Friday, February 26, 2010


I enjoyed this image. Made me chuckle.

It also reminds me of the fine little book by Jan Nunley, How Many Lightbulbs Does it Take to Change a Christian?, which you can order here.

Ever since my time in Sudan (in early 2006), I’ve had a different perspective on my use of water and energy. I can’t leave water running. Have set my thermostat very low all winters.


For the last few days, I have been expressing my anger (here and elsewhere) at the cold-hearted communications of our church under Watt and Rudig’s leadership. I think they have failed us miserably on some high-profile communication topics over the past couple of years.

Now let me turn 180 degrees and express my very high praise and thanks to Episcopal News Service for a job very well done. Despite what I believe are bungling managers at the top of the pyramid, we are blessed to have some good journalists working for our church.

I was ill today and spent the day at home. As I had time and was able to sit upright, I spent some time catching up on the news about the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti and the aftermath of the horrible earthquake that struck there on January 12.

Although the crisis in Haiti has disappeared from our television screens, we must not let it fade from our consciousness as Christians and Episcopalians.

The Rev. Lauren Stanley (Episcopal Church Appointed Missionary in Haiti) is providing the best single source of information on the aftermath of the earthquake, news from the Episcopalians in Haiti, and the work of The Episcopal Church, ERD, and Episcopal congregations’ work with Haiti.

Lauren’s blog, Go Into the World, is the place to go for information. She went to Haiti in August, working with the Rt. Rev. Jean Zaché Duracin, Bishop of Haiti, but happened to be in Virginia for her doctoral studies when the earthquake struck in January. As soon as the earthquake struck, Lauren began using her site as a clearinghouse for information, and she has not flagged. She quickly began assembling many sources of information and assistance.

As we grew to understand the hideous dimensions of the crisis in Haiti, Episcopal Relief & Development [ERD] kicked into action, leveraging its financial resources and its network of contacts on the ground. ERD is the best conduit for support to Haiti. Lauren and ERD quickly began working together.

Bishop Duracin asked Lauren to remain in the U.S. to tell the diocese's story and to coordinate information emerging from the country and offers of help that came flooding in. In a letter (available here) dated January 23, Bishop Duracin wrote:
I also am announcing in this letter that I am appointing The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley, Appointed Missionary of The Episcopal Church, to work directly with ERD on my behalf. I am asking all partners in The Episcopal Church to communicate directly with Rev. Stanley, so as to keep communications with the Diocese of Haiti open. Rev. Stanley is to communicate and work with ERD on my behalf.
The Episcopal Church has a clearinghouse of news stories here and a gallery of photographs here. Episcopal Relief & Development has a special Haiti section here.

I have been grateful for the stories from Lauren Stanley and Episcopal News Service. While I have hammered away at ENS in earlier postings about other topics, it seems only fair to observe their very fine work on this story. They are working hard to be sure we do not forget our sisters and brothers in Haiti, and I commend that work.

I was grateful to find this video, in which Lauren Stanley sat down with North Carolina’s Bishop Curry for an interview. Watch it here

or click here to view it on YouTube.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Episcopal Communications

I urge you to go over to Scott Gunn's blogpost, "RIP: Board of Governors." Scott has been a member of the supposed board of Episcopal communications. He speaks about the Executive Council action and has links to past actions.

Go there! Read that!

TEC, Cleaning Contract, & Communications

You may recall I blogged here and here and here and here about the action the Episcopal Church took to terminate a cleaning contract, leaving many workers unemployed.

When the dust settled, I was willing to believe the contract decision may have been just. Unfortunately, I know enough of Linda Watt and her lackies that I'm more inclined to believe the union reps than to believe the Watt Corporation. It grieves me to say that, as a paid-up Episcopalian who loves this church.

What left me livid? This above everything: CEO Linda Watt and and our "communications department" come off sounding more heartless than Pharoah or Pontius Pilate. The union reps came off sounding more charitable and humane than did Watt & Co. Our purported spokespeople seemed utterly deaf to how a church should communicate with its members and with the world.

