"I wish the Church could allow open communion, I think it furthers the unity that the Church is supposed to be about."

Are you saying that there should be *no* standards by which people come or do not come to the altar rail? Are you for Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims, atheists maybe, taking a Christian eucharist?

I'm thoroughly confused as to what you are talking about. We are talking here about communion of the unbaptized -- that is people who have not troubled to take the barest acknowledgement of the Christian faith trampling towards the altar rail to take a holy and very precious sacrament that is the central act of the Christian faith. At the very least that is immensely disrespectful towards a faith. Not to mention that it is in direct violation of the canons.

Furthermore, the unity that our church is supposed to be about is the unity among Christian believers -- those who are in Christ.

Are you saying that the church is "all about unity with other religions"? I honestly don't get that.

I'm completely confused by the cavalier disregard for the central act of worship in the Christian faith such that people who are non-Christians are invited as well. That is a travesty.


TLF+ said...

Sarah - I hope anonymous will clarify. If s/he was just skimming, there might have been confusion about "open communion". That term can mean sharing the sacrament with Christians of other traditions, which is normal for Episcopalians.

But I think I was clear that the issue at Dunn's parish is communion of the unbaptized, which is wrong for the several reasons you point out.

In our conflicted denomination, we don't need another bishop who a) says his vows with crossed fingers and ignores clear church teaching and canon law, and/or b)who is so "nice" that he can't restrain extremists from abusing the church. Both of those worries are raised by the practice of communicating unbaptized people at Dunn's parish.

And it needs to be reiterated that the practice is not building unity and growth, but fragmentation and decline. Average Sunday Attendance there fell from over 300 down to under 200 in less than a decade. That is extreme.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, Thank you for your comments

This is "anonymous fourth comment down"

Yes: Nomatter how much a I understand your sentiment, I DO wish that the canon could offer for open communion of even the unbaptised. Of course it is the central act of faith, but Jesus invited all kinds of people--even sinners to his table on a regular basis. It breaks my heart to know that we would be so exclusive.

I am not at all cavalier, and I can completely understand your worries about my position, but I have spent much time thinking about these issues, and Christians need to learn how to be more loving and inviting to ALL people, not just their fellow believers :THAT is part of the Gospel message. Love your neighbor.

I disagree with you: I do not think that Unity is just about Christian believers. Unity, and the unity of the Church is about a unity with human people. Jesus the Christ loved all people, and hoped for a unity with all, not just with those who had already decided to follow him.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, Dunn is DONE.

Anonymous said...

This is the man for the position. It is exactly what we need to lead us in the work God has intended.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Fourth Comment Down,

I appreciate your response. I also appreciate your frank honesty.

Although I know I can't convince you, I'll just assert my response and beliefs for this thread.

The table is not the same as the Eucharist. Christians may freely invite sinners to meals -- and we should. Christians are perfectly capable of being loving and inviting -- without opening up the Eucharist to non-Christians.

But Scripture is incredibly clear and forthright that the Holy Eucharist is only for those who have believed and can rightly "discern" the Body as they partake of this meal. Church history is also clear -- only believers should take part in the Eucharist. The Canons are clear -- only those who have been baptised -- and thus experienced the mark of Christ -- are to partake.

I wonder something. Would you also like to have "open baptism" -- without any vows of belief or statements? What about simply baptising all who desire it, even if they are not believers? Simply offer any person at the church service a free baptism at the close of the service -- they can simply come back to the font and get sprinkled. Because isn't baptism as we practice it "exclusive"? Don't we all have to make vows, have baptismal instruction, and go through a real and significant and committed ceremony before getting sprinkled?

In fact, the demands and claims of Christ are *exclusive*. No more *exclusive* faith can be found. Read His words, and you will find that Jesus Christ demands of us, as His followers, actions and attitudes that are frankly impossible without the activity of the Spirit in our lives. Pretending as if Christianity makes no exclusive demands is simply dishonest to pagans -- it sets them up for failure and confusion.

Furthermore, the unity among human beings that we all so long for will only occur in Christ. That is what Scripture speaks of -- that some day, every knee will bow to the claims of Christ, and only in Him can we finally re-experience human unity and love. To claim "unity" when we are most clearly not unified is again a confusing, dishonest, and harmful claim. To hold out Christ as the Great Unifier -- that is healing and wholeness.

Finally, I do have a further clarifying question for you. Are you saying that you would be willing not to practice communion of the unbaptized until the canons are changed? Or do you support communion of the unbaptized in violation of the canons, while desiring the canons to be changed in the future?

Surely you must recognize that a huge chunk of Episcopalians are going to be appalled at the violation of scriptural edicts, the disregard of Church tradition, disrespect of the importance, singularity, and exclusiveness of the Christian sacrament of Eucharist, AND the breaking of the canons.

All it means is that The Episcopal Church becomes *more exclusive* -- not inclusive -- as those conservatives who are strongly opposed, and even moderates, leave the Church.

