I started to call this “Adventures in Hiawatha Land” because it is rooted in what I accidentally learned about the recent election in Northern Michigan.Read it all here. The Very Rev'd Kevin Martin is the Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Matthew in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. He is a Deputy to General Convention, representing the Diocese of Dallas.
All this started when I read that the Diocesan leaders there announced that they were only putting forth one candidate for Bishop. Explaining that they by applying their “Total Ministry” model, they had come up with a diocesan team that would be elected at their convention that included one name of a Bishop/developer.
I was not surprised that this diocese of vast territory but few congregations might want to do a different or experimental way of calling a Bishop. Then as I thought of it, I became troubled.
What troubled me was that the leaders there had asked Standing Committees and Bishops to consent to an election. They had not asked for permission to do some other process.
Further, I looked over the canons and discovered there was a method for such a diocese to hold an alternate election process that involved the Province, but they had decided not to use it. I had a nagging feeling that such a small diocese with so few clergy could easily have such a process take on its own life, and this became a further suspicion for me when I noticed that the person nominated was active in the process that brought about the nomination. So, I spoke up.
I wrote the Presiding Bishop pointing out that our Diocesan Standing Committee had consented to an “Election” not an appointment, and I spoke up on the House of Bishops and Deputies Listserv. I make it clear in both my letter and in my post that I was not objecting to the person nominated, but to the process. At that point, I was willing to let the issue go. Then, a blistering post was added that said the real “elephant in the living room” was the person they had nominated and that all the blogs were full of chatter about the person. This was the first indication that I had (I am not a big blogger person) that some were objecting to the person because of his Buddhist training. Even then, I had little concern about the person. I have known clergy who have received Buddhist Meditation training and did not consider this in and of itself a concern. My concern remained the process.
Then one person rebuked me for bringing up an issue that obviously was not a problem for anyone in the Diocese of Northern Michigan because “no one there” had objected to the process. Then, the private emails started to arrive. The more disturbing emails came from people in Northern Michigan. They called to my attention that the “team” being put forth was nearly the same as the “design team” that carried out the process. They further pointed out that the nominee for Bishop was a leader of this team who had considerable influence in the diocese. I suggested that the unhappy folks needed to follow my lead, speak up, and contact the Presiding Bishop’s office.
What I discovered was that people had spoken up.
They were told two things. First, they were informed that the Presiding Bishop had monitored the process there, given permission for it, and that it would do them no good to question it since “she had already given her permission.” Next there came the really distressing revelation. I was then informed by a couple of people that they were informed that there could be repercussions if they spoke up.
Even with this information, I hesitated about speak up further. I still believed that any change would need the local people to voice what was happening. Finally, realizing that I was now something of a voice for the voiceless, I shared what I had learned with the Listserv. I was quickly accused of “Triangling.” I pointed out that I was merely being an advocate for those who because of pressure might not have a voice. Having had my say, having found no interest, having not heard from the Presiding Bishop in response to my letter, I said the serenity prayer and let it go.
So, a flawed process, run by a small group of people, has resulted in a questionable candidate elected to the Episcopate. This will result in some conservatives focusing on the person and his non-orthodox views which will result in an immediate endorsement by the progressive members of our church who will close rank to defend one of their own. The whole affair will be reduced to a conservative/liberal argument. The result will be one more Unitarian in our House of Bishops.
This is not what will trouble me the most.
What will trouble me is three-fold. First, the dissenters in Northern Michigan have informed me that their only real alternative is to just leave the Church. Second, the Church will be pushed further by its most extreme members in silencing any true moderate voices. Lastly, it is one more sign to me that the Church, made up of a thoughtful middle of caring and gracious centrist folks who honor our rules and procedures as a way of honoring a truly embracive and inclusive community, has sadly become something else.
What we have most seen in the Episcopal Church in the past 10 years is the end of reasoned faith.
FRIDAY UPDATE: Anglican Curmudgeon has done some more digging and read more about what he found here.