TEC issued an interim report from the Executive Council meeting and now a final report from this week's meeting of the Executive Council.
As far as I can tell, no one asked why Linda Watt and other spokespeople of our Church issued such ugly, heartless comments to the media after the media went after our Church. As far as I can tell, no one is yet asking why our communications are so often miserable and purblind.
Mind you, this communications ignorance is recent. It dates from the time when Katharine Jefferts-Schori hired Linda Watt to run our Church in late 2006 and Anne Rudig to head our Office of Communication in late 2008. Under Watt's and Rudig's rule, our Executive staff has allowed many of our church's finest journalists to leave the church's employ. Some have left on their own. Some have been forced out, under more or less pressure. Watt and Rudig are behind the departure of many of our finest communicators and journalists.

I had heard that some members of Executive Council would indeed ask hard questions and insist on accountability. From what I read in the Executive Council's communiques, they did no such thing. I can only conclude that Kool-Aid was the drink of choice at the meeting.

What did Executive Council do about our miserable communications? The Executive Council passed a resolution "reconstituting the Board of Governors of Episcopal Life into the Episcopal News Service Advisory Committee." Did they call for accountability? No. Did they ask why most of the real journalists have left our Church Center? No. Did they address the miserable failure of our church's communications? No. They simply rearranged the deck chairs, giving a committee a different name.

I am disgusted.

Yes – thanks be to God! – a few fine journalists like Matthew Davies are still on staff. I'm glad he's still there!

But is anyone noticing how many of our finest journalists have left in the last couple of years?

Does anyone else remember when our own Communications council expressed concern at the failures of our communications and the church officials' failure to consult with them?

Several members of Executive Council said they would delve into the matter of how our church cancelled the cleaning contract and – more importantly – how our church communicated/defended this decision. Are they doing so? Not that I can tell. As far as I can tell, no one in our church's leadership cares that our communications staff is virtually impotent.
Apparently, none of our Executive Council members had the chutzpah to stand up against the current party line. It grieves me to admit my church now has a "party line."
Addendum: You might also want to read the reflections of Executive Council member Dylan Breuer. She seems to share some of my concern about the church communications, though more temperately. Among her reflections, she writes:
I appreciate [Chief Operating Officer Linda Watt's] report, but it does not dispel my ongoing concern for workers' rights and human decency, nor does it ameliorate, in my opinion, that communication about the situation was (to say the least) very poorly handled. I expressed that view, as did others, and I and others will be continuing to monitor the situation and strive to support workers' rights. I want to thank those people who hold my and others' feet to the fire about this. Keep it up! This is important stuff.

Cat Thoughts

This is very fun to me. I dont really think this is what my cats would say. But maybe ...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What Good are Shins?

Taking a break from serious stuff last week, I found some funny items I want to share.

Here's the first of them.

Based on my experience of waking in the middle of the night, I'm inclined to believe this graph speaks truth.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bishops Theology Scenario

Bishop Whalon’s essay has led me to go back to the news in June and July 2009. We knew then that Bishop Henry Parsley appointed a group which he intended to be secret, to consider the issues related to same-sex blessings and ordination of people in same-sex relationships.

Here are some links – from my site and from the Episcopal Café.

We know that Bishop Parsley appointed eight people – four of whom would argue for LGBTs' place in the Christian community, and four who would argue against it. He didn’t seek impartiality or contemplation. He sought advocates. Further, he wanted them to write two competing papers, which would be delivered to the House of Bishops in 2011. All that happened in the middle of 2009. I ranted that the bishops were engineering the schedule to render our General Convention impotent.

But that didn’t work. Our General Convention made great strides this summer in Anaheim.

We know all that.