I asked a question about communion of the unbaptized on a blog last night just to get a read on the conservative Episcopalians who read it -- and in less than 12 hours, got fifty "NOs" from parishioners of TEC. Granted, the blog is a conservative blog. But are you simply saying "let's violate scripture, tradition, the sacredness of the Eucharist, and the canons -- and those Episcopalians who are deeply concerned and appalled can just leave"?

Again, thanks for your response and clarity. The sad thing is that there are some people like you who see no problem with communion of the unbaptised, and plenty of people who see many problems -- all residing within the same Episcopal Church. And once again, we have another looming issue that will cause more departures, more divisions, more anger, more losses of money and committed volunteers, all because revisionists -- however well intentioned -- simply won't stop doing as they please when they please.

If it is true that Dunn offers communion of the unbaptized, and he is elected bishop, then there will be more departures from a diocese who can ill-afford them.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like the 2002 Denver parish of Dunn's was in conflict and lower numbers was the chosen resolution.

Anonymous said...

Having attended his church until nearly starving to death for lack of spiritual feeding, I can tell you that Doug Dunn is singularly unimpressive. If this is all the episcopal Church has from which to make a selection for bishop it is further down the drink that I ever imagined.

One of the biggest whack jobs in Colorado is from his parish and he has refused to pastorally take her out of play on the diocesan level and get her the help she needs. That is not leadership, nor is it caring, and it is clearly not Christ like.

Anonymous said...


It is once again "anonymous fourth comment down"

First of all, the discussion of baptism is an entirely diffrent thing, and it makes no sense to compare the two sacraments on this issue. I would disagree with you in that Baptism is NOT exclusive. Anyone is welcome to be Baptized, if they would like to come to Christ. Furthermore: If someone who is not a Christian is visiting and witnessing a baptism, we do not exlude them from the ceremony and tell them that they cannot participate in the renewal of the Baptisimal Covenant if the Spirit moves them to do so.

I understand what you are saying about the Exlusiveness of Christianity and I think that it is an awful thing. The minute we become exclusive we are forgetting the whole point of Christianity. Jesus didn't say "love your neighbor and exclude others who disagree with you"

Further, I do not think that Unity only takes place in Christ, and I think that view is very dangerous. Once we think that We are right, and the only way, we get "superiority complexes" When we get superiority complexes, we once again miss the message. It is possible to have unity with those who do not believe that Christ is the messiah, but who live in a Christ-like way. Even further than that, there are many Christains who don't live in a Christ-like way, they just happen to be sprinkled with some water. THAT isn't right either!

I would challenge the canons to change canon law. Keep in mind that someone wouldn't be likely to come to the table if they weren't in some way drawn to God. My issue is excluding people who feel drawn to God and the community.

Also: I do not want to start a controversy in which people leave the church. One has to take what they get. You clearly get fed spiritually by participating in the Eucharist, but what does it matter to you how someone else feels while undergoing that? Not only that, but I consider it none of my business how someone else approaches the Eucharist. That is between them and God.

The sad thing is not people like me. The sad thing is being exclusive leading us to forget the real message of Christ, and the real ministry that we have to the world as the living and moving body and blood of Christ. It is our ministry to minister to others: All others, inviting them not excluding them.

Anonymous said...

RE: "Anyone is welcome to be Baptized, if they would like to come to Christ."

And anyone is welcome to the Eucharist, if they have come to Christ.

RE: "Furthermore: If someone who is not a Christian is visiting and witnessing a baptism, we do not exlude them from the ceremony and tell them that they cannot participate in the renewal of the Baptisimal Covenant if the Spirit moves them to do so."

But they do not, in fact, receive the Baptism. If a Christian is visiting and witnessing the Eucharist, we do not exclude them from the ceremony and tell them that they cannot participate in the confession and the Nicene Creed, either. But they do not, in fact, receive the Eucharist.

RE: "Jesus didn't say "love your neighbor and exclude others who disagree with you""

Indeed -- Jesus said far far more exclusive things, in reality, than that artificial one which he did not say, such as "he must take up his cross and follow me" among many many other exclusive statements.

RE: "Further, I do not think that Unity only takes place in Christ, and I think that view is very dangerous. Once we think that We are right, and the only way, we get "superiority complexes" When we get superiority complexes, we once again miss the message."

It is about Christ, not the person. That is why, in Christ, all are unified. There is no superiority in Christ -- quite the opposite. It is only outside of Christ that individuals believe themselves to be superior. Being in Christ is, in fact, the great equalizer. Because Christ is all in all. That is why there is such Christian fellowship among believers between the rich and those who are in prison, just to name one example.

RE: "The sad thing is not people like me."

I completely agree. But that is not what I said above. The sad thing is that people like you and people like me are, both groups with mutually opposing beliefs and antithetical worldviews are in the same organization, which same organization is rending itself quite literally to destruction.

