Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Leadership 101: Never conduct a poll yourself unless you are confident of the results

The Presiding Bishop's poll fails to call an emergency House of Bishops meeting in May. But should orthodox Episcopalians and Anglicans be celebrating? We think not.

Here's the e-mail sent out from the PB's office at 815 today:
From: HOB
Date: April 16, 2008
Subject: Possible House of Bishops in Meeting

Dear Bishops,

After receiving a large number of responses to our poll regarding the need for a May meeting of the House, we can confirm from the results that there will not be a meeting in May.

For all who were in attendance at Camp Allen, it may be recalled that there was no clear sense from the House at that time that such a meeting would be necessary. This is the reason the poll was suggested.

We will indeed proceed as planned with the post-Lambeth meeting in September in Salt Lake City, and further details about the specific location and registration will be made available at the end of May or beginning of June.

Again, our thanks to all of you who responded to this poll.

The Rev. Canon C. K. Robertson, PhD
Canon to the Presiding Bishop
The Presiding Bishop instituted a formal poll of the members of the House of Bishops to call an emergency meeting to focus on what to do about the Moderator of Common Cause. Today we learned that the poll to do so failed.

Why would the leader of an organization in crisis conduct a poll, unless the leader is confident of its outcome? Anything less is stupidity. Polling a group by a leader feigns democratic deliberation - it's shrewdly used only when the leader intends the outcome to go her way. We can think of many reasons why a leader would use a polling tactic, but a leader should never poll a group if there is a significant risk that the outcome will not achieve the leader's goals. Otherwise, the leader should just fold up her tent and go back to the farm because her leadership is kaput. A failed poll that does not produce the results desired by the leader is failed leadership.

But a failed poll is not always a failure.

Again, let's be very clear here. The only reason a leader would engage in such a risky maneuver of polling is if the leader is confident that the poll will turn out the way she wants.

At first glance, this news today seems to be a blow to the Presiding Bishop.

But before we uncork the champagne, let's just pause a moment, shall we? As we said before, no leader in their right mind polls a group unless the leader is confident of the outcome. So, let's just consider - just for fun - whether this failed poll is actually in the Presiding Bishop's best interest. Let's consider - if only for a moment - that the failed poll counts as a success for Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Why would a failed poll work for the Presiding Bishop? One reason is that it was used to quell radical voices in the House of Bishops who are outraged at the Bishop of Pittsburgh and want his head. They do not want him to go to Lambeth. They are shining up the silver platter. What is a Presiding Bishop to do?

Well, if the PB agrees with those voices, but knows that there is no canonical way to depose the gentle bishop at this time unless the canons are tossed out the window, then the last thing the PB would do is poll the House and lose control. That would be dumb. But the PB still needs to quell those voices, to encourage patience.

For example, what if the Presiding Bishop also serves on the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council and went to a recent closed-door meeting in London where she was briefed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary to the Anglican Communion?

As we know from the Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright, letters are being sent from the Archbishop of Canterbury (as promised in his Advent letter) regarding the invitations of certain bishops now invited to Lambeth. Since the relationship between TEC and the ACC is - shall we say - cozy, it is not highly unlikely that the Presiding Bishop would know nothing about those letters? Would N.T. Wright know about the letters, but the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church would not? Would Rowan Williams really keep her in the dark - especially since they are being sent to diocesan bishops in the Episcopal House of Bishops? The last thing she needs is a rebellion in the ranks from her own allies - a head's up might be what she needs to get keep her own head off a silver platter.

And good news from the Palace - at least from her point of view - would be just what she needs to do that.

Then her poll would be a stalling tactic until the subject of the poll is actually achieved, though not by her own hand - but by the hand of Canterbury himself. Brilliant.

Otherwise, she has colossally failed as a leader in a silly polling game and can be checked off as a mark of amateur stupidity. She didn't buy time, she bought the farm. Not so brilliant.

Alas, we are not so inclined to believe that she's the bought the farm - no, we are not, not yet.

Tip of the tinfoil to Greg at StandFirm.


JamesW said...

BabyBlue: Except that recent evidence shows that KJS has recently badly blundered in some key ways - she handled the DSJ and recent inhibitions very poorly, and she is the one who initially had pushed for a Duncan deposition.

However, you are right, we could speculate on several reasons why KJS decided to conduct a poll, when she could just as easily have demanded a May meeting.

Let us assume (as we would need to) that KJS publicized the poll, knowing that it would fail. Let's suppose she also has knowledge of Rowan's letters (the reality of which I will not believe until one is actually received by someone). Let's suppose that these letters are good news for the orthodox (as in, don't bother coming unless you agree to demonstrably, via action, take the WR seriously).

If such a scenario came to pass over the next two weeks, I would expect TEC's extremist-liberal bishops (i.e. those that want Duncan's head), who are already reeling and angry from RW's refusal to formally include VGR, to launch a serious hissy-fit, and could very likely press for a TEC boycott of Lambeth. The extremists might just be able to win a vote.

It would be very much in KJS's interest to block any attempt to organize such a reaction. Accordingly, it would be very much in her interest to not have her May bishops' meeting afterall.

But, I have come to the conclusion that speculating is a foolish sport in the world of Anglicanism. I don't know what KJS's polling was meant to accomplish. I don't know if any letters of significance will come from RW.

I believe that the liberals can't win this. It is impossible. The only questions are - 1) how much suffering and damage can they inflict in their march to extinction, and 2) how will the orthodox respond to being made to suffer?

BabyBlue said...

Very good analysis.

It is indeed possible that we have front row seats for a major meltdown of the Episcopal Church. The failure of the poll could indeed be a failure of KJS's ability to lead (having never been a rector, it is possible she's making the mistakes rectors make when they get that first job - and some of those mistakes can be whoppers).