Real News

Note this, though, for it is truly news!! The secret panel was told to prepare their papers for consideration by the bishops in 2011. What LeMarquand reveals is that the papers are going to the House of Bishops meeting in March 2010 – a full year before the schedule we had been given.

I can't help but wonder if this is so the bishops can make their deliberations before the May deadline for consents on Mary Glasspool's election.

What else would account for the bishops and/or secret panel moving the schedule up by a full year?


Perhaps I'm naive or downright foolish or blind in some other sort of way. But here's my hoped-for scenario:
  1. The House of Bishops will receive the secret panel's papers in March, and a vast majority will agree with the side that sees gay/lesbian Christians should be fully included in the rites of our church. If need be, they may instruct the panel to tweak the paper a bit.
  2. Meanwhile, most of the bishops will consent to Glasspool's election and consecration.
  3. The next House of Bishops meeting will formally adopt the statement (perhaps with amendments) from the panel as their statement on SSBs and LGBT ordinations.
  4. The bishops will then submit a resolution for GC2012, to the effect, "Resolved, that the nifty document, Queers are Really Welcome in TEC, shall be the official statement of this church."
  5. The deputies will concur.
  6. Peace will reign in TEC, the Anglican Communion, and all Christendom. Shortly thereafter, Jesus will come to establish his kingdom on earth.
What do you think of that scenario?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Grant LeMarquand

Grant LeMarquand Loses All Credibility

We all knew that Grant LeMarquand was in sympathy with the reactionaries in the Episcopal Church. We knew he was a member of the committee that our House of Bishops commissioned to study the current sexuality issues, and we knew he was a partisan.

But even I did not expect him to cuddle up with the StandFirm crowd quite so snugly.

Today, when StandFirm noted Bishop Whalon’s essay, LeMarquand cut loose.

In this thread he writes:

Dear Ralph - the “double secret theology committee” (actually I think we are called a ‘theological panel’ for some reason) which, of course, is no longer secret, is nearing the completion of its work. We have met 3 times, we have produced 2 major papers and a response from each side to the other side’s paper. These are now ready to go to the House of Bishops of TEC (who commissioned our work) who will be discussing them at their next meeting. After that we may need to meet one more time to consider the Bishops’ responses to the work (of course neither side can be told by the H of B that our work needs to be edited - it remains our work, not theirs), but a face to face meeting may not be necessary. Following the March meeting and any last minute revisions/ clarifications, the work will be published.

Grant LeMarquand

Trinity School for Ministry

I can give thanks that LeMarquand is providing timetable information that our bishops are not. Still ... I am troubled that this guy is so clearly in bed with the StandFirm wackos.

Later in that thread, LeMarquand writes:

Dear Dick,

The panel’s membership was made public sometime last year after some lobbying by both sides. Come to think of it, the whole idea for this panel came from a motion by Bishop Whalen at a House of bishops meeting, I believe.

The membership of the panel was recommnded [sic] by the House of Bishops Theology Committee.

Bishop Parsley of Alabama was responsible for setting up the panel (he was also present at one of our meetings and was involved in a conference call during the other two).

Bishop Joe Burnett served as a facilitator [sic] durng [sic] all three meetings, and Dr Ellen Charry did a very capable job of moderating our discussion without taking sides.

The panel itself had four ‘liberals/revisionists’ and four 'conservatives/traditionalists’ (I’ll let you speculate as to who was on each ‘side’ (and there were clearly two sides in our discussions - not to say we don’t like each other - we do - but we disagree very strongly).

The eight are:

John Goldingay, Old Testament prof at Fuller Seminary

Deirdre Good, New Testament prof at General Seminary

Willis Jenkins, ethics prof at Yale

Cynthia Kittredge, New Testament prof at the Seminary of the Southwest

Grant LeMarquand, Academic Dean and prof of Biblical Studies and Mission at Trinity School for Ministry

Eugene Rogers, prof of systematics at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro

George Sumner, Principal and prof of systematics and mission at Wycliffe College, Toronto (who was ordained in TEC and retains his American citizenship)

Dan Westberg, prof of Ethics at Nashotah House

Unfortunately our work is not yet public - the house of Bishops commissioned it and so they will get the first crack at reading it. The project was scheduled to run from 2008-2012 so we are not doing too badly.


