Wednesday, October 5, 2011

More on the Sauls Proposal

A second blog post to follow up on my thoughts about the Sauls proposal.  I am still feeling very iffy about this resolution, and will probably vote against it at GC.  I am still okay with it being a proposal from the Arizona deputies at diocesan convention, though I may express my reservations on the floor, with the caveat that I support its passage at diocesan convention only to make it possible to bring it to the floor at GC.  

Here are my reservations about the whole project:
  • DFMS includes three broad sources of power:  House of Bishops, House of Deputies, and 815.  The staff of 815 now reports to two bishops, Jefferts Schori and Sauls.  The Sauls proposal purports to reduce the power of only one of the three sources, which also happens to be the only one that is not under the control of bishops.  Please do not read this as an anti-episcopal statement or a statement aimed at any particular bishops, but I think it is absolutely central to our polity to maintain governance balanced between bishops, clergy and lay people, as the founders intended.  
  • You could define a fourth source of power, Executive Council (and its subsidiary CCABs), which does General Convention's work when GC is not in session.  This is another body which includes lay and clergy representation, and it is another body that the Sauls proposal indicates as a target of reduced influence.  I am in agreement that there are probably too many CCABs, too many meetings, etc.  But where in the world did the suggestion come from to take fiduciary power away from Executive Council?  Again, this would be a significant reduction of lay and clergy governance in the church.  
  • I think there is plenty of room to reduce expenses at 815.  Why does the Sauls proposal exempt from cost-cutting consideration the one organization that he is in charge of?
  • Whether or not it was intended this way by Bishop Sauls, I think the House of Deputies will see this proposal as a reduction of their (our) governance authority, and it will not succeed.  Yes, possibly a special convention will be called, but after much hemming and hawing, the HOD will not make substantive changes to its own authority.  We will have made a major expenditure to achieve incremental change.  
  • There is significant talk in the Sauls proposal about discerning the "mission of the church," with reference to Luke 4, etc.  I agree that if we are discerning the mission of the church, we should start with Luke 4:18-19, as well as Matthew 28:18-20 and John 20:21-23.  However, I am not sure that "What is the mission of the church?" is the question we should be asking.  We are talking about how best to spend the resources of DFMS, so I think the question we should be asking is, "What is the mission of DFMS?"  The mission of DFMS, in my view, is to provide governance for TEC so that TEC can fulfill the mission of the church.  Governance is not empty administration.  Governance gives rise to very particular views and methods of theology and mission - just take a look at how the governance of the Roman Catholic Church shapes their theology and mission for example, and contrast it to ours.  Let's not lose sight of the significance of our governance structure in the Anglican Communion and in the Christian world.
That's the way I see it.  As I said, however, I don't have a problem with this resolution passing at diocesan convention, if only to bring it to the floor at GC.