Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Group Think at 2009 General Convention: But will they serve Kool Aid at Snack Time?

One wonders just what the TEC laity thinks of this helpfulness masquerading as a "public narrative." So much for conscience, it's now about collectivism. Democracy, Schmocracy, that's so last century. Now we are enlightened! Whatever happened to those old democratic principles of debating, deliberation, and voting? Gone with the wind? Imagine if the U.S. Congress begins to engage in these kind of tactics? What - are they going to replace the Speaker of the House now with the GroupThink Moderator?

Here's TEC's story of initiating their Anaheim-style GroupThink:

On June 16, the day after Council's Albuquerque meeting ends, 65 people, including all of Council's provincial representatives and the members of its CIM committee, will remain for a full day of coaching in public narrative. They will be joined by the co-chairs of the General Convention Worship Committee and other invited Convention deputies, bishops and others. Some of the people who participate on June 16 will then train others during the provincial synod meetings leading up to General Convention.

Use of the public-narrative tool will ripple out from the Council's introduction and the June 16 session in ways that are aimed at building "a cadre of facilitators who will be able to lead General Convention through a public-narrative discussion about mission,” Straub said. "It's not just for convention," he added, saying that “the purpose is to have an impact on the Church at large.”

Anderson envisions convention participants taking the skills they learn back to their dioceses and helping other people tell their stories, listen to others and then find their own answers what she calls "the so-what question."

"The Episcopal Church isn't good at stating its identity," she suggested. "The people in the Episcopal Church don’t have a common language to talk about who we are in the Episcopal Church and what we are called to do because of who we are."

A public narrative is is a process of airbrushing out the unhelpful bits to reimagine reality more to a uniform GroupThink's liking. Group Think by any other name still smells.

Here's eight warning signs:

Illusion of Invulnerability: Members ignore obvious danger, take extreme risk, and are overly optimistic.

Collective Rationalization: Members discredit and explain away warning contrary to group thinking.

Illusion of Morality: Members believe their decisions are morally correct, ignoring the ethical consequences of their decisions.

Excessive Stereotyping:The group constructs negative stereotypes of rivals outside the group.

Pressure for Conformity: Members pressure any in the group who express arguments against the group's stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, viewing such opposition as disloyalty.

Self-Censorship: Members withhold their dissenting views and counter-arguments.

Illusion of Unanimity: Members perceive falsely that everyone agrees with the group's decision; silence is seen as consent.

Mindguards: Some members appoint themselves to the role of protecting the group from adverse information that might threaten group complacency.

Read the whole thing here and ponder. Incidentally, could someone get Franz Mesmer on the phone? Right. And do pass the Kool Aid please.


Edward of Baltimore said...

Democracy, Schmocracy


Is it democracy or schmocracy when a diocese elects a man to be its bishop and General Convention gives its assent? Is it democracy or schmocracy when the TEC's presiding bishop brings back from a coastal African city a communique for the rest of the bishops to consider to adopt and they decline? Would it be democracy or schmocracy if the people of Ohio decided it no longer liked the majority of the U.S. (policies and/or people) and wanted to be a state of Mexico, voted on it, passed it, and declared to the rest of the Union, "It is so."? And what might the response of the rest of the Union be to that?

As for your eight warning signs? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! In my household we call that "Kettling."

P.S. Mary, I'm still hoping for a response from you over at Preludium.

ettu said...

I don't me it seems not at all nefarious but only a reasonable attempt to present an institutions position clearly .. athers are free to present opposite opinions and the free marketplace of ideas then gets to rule. If this is a "plot" then I trust it will boomerang: if not then it will be a useful educational tool. I am regularly sent "backgrounders" to prrepare me for public statements and I do not see these as anything other than information I can use or disregard at my discretion. I look forward with faith to a more professional presentation by TEC spokepeople as a reslt of this initiative.

Charles said...

"The people in the Episcopal Church don’t have a common language to talk about who we are in the Episcopal Church and what we are called to do because of who we are."

Abandoning the biblical Gospel will do that to a church...

BabyBlue said...

Edward, perhaps it's time to revisit Episcopal political history. Lambeth 1.10, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, The Episcopal House of Bishops own theological committee created to study the topic and make recommendations to the HOB, the Primates of the Anglican Communion and many others advised The Episcopal Church to pause and not go forward with either blessing same sex unions or to elect and consecrate a bishop living in a sexual relationship with a person of his own gender. All warned TEC to not do it.

The Episcopal Church had taken major strides toward these innovations all the way through the Philly convention and the election of the Bishop of Chicago, a strong supporter, as Presiding Bishop. But then at the Denver GC there was a major response by the orthodox that stopped the innovations from going forward, though there were still those who saw the writing on the wall and separated following Denver 2000 through the First Promise Movement that later became the AMiA.

It was clear - having been there - that the progressive activists in Denver were shocked. Many of them were now in their mid-50s to mid-60s (and older) and time was growing short to see this in their lifetime. Recruiting 20somethings was not going well - it was a group of very dedicated individuals who had served loyally to the cause for decades and the effort to slow down the march of the innovations was indeed a shock.

Now the result of Denver 2000 by the progressives was not to just throw up their hands and stalk off, but to reorganize and come up with what I consider a brilliant, brilliant plan. The activists in TEC, as I've written before, learned their trade in the street politics of the 1960s and 70s. They think strategically and politically and they are extremely effective.

So one of their major leaders, the Bishop of New Hampshire at the time, put in his notice. He had his canon to the ordinary lined up for election in one of TEC's smallest dioceses (one of the travesties of GC's illusion of democracy is that the dioceses all get the same number of Deputies - 8 deputies and 8 alternates no matter what the size of their diocese - so New Hampshire had the same number of deputies as the Diocese of Virginia which is so grossly undemocratic it boggles the mind - this means that tiny little dioceses like NH or Newark carry incredible power and since those dioceses aren't growing, their deputies are elected over and over and over again with no term limits so they become ensconced in the TEC structures so deeply that it's entanglement - another sign of the unhealth of the structures of TEC).