What do you think, Bishops and members of the Theology Committee? Are your happy with his behavior? Is LeMarquand a scholar? Or is he a spokesman for those who make their home at StandFirm?

Doing Our Theology II

I must confess that I wonder about the timing of Bishop Whalon’s essay at Anglicans Online.

Why is he now asking about the timing of our actions?

You may recall that in June of last year, Alabama Bishop Henry Parsley appointed a super-secret panel to study the issue of same-sex relationships. There was much ado about it. They were to issue their report sometime in 2011. I wonder if this is the "official position" that Bishop Whalon is awaiting in his essay.

There's some info at The Lead about the names of the committee members. I wrote here and here and here .

Bishop Henry Parsley appointed his secret theology panel to study these matters. He charged them to report to the House of Bishops Theology Committee in 2011.

Their names were revealed here with commentary from the Episcopal Café.

When Bishop Parsley appointed those eight members to the secret panel, he appointed four who were opposed and four who supported out church’s stance. He set up a crazy process, in which they were to create opposing papers for submission to the House of Bishops.

Now we know they have been doing their work.

And what will be the product of their work?

Doing Our Theology I

Bishop Pierre Whalon has posted a brave essay at Anglicans Online that has received significant attention. I think it is well-earned attention. I urge you to read his essay. Too many people are posting knee-jerk reactions. We need to listen to what he is saying.

He is not saying that we haven’t done the theology about LGBT relationships in the Episcopal Church. I believe he’s saying The Episcopal Church hasn’t issued a formal statement that explains why we believe it is a good and proper thing to ordain partnered gay men and lesbians to all orders of ministry and to bless the unions (or marriages) of gay men and lesbians.

I sense he thinks that is a failure on our part. And I agree with him in that.

I wrote about this a long time ago. The failure of our church to recognize and bless same-sex unions has been a stumbling block. It put us in the weird position of ordaining partnered people to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate without blessing their relationships. And that’s just weird. Backward, even.

I wish we had adopted a liturgy for same-sex blessings before we ordained Bishop Robinson. But that’s not the timetable we had. We were offered a chance to consecrate Bishop Robinson first, and we did. And I am glad we did. That’s how it is in our church: Sometimes the incarnate people in our church precede our theological positions. I am glad our church recognized Bishop Robinson’s fitness for ministry instead of awaiting a theological statement.

I believe Bishop Whalon has it right – that we need to articulate our theology so that we can “officially” explain ourselves to the wider Anglican Communion and beyond.

I also agree with the many people who say that there have been plenty of theological justifications. They include many resources that Susan Russell cites when she asks:

My first response is a clarifying question: Is one of the pieces of the theology we haven't done "To Set Our Hope on Christ" -- the theological and biblical apologetic we took to the ACC in Nottingham in 2005?

Or the Claiming the Blessing Theology Statement published in 2002?

Or Tobias Haller's "Reasonable and Holy"?

Or the theological resources published by the Chicago Consultation?

Some people are slamming Bishop Whalon, arguing there have been theological justifications. I agree there have been sound justifications. But I also agree with Bishop Whalon that none of those have been officially endorsed by our church, and I agree that is what is needed.

I believe our church needs to point to some of those theological treatises and say, “This speaks our mind. This is why we believe it is right to bless same-sex unions. And this is why we believe it is right to ordain people living in such unions.”