It is entirely possible that if TEC dissolves into chaos, it may take significant portions of the Anglican Communion with it, at least for a time. If TEC is divided, the Church of England is even more so - though the British handle their divisions in a much different way that we Americans do. But their divisions are just as deep and as they are entwined with the workings of their government, it makes their divisions perhaps even more costly than our own. How much will Rowan want to keep the peace within the COE at the expense of TEC? Or how much is he out looking for a scapegoat to take the blame?

The question of scapegoats continues on my mind. If the letters (where ever or when ever them may be) are aimed at those identified in the Primates last two meetings and Rowan fulfills his part - that will be a big surprised all around. There's no doubt about that. It might cause a blow (though perhaps not fatal) toward GAFCON as it indeed is picking up steam now that the non-African Archbishops are now attending, despite their early misgivings. Leaders from the Anglican Consultative Council are also attending GAFCON. KJS is not going to care about GAFCON. But we will see if Rowan Williams does. How much he wants to strike at the rebellion (by either fulfilling his promises or by punishing the rebels themselves) will again illuminate the state of the Communion.

If instead, Rowan does a "Tisket, a Tasket" and sends letters to the progressives while scapegoating Common Cause Partners and the Global South leaders like Archbishop Venerables or Archbishop Akionla or even Standing Committee member Archbishop Orombi - well, it's hard to see how Lambeth will even go forward.

Then Ruth Gledhill's admonition that the doors should just be opened wide and allow all the bishops to come - including CANA and AMiA and Gene Robinson too - then the burden is off Rowan to pick and choose who's in and who's out and just put up that Big Tent and see who show's up. But that's just doesn't not seem likely. Again, allowing a free-for-all does not seem to be advised. We'll just take our chaos over to the Other Side of the Big Pond.

N.T. Wright continues to hold fast that there are letters and they are coming soon.

But there are questions: Just exactly what is the nature of the relationship between the Anglican Communion Office and LamPal? Are they all one big happy family? Or do they communicate by tapping morse code onto the walls?

Is the relationship between Katharine Jefferts Schori and Rowan Williams open and healthy and vibrant (they body language in New Orleans did not show that to be so)? We've wondered in the past since they don't seem to communicate one on one - it fact, the numbers of times could be very small. This is not a case of George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Is that relationship strained?

Perhaps then it wasn't so much the information she got when she was in London as much as allies in the Anglican Communion Office leaking her information.

It's also clear that Rowan Williams maintains he has direct relationships with the diocesan bishops in the United States and not through the Presiding Bishop. She is admin, not a theological presence. That could prove to be very interesting.

The failure of KJS's poll to produce a head on a silver platter does not necessarily mean there will be no silver platter. We're just not sure who's providing it.


Anonymous said...

If she wanted to gain anything from the poll it may be that this told her more about who would stand with her. The responses went out individually and were returned individually. She now has names attached to each "side" in a much more specific way than before. This is particulary valuable after the "concern" that came out after the last meeting. She now has 5 months to arm twist to make sure that the actual vote goes the right way. She has no need to waste time on those who are sure things.

Rolin said...

Very perceptive observation, anon. When the U.S. Senate has a critical and controversial vote coming up, the leadership first calls a vote on something less substantial that will signal how the final vote will come out. (Often, this is a vote on the 'cloture' rule for debate.) The leadership then knows whether to allow the vote on the substantive issue to come to the floor. This could well be a factor in KJS' tactic.
Br_er Rabbit

LP said...

I'm not sure I can agree with these estimates of how "clever" KJS is. Not, at least, to the extent it is her way of reigning in more liberal bishops. ARE there more liberal bishops?!

Anyway, this whole let's-depose-Duncan thing was, as I recall, her baby from the beginning. She was the one who proposed and initially started pushing it. So it can't be she's trying to "reign in" other bishops when she's the one who hitched that horse in the first place.

No, I think more likely is this: she used the previous uncanonical depositions to try both to "set the stage" to remove +Duncan before Lambeth and to start in, already, on reducing or intimidating contrary votes so that GC2009's non-Christian pansexualist agenda can continue apace -- i.e. the continued conversion of PEcUSA into an organization where no Christian may remain (save without sacrificing all obedience to Scripture and Tradition's clear mandates about communion and fellowship) without ceasing to be, in any meaningful way, part of the "one holy catholic and apostolic Church". (Arguably, that's already been the case for some years -- if not decades -- already.)

But rather than "slip under the radar" as she'd hoped to achieve by her posturing "formalism" of a vote to bypass the canons in favor of Schoria law, she got called on it, with even some of the intitutionalists (who've already sacrificed orthodoxy for the sake of staying in the apostate institution) balking... as even more certainly would if the same uncanonical procedures were used against un-retired and un-resigned bishops (like themselves).

This means that she's confronted by a situation in which she's stated her intention to move against +Duncan but sees that she doesn't have the support to do so until she can do it in actually canonically legal format. Which puts Donnette Schorlione in a bind.

So I expect that this "straw poll" of an indeterminite number of individuals was simply a way to escape the trap she'd made for herself -- it lets her off the hook of having to attempt +Duncan's deposition immediately, avoid the embarassment of having that uncanonical procedure fail, reserve the option of initiating deposition procedings at a later date, and create the appearance of actually consulting with her fellow bishops as a whole rather than just her immediate liberal-apostate cabal. Especially, perhaps, hoping that enough happens between now and September that she can get more ammunition against +Duncan and still pull off the deposition before GC2009.

So I see this memo as her way of defusing a problem she herself created, rather than as a more subtle attempt to prevent others from causing problems.