So the Bishop of New Hampshire (we used to call him "Shorts" back at GC Indianapolis because he always wore white shorts on the floor of the House of Bishops every day at GC) was able to see his canon elevated to bishop - but in a strategic period. This comes from knowing the canons as well as how GC is run. By timing the election of Gene Robinson into the period just before General Convention, it forced the ratification to be done at Minneapolis. The bishops with jurisdiction only would have to vote, not Diocesan Standing Committees which included laity which could get messy. It was a brilliant strategy. Now the lobbying pressure could be focused directly on a small group of mostly men. It was masterful.

Bishop Lee, who had steadfastly held the line of the Diocese's own policies, tossed his own policy out the window in favor of making up for his lack of attendance at Dr. King's events in the 60's. He was so enamored with that romantic view, that he did not take seriously what his own people were saying to him in the diocese. And it's clear no one expected the worldwide outcry. The arrogance of the TEC leadership was simply breathtaking. TEC was moving unilaterally into it's Prophetic Moment and no one was going to stop it. "It is your destiny!" you can almost hear someone saying.

C051 was also masterfully put forward and while the final resolve was the main sticking point that was finally removed, it was an earlier clause that was the precedent. With all the attention and hoopla focused on the final clause, the earlier clause got by without much notice. But it was clear that the activists were ready as the moment that legislation was passed by both houses, celebration began in the news room as well appointed and well briefed TEC activists were ready to do their press conferences with the gathered media and declare "Mission Accomplished!"

Now there are thousands and thousands of laity not represented accurately because of the wacked out structures of General Convention. The betrayal that we felt at the finger being raised at the rest of the Communion was beyond words. We couldn't believe it. A group of orthodox Episcopal bishops walked out of the House after the vote for Robinson and some never came back, but got on planes and went home. Bishop Stanton was one of them.

Now with that - and much more - as the backdrop it was clear that TEC was forsaking Anglican Christianity for a new "prophetic innovations" and the rest of the Communion could just take a long walk off a short bridge as much as the TEC leadership cared.

But in Virginia, Bishop Lee was swamped with letters of protest. He sat through painful open meetings were the laity made it quite clear that he had abandoned his own people in his own vote. Bishop Lee responded by first creating a Reconciliation Task Force and from that and with the meetings he held with 20 something rectors in the diocese - he created his Special Committee that created the Protocol for Departing Congregations. All Saints Dale City was the first test case and it worked. All Saints negotiated a settlement which the diocese signed off on. We had a process in place, Bishop Lee took part in our discernment process, and the votes went forward to separate. My view at the time was that this was a legal separation, not a divorce. I held out out hope that we would need to separate so we could begin to find ways to remain in as close a communion as possible, as Bishop Lee said in the creation of his special committee. He was twenty years in the diocese and he could deliver. We trusted him and went forward.

But in the meantime, a new Presiding Bishop and staff had taken seat at 815 and they held a vastly different point of view.

We voted and the Diocese and the 11 churches with property entered into a Standstill Agreement that agreed that filing our vote petitions with the court was not a hostile act.

But as it is well known now, just days from beginning the formal negotiations, following in the All Saints model, 815 dramatically intervened in the person of David Booth Beers. Bishop Lee walked away from the table and sued everyone, following by Katharine Jefferts Schori suing everyone - nearly 200 people in Virginia.

Now we are in court and while that is sad and painful - it's also been quite illuminating. It shines light on just how undemocratic TEC has been for years as we see the court of law engage in ways TEC never does. At the trial in November it was clear that TEC approached this case as they did General Convention, but that didn't work in the court (see transcripts for what happened to Ian Douglas). However the judge rules, even if it's against us, it has been refreshing to see how a judge of his stature handles himself compared to the entrenched leadership of the TEC. The contrast is striking.

And it seems clear that TEC is worried about engaging in democratic principles such as voting. The PB's recent remarks disparaging democratic voting is quite telling. The judge himself ruled that to ignore the votes we took was to blink at reality.

The warning signs are there for us all. As I've been reading through the minutes again of our Vestry meetings it reminds me how hard we worked to be open and transparent and truly seek the mind of Christ as best as we could. The doors were open. We did all we could to listen and think and pray and respond. It took a lot of time, a lot of time - but I believe there was truly a desire to follow the Lord's direction. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done - it broke my heart. I still pray - even at this late hour - that we can find some way to stand down and separate until we can begin to talk again. I have seen Bishop Lee since the vote, shaken his hand, prayed for him.

But it just seem to get worse and this Group Think stuff is just another sign that reality continues to blink for the Episcopal Church.

Thanks for posting, Edward. I know we are disagreeing - but I'm very glad you are still here.


Phil said...

Use of the public-narrative tool will ripple out from the Council's introduction and the June 16 session in ways that are aimed at building "a cadre of facilitators who will be able to lead General Convention through a public-narrative discussion about mission,” Straub said.

Ah, “cadre.” What a well chosen word:


Main Entry: cad•re
Pronunciation: \ˈka-ˌdrā, ˈkä-, -drē; especially British ˈkä-də(r), ˈkā-, -drə\
Function: noun
“a cell of indoctrinated leaders active in promoting the interests of a revolutionary party”


Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Brilliant post BabyBlue and a wonderful comment at 12:43 giving us a historical lesson on how the revisionist leftists used serpent-clever subversive tactics to push through their heretical agenda.

P.S. However, I can't help but mention that you, as a pro-WO supporter, benefitted from the use of one of these tactics.