I believe we need to craft such a statement for our church and for the whole Anglican Communion. So I applaud Bishop Whalon for raising this question.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


In Which I Blather on about This & That ... and Nothing in Particular

I haven’t been on some friends’ blogs as much as I’d like for a while now. I was truly frightened when I woke at 1:30 this morning from a very clear and distressing dream – which didn’t feel like a dream – involving Paul and Grandmère Mimi. I got up, went to Ye Olde Laptop, checked their blogs and Facebook, to be sure they had both posted recently … which they could not have done, had my “dream” been an actual portent. Thanks be to God, both seem to be fine.

But, alas, here I am much later, still not being able to go back to sleep. Ah, well. At least the three cats have joined me here on the sofa. (It’s probably just for the body heat … since my programmable thermostat lets the temperature go down to 60 degrees at night.)

I’ve caught up on a few other friends’ blogs. I wanted to comment on several, but didn’t. For how to explain my delay of a week or two … or more? Mea culpa. Alas …

Still not ready to go back to bed, I went to some of my favorite “just for fun” blogs that are entirely unrelated to the church or the Angli-Can’t troubles. Much fun!

Then I decided to commit my own bloggery here. Why not?

Friday morning, I went down to the Lake, intending to spend 2 nights and 3 days with my dear friends D & A. But, alas, the weather forecast turned ugly, and we feared we would not be able to get out of there (with the steep, unpaved road leading to a curvy, hilly county road, neither of which was likely to be plowed). So we broke up the party early, and I came home after just one evening – cutting short my mini-vacation and a longed-for visit with my friends.

Today I introduced D & A to one of my favorite sites: the humorously named It parodies those framed motivational posters one sees all too often in corporate offices. This is one of my favorites:

I hope you can read the caption: “There is no greater joy than soaring high on the wings of your dreams, except maybe the joy of watching a dreamer who has nowhere to land but in the ocean of reality.”

It reminds me so much of the guy who became my uber-boss nearly two years ago. I yearn for the day when he crashes headlong into the ocean of reality.

My friend A. reciprocated by introducing me to one of her favorites: Unhappy Hipsters. Apparently, it helps if one knows the magazine Dwell (a design and architecture magazine) to “get it” entirely. I like the sardonic tone. It's kinda like "Emos Tackle Architectural Digest." I especially enjoyed this one (from here):

On the Unhappy Hipsters site, it is captioned:

At the art opening, he’d been convinced the blank canvas symbolized endless possibilities. Back at home, it was just one more reminder of his own desperation.
(Photo: Raimund Koch; Dwell, April 2009)
That’s so much better than the dry caption at the Dwell site:

Dolce sits on a vintage 1950s couch he found at a thrift store in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Dolce and Burnham had the couch and the Donghia armchair recovered in a stain-resistant Sunbrella fabric by Andrew Grossman Upholstery. The Flokati rug was picked up at a thrift store in Florida. Hanging on the wall behind Dolce is a piece of art by British painter Tom Hammick.
Check out Unhappy Hipsters. It’s going to be one I check regularly, along with my daily fix of I Can Has Cheezburger.

Now ... we shall see if I can go back to bed and get to sleep.

Am I motivated to get to bed so I can make it to church tomorrow? Not particularly. The parish will have a "jazz mass," which we recently launched as an annual event around the Feast of Absalom Jones (the first African American priest ordained in the Episcopal Church). It's the regular BCP service, but with the service music in jazz settings by a fine, local musician. And the "special music" (during the offertory, e.g.) will also be jazz. If past years are any indication, a fine jazz ensemble will be there to lead the music and our choir will do a great job. All of which is very fine ... except that I don't much like jazz. It's like the dilemma of whether to go to an ice cream social at the parish if one doesn't like ice cream: Does one attend for the sake of the parish and the fellowship? ... We shall see. But I truly can't remember the last time I missed church on Sunday without being seriously ill. Can't remember the last time I decided just to "sleep in." This may be the day.

By the bye ... Here's a shout-out to Padre Mickey. If one does a Google search for "episcopal feast of absalom jones," where do you think it first directs you? To Church Publishing? To some other official lectionary site? Nope! The first listing on the Google search results is Padre Mickey's posting on the feast this year. Way to go, my brother!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

TEC response to domestic poverty

This looks like a good conference. Really! No doubt, there will be many good talks.

