Thursday, May 07, 2015

Diocesan Convention: In the Elephant Pen

It surprised both the rector and me that the sole mention of the suffragan mess in the diocesan pre-convention journal is the following entry in the list of standing committee actions: "Requested the resignation of bishop suffragan." Well, and perhaps the announcement in the schedule of two local AA meetings on Friday night might count, though it invites a number of other peculiar interpretations. At any rate, there is nothing else recorded on the matter, and nothing on the schedule except possibly the bishop's address to the convention or a resolution from the floor. This diocese has enough parishes that, with a single bishop, it's hard to arrange a visitation to each in the canonical three years, much less the preferable per annum visit. Even with two bishops we have had to press one of the canons into service as a third visitor, and I at least have no idea what arrangements are to be made; nor has there been word one about electing another suffragan.

Leaving that behind (or trying to, at least, with the word that Cook has been deposed and has resigned), we have the report of the Horizons 2015 group/committee/task-force (it's not immediately clear which title applies). As I appear to be among the 99.95% of laypeople in the diocese who have never heard of this, permit me to list the bullet points of this Great Leap Forward:

  • By 2015, in response to the call to proclaim the Good News and make disciples of all nations, the diocese will grow its average worship attendance by 10 percent.
  • By 2015, the diocese will have equipped every member of the diocese to express his or her faith story by words and actions.
  • By 2015, the diocese will be an agent for transformational change in the State of Maryland and local communities and be recognized as such.
  • By 2015, every congregation will have 40 percent of worship attendees of all ages participating in a Christian formation program.
  • By 2015, provide every region in the diocese training and strategies for advocating for the poor in education.
Now, as we say in the testing world, only two of these offer any metric for evaluating success. And in the headline goal, we are, as the representative for this effort admits, abject failures. I can do little better than to quote them: "The diocese not only did not grow by 10%, but we lost 9%." But I would add that the last time the diocese saw increase in ASA was the year Before Gene: ASA in 2013 was 70% what it was in 2002. Five parishes were closed since 2009, but more significantly, two parishes left. Mount Calvary was quite small, but St. Timothy's Catonsville was not. Most parishes in the diocese show either slow decline or if they are very small an erratic struggle to survive; nobody shows a steady increase, however slight. We've also been running budget shortfalls for some years, though at least the size of the deficit has been diminishing.

And of course, well, um, religion. I was astonished to pull up the convention booklet today and find that the convention eucharist is going to be Rite I; perhaps there is some hope that the diocese can pull away from the destructive and self-absorbed gender theology of the 1970s. At GC, it appears, we still have much to fight on this, given that all the same-sex rites have options to omit "Father" and "Lord" almost everywhere. A diocesan convention is mostly about business, but perhaps there is hope that the attendees will recall that our first function is religion.


Unknown said...

I was delegate last year -- I would have preferred to have done Tower Climbs at the Natty Cat, done at the same time, but instead I was helping to elect a suffragan bishop. Somehow the Diocese (staff, consultant, search committee) chose to overlook Heather Cook's 2010 DUI, and we elected her irrespective of her alcoholism, and we know how that worked out. Bishop Sutton promised -- in January -- that there would be a formal investigation as to that search process, and how it went so wrong. I don't suppose anyone said anything about that investigation, or whether there will be or has been any investigation.....? Dick Mitchell

C. Wingate said...

I'm not sure how good my memory on this is, but I don't recall anything said formally in convention about it. My understanding from I-don't-know-where is that there is going to be a national level review of the vetting process, which on one level makes sense because some other diocese could fall into the same trap.