Diocesan Reform by Steve Pankey

After six months of beating my head against a brick wall with our Bishop and Standing Committee regarding Communications in my Diocese, I’ve got the itch to take reform, restructure, and reawakening to our Diocesan Convention in February.  Below you will find the first draft of my resolution.  I offer it, not as an answer, but as a question, who else is doing this work?  Who can offer suggestions? Ideas? Models of ministry in Dioceses for the future of the Church?

WHEREAS, The 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, passed, unanimously in both houses, Resolution C095, stating emphatically that “This General Convention believes the Holy Spirit is urging The Episcopal Church to reimagine itself, so that, grounded in our rich heritage and yet open to our creative future, we may 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 WHEREAS, The 39th Annual Convention of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast adopted new statements of Vision, mission and Commitment based on those same 5 Marks of Mission including a vision that seeks to “share Christ crucified and God’s reconciling love through effective ministry, leadership, stewardship and communication.

THERFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that this, the 41st Annual Convention of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast commits, alongside The Episcopal Church, to a season of reform, restructure and reawakening

AND BE IT FURTHER RESPOLVED, that, in order to facilitate the work of the Spirit, this Convention urges the Bishop and the Standing Committee, as they look beyond the current 5 Year Plan, prayerfully and with considered Biblical, theological, ecclesiological, and historical study; engage to conform no longer to the old way of doing things, but rather let God transform us into a new creation in terms of structure, governance and administration.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Bishop make a full report and accounting of this work to the 42nd Annual Convention of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast for ratification and enaction.

Brendan O. Hale

Steve,

I have submitted a resolution with similar aims for the convention of the diocese of Indianapolis in October. I presented it not more than 30 minutes ago at my local deanery meeting, where it seemed to be well received. The biggest difference between mine and yours is that it takes direct inspiration from C095 in that it establishes a committee that directly parallels the C095 task force. I am hopeful that this will be a way to think about how we do parish invigoration together, so I am hopeful that members of the committee will not be the usual suspects.

The text of my resolution is here: http://indydio.org/diocese2010/diocese2010/Resolutions/StructureoftheDioceseResolution.pdf
A third-party commentary on it is here: http://bit.ly/UtQHmi

Comments on this are most welcome. The convention is a month off and I’m looking for ways to amend this to make it better from the floor.

Steve

Thank you Brendan, this is very helpful (your scoring system is pretty great too). Over on Facebook, I’ve been asked two questions: How do you plan to gain support; and What is the goal (in plain English). Both are good questions, with the second being much better addressed in your resolution than mine. The matter will prove tricky in my Diocese as there is no provision in the Rules of Order for a committee to be formed except by the President. A two step process to first, amend the Rules of Order to allow the Convention to create such a body followed by second, the resolution, will make things more difficult.

As to the first question, I’ll use this as a place to share the foundation laid at our last convention. Bishop Duncan, like many other bishops, offered a version of the Stacy Sauls resolution as a part of his Official Address. The Committee on Resolutions recommended, with only one opposed (me), to defeat the resolution. As part of the debate on the matter, I offered the following Minority Report, which alongside several other voices, aided in the resolution being passed by approximately at 70/30 split.

“Mr. President, Right Reverend Sir, I rise to speak as a minority opinion of one from the Resolutions Committee and stand in favor of this resolution with a caveat. I stand before this body as a thirty-two year-old priest, who has to, has to, have hope for the future of The Episcopal Church. There are those who say that all we are doing is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, but if history tells us anything it is that the greatest fault of the crew of that great ship was that they ignored the warning of ice. My friends, we have not hit the iceberg yet, but the signs of danger are all around. If we act swiftly, decisively, and wisely, with God’s help, The Episcopal Church can, by 2015 find itself better equipped to proclaim the Gospel to all nations, but please hear my caveat. This resolution not only puts the onus on General Convention, but also upon this and all future Conventions of The Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. We gather this weekend, prepared to approve a budget with real administrative costs of nearly 53.3%. If 47% is not sustainable, then 53% is down right foolish. Going forward, we too must look honestly and carefully at what we do, how we do it, and why. We must seek God’s wisdom, God’ will, and God’s mission. We must be realistic about our capabilities, and recognize as Bishop Gregg so eloquently said, “God doesn’t care what we can’t do. God wants us to do what we can do.” If this resolution is to pass, and I hope it will, it must come with a certainly level of humility. We too are bound up in a crippling structure that MUST change. Are we willing to do that hard work, or shall we sit in the lounge chairs and comment on the mountains of ice that swim so close to our hull? Thank you.”

Additionally, as part of the Office of Communications Transition Task Force, I have had several conversations with the Standing Committee and Bishop that new priorities require us moving old, and often beloved, programs down the list. Funding in my Diocese is in decline, and no substantive change will be possible if the first order of business is funding everything that has “always been funded.” This is where I have found the brick wall.

I applaud your work, and seeing as my convention isn’t until late February, I look forward to following your progress.

Brendan O. Hale

Steve,

I didn’t realize the provision in our diocese’s constitution to allow the diocesan convention to charter a committee wasn’t universal. But it sounds like this might have the support of your Bishop, given his support of the Sauls resolution, unless I misread you. Might he be willing to charter such a committee with the advice of your convention?

Otherwise it certainly sounds like the two step legislative maneuver is what you have to do, but that’s going to require some serious communication with other delegations (probably especially clergy) so they understand what’s going on.

Greg brewer

Bravo for what you are initiating! As a new diocesan bishop I am commissioning a similar work. Both the gift and challenge of moving back to a diocese is seeing both how things have and have not changed. I am already calling for visioning meetings with our diocesan leadership in the 1st quarter of 2013. We are a relatively healthy diocese which is both a blessing and a difficulty because it requires the finess of both praising good work and calling people to something that is fresh and forward thinking.

Steve

Bishop Brewer, thank you! Thank you for taking on this hard work. I look forward to following along as Central Florida works to grow toward the Kingdom.

Jane Schmoetzer

Our diocese has made some significant changes that seem to be in line with what you’re wanting to do. After some real discernment, we began with a major overhaul of the canons (approved last year) which divided the diocese differently and gave the new regions authority in new ways, to allow churches to act and support one another more effectively. It’s still new, and we’re taking baby steps; but I like what I’ve seen so far.

Nurya Love Parish

I find this both fascinating and encouraging. If real change is to occur, it will happen at the diocesan level. And it is particularly hard at the diocesan level because everyone is so familiar with “the way things are” and emotionally invested in the way they have been.
My diocese is in a bishop search right now which is opening these questions for us in a slightly different way. (I’m on the search committee.) We’re posting our diocesan profile (God willing) on Monday. Some of the data and trends in it will be news to the people of the diocese – they were news to us as we analyzed and researched to come up with them.
At my deanery clergy meeting today I spoke to the “elephant in the room” which is our coming tsunami of clergy retirements in parishes which can only afford part-time clergy. To the best of my knowledge it’s the first time this “elephant” has been mentioned in this type of setting: only as a result of the bishop search process do we have hard data from CPG that we can use to name it without getting personal.
Our bishop search is providing a means for restructuring without the need for a resolution–at least, I hope and believe it is. Please keep us in your prayers!

Steve

I’m downloading your profile as i type, Nurya. Y’all are certainly in my prayers. I just hope we don’t have to wait until a Bishop search to do the hard work of discernment.