From NewsLine:

* * * * * *

The Episcopal Church
Office of Public Affairs

Conference explores Episcopal Church's response to issues of Domestic Poverty
Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori to present keynote address

February 09, 2010

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will present the keynote address at a special conference focusing on The Episcopal Church's response to the pervasive issue of Domestic Poverty. Called to Serve: The Episcopal Church Responds to Domestic Poverty will provide an in-depth exploration of the nature of domestic poverty and the Church's role in addressing this ubiquitous national issue on Wednesday to Friday, April 28 – 30 in Newark, NJ.

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, in her Wednesday address "Called to Serve – How can we respond to domestic poverty?" will map out the steps and points needed to work together on domestic poverty.

Also on Wednesday, The Episcopal Church will debut a documentary on domestic poverty, produced by the Office of Communication. The film will focus on the remarkable work of Jubilee Park in Dallas, TX, which provides an array of services, from job training to voter registration and food services, to Dallas residents living below the poverty level.

Domestic Poverty was named a major focus of the Church's ministry and mission at last summer's General Convention of The Episcopal Church.

Asset-based community development

The conference speakers, workshops and panel presentations will focus attention on the role of asset-based community development as a means for recognizing poverty. An important component of the conference will be the examination of a new model for understanding poverty, "The Measure of America: America Human Development Report."

This is timely, according to the Rev. Christopher Johnson, because "in the past, we have defined poverty solely in economic terms. 'The Measure of America' is a process that encompasses other related factors."

Schedule and info

For complete schedule and registration information:

For more info contact the Rev. Christopher A. Johnson, Jubilee Officer for The Episcopal Church,

Called to Serve: The Episcopal Church Responds to Domestic Poverty is supported by Jubilee Ministries, Episcopal Community Services in America, and National Episcopal Health Ministries.

* * * * * *

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Memory Lane

Reflections on TEC & Its “Communications”

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I have occasionally ranted about the supposed news and communications functions of the Episcopal Church. It wasn’t always like that. In fact, it’s only been in the last couple of years.

There was a time when I was a hearty supporter of the Communications office. But that was before Anne Rudig was hired to manage that division. That was before the Board of Governors expressed its severe displeasure about our Communications office. That was before our church fired most of its best journalists and forced most of the others out.

Recently, I have been forced to ponder why the heck I am so angry at TEC’s “Communications” office. Of course, I ponder in verbosity. So this is long. Read it if you are not prone to narcolepsy. If you read the whole thing, I would appreciate your telling me what you think of the Episcopal Church’s “communications” strategy. Do you think it’s as bankrupt and ineffectual as I do? Tell me … one way or the other.

From 2003 to 2006, the Episcopal Church scarcely said a peep. We let others talk about us. We didn’t say what we were about. Our journalists must have been under a gag order. I remember e-mailing TEC in 2004, asking them where the heck I could get news. Sadly … and honestly … that Church Center staff member sent me to a news site far from 815 2nd Avenue. And that person was right: Other sites were carrying more news than my own Church was.

After the gavel came down at the end of GC06, many of us were dismayed about B033 and the fact that the Episcopal Church had let the dissidents (inside and beyond the US) frame the story. I wasn't "inside" of church politics, but it seemed that Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold just wasn't willing to let the Episcopal Church tell its story.

Tom Woodward, Bill Coats, David Fly, and several others met during GC06 and talked about the need to tell our story. That led to the creation of the Episcopal Majority website ... at a time when our official communications staff seemed to be gagged. In the absence of good journalism from Church Center, we folks determined to tell the story of the the Episcopal Church and to counter the lies being told by the schismatics. We posted essays that articulated the orthodox and mainstream views of Episcopalians. We took on the right-wing-nuts who were charging our church with heresy. Deacons, priests, and bishops (and a couple of primates) asked me to post their essays. As did GC deputies. And many laypeople. I received many e-mails from people who were grateful that someone was finally speaking up for the Episcopal Church ... and many of those "someones" were leaders of our church speaking intelligently and persuasively. We frequently had over 1,000 hits per day on that site.