Communion of the unbaptized will merely accelerate that destruction.

I hope that South Dakota does not do this to itself.

I say all of the above in the knowledge that I will not convince you, but merely to express with clarity my beliefs in a public manner.

Thanks for the exchange -- and the honesty and clarity.


Anonymous said...

I thank you too, and I am not at all out to convince you either. I think our dialogue has been quite healthy, which is why I want to leave with just one more comment.

"The sad thing is that people like you and people like me are, both groups with mutually opposing beliefs and antithetical worldviews are in the same organization, which same organization is rending itself quite literally to destruction."

Quite the contrary, I believe that it is an incredible gift that two people like ourselves can disagree so extremely, and yet still be in community together. I would consider us united, nomatter how much we disagree. I don't think that disagreement leads to destruction. We need to learn how to live in a world where we can disagree, yet respect eachother (which is what I think we have done here). Disagreement is not an end all be all, but a place for healthy dialogue. Healthy dialogue furthers unity. Thank you for sharing in this dialogue with me.

"Anonymous Fourth Comment Down"

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Fourth Comment Down,

RE: "Quite the contrary, I believe that it is an incredible gift that two people like ourselves can disagree so extremely, and yet still be in community together."

But we are not at all in community. We may be in the same physical organization together -- just as we are both within the United States of America, I assume. But that does not make us unified in Christ at all. Two people may even share a house -- yet not be in community. Your belief that we share community reveals a rather low vision of community, in fact. Your standards are apparently quite low.

RE: "I don't think that disagreement leads to destruction."

You are correct. But when two groups with mutually opposing foundational worldviews are in an organization, both laying claim on that organization's goals and mission, it is a recipe for disaster. One cannot have a healthy tennis club when 1/3 of the members wish to spend club money and club time predominantly on skeet shooting and skeet practice rather than playing tennis.

RE: "We need to learn how to live in a world where we can disagree, yet respect eachother (which is what I think we have done here)."

Oh certainly. We've already learned how to do that.

But in the case of the tennis club with the skeet members, that tennis club will either need to 1) redefine its mission to become a skeet club, with the result that 2/3 of the members will depart, or 2) maintain its current mission while graciously spending its money and time within that mission and enduring the rage and fury of the skeet shooters.

But as it stands right now, the tennis club will not survive.

If there's one thing, in fact, that TEC has proven over the past five years by its utter horrendous spiraling meltdown, with literally thousands upon thousands walking out the door every year, it is that we are not "united" any more than two divorcing and enraged spouses are "united" while living in the same house in separate wings.

Even worse, one spouse is claiming loudly that "we are united" while the couple grow farther and farther apart.

Anonymous Fourth Comment Down, can you not see how incredibly dysfunctional and dishonest such a position is?

Please understand this. The organization known as TEC is anything but "united" and is tearing itself apart. Ultimately, Fourth Comment Down, it will divide, and what is true right now -- we are divided -- will become even clearer in material reality.

Someday, Fourth Comment, folks like me won't be in the same organization with folks like you.

And that reality will merely demonstrate what was in fact already true, but that people like you denied.

That reality will only be accelerated -- certainly not slowed -- in South Dakota if a person practicing communion of the unbaptized in clear violation of the canons is elected bishop.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Sarah, I cannot understand this. You are missing my point. The point is that Even though I disagree with you, I WANT to be in community with you, and I believe that it is possible. The fact is, you don't want to be in community with me, because we disagree. THAT Is heartbreaking. It is possible for an organization to have opposing viewpoints as long as people WORK TOGETHER towards a unity, even within their disagreement. It is not a low standard for unity, it is a positive outlook on the world. Unity does not equal agreement.

I'm very sorry that with everything I've tried to demonstrate with my discussion of exclusivity, that you can't understand how people with opposing views could be united. Christ wants us to be united, and I would challenge you to help me strive for that (and it doesn't mean we have to agree)What do we have to do? We have to love and support one another. Love and support is COMPLETELY possible, even within disagreement.

With that, This is my last post.

Thanks and God Bless

"anonymous Fourth Comment Down"

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I can see your point in discussing the larger issue. However, Rev. Dunn will NOT get the position. Focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of the other candidates would be time better spent, IMHO!

Chip Johnson+, SF, CoJ said...

Dear anonymous(s),

If you don't have the integrity to sign in, you don't have the right to comment. IMHO.

Another Anglican priest blogger type.
Fr. Chip Johnson, Franciscan solitary
Saint Francis Anglican Community
the Southern Black Hills of South Dakota

Anonymous said...

Again:This is the man for the position. It is exactly what we need to lead us in the work God has intended.

TLF+ said...

Thanks for all the comments and discussion. I think this thread has run its course and before we sink into snarking or bickering, I am going to close comments. Hopefully I will hit the right key and retain all 22 existing comments.