Then ... in the early days of Katharine Jefferts Schori's tenure as Presiding Bishop ... it seemed that there was a resurrection for the communications function of our church. Our professional journalists began to do some very good reporting. Not merely "sweetness-and-roses" public relations or press releases, but giving the lie to those who lied about us. I would say they were doing a great thing I think of as "advocacy journalism" -- not the pablum of PR, and not just flat "reporting," but journalism that tried to tell the truth and not just the facts. Jan Nunley's EpiScope was a thing of beauty and a breath of fresh air! (I observe that website now is virtually dead, as it hasn’t posted a thing since November 2009; when Jan was in charge, we got daily news.) Back in those early days of the new Presiding Bishop, KJS did webcasts, receiving questions from all over our church and the world. She seemed to be opening our church to the world. She was communicating to us. She was willing to take on the lies from the schismatics. It seemed to me that the Episcopal Church was finally telling its story!

In May 2008, the Episcopal Majority folks decided TEC's communications were finally in good shape. We thought we had a Presiding Bishop who knew how to use communications effectively and honestly. We thought we could leave that kind of advocacy in the capable hands of the professionals at the Church Center in Manhattan. We shut down our site, in the belief that the journalists at the Church Center had things well in hand.

But then something happened. ENS lost its spunk, and the "communications" staff mostly quit doing journalism. I believe you will find that miserable change happened about the time that Anne Rudig became Communications Director. Nowadays, the "communications staff" at TEC seldom provides analysis of the news; they mostly issue pablum marked as "press releases." Our Presiding Bishop retreated [or so it seems to me] to an ivory tower in which she only appears at heavily scripted, mostly local events. It seems to me that she must have "handlers" who want to keep her at a distance from bog-standard Episcopalians.

There are now days when I wish we could resurrect the Episcopal Majority site ... but – thank God! – Bishop Chane let Jim Naughton and his brave band create The Episcopal Café. When I want the real news about how TEC is doing – or even what it is doing – it never occurs to me to go to ENS. I go to the Café’s "The Lead," where I will find news and analysis – the likes of which ENS virtually never offers nowadays.

All this reminds me of the dialogue between Jesus and Herod. "What is truth?" Obviously, I think the “news” from groups like the AAC, ACNA, IRD, etc. are just propaganda. And I maintain that mere reporting of facts is not "truth." Facts offered in context and with analysis stand a better chance of conveying truth than does "mere journalism" or "blatant propaganda." I would like to see our church's communications team provide that kind of truth. They did it for a few brief, shining moments ... but now Anne Rudig has managed to get rid of most of the journalists who were providing that kind of real journalism. I would like to see ENS provide news with analysis, fact-checking, and advocacy. But I don't see that coming out of 815, with the Communications staff mostly gutted. So I thank God that Jim Naughton and his team do our journalism for us.

So what are we to do? Frankly, it seems to me that the “Communications” staff at the Episcopal Church Center has been decimated. The few who remain are either (a) not up to the job or (b) not being allowed to do the job. I think many of them are good journalists who might want to write in the way I am urging. So what then? Perhaps it is because they have been muzzled from the top. I do not know, but I strongly suspect massive incompetence at the top of that division.

If I were the Queen of the Universe, I might abolish the whole "communications" staff at 815 [starting with its director!] and award a contract to Jim Naughton, and let his Episcopal Café team take over the communication function of the Episcopal Church. They seem to have more passion for and commitment to our church than do the "communication leaders" at 815. They have done more to explain and defend the Episcopal Church than our official “communicators” have in the last couple of years. Maybe Jim would hire the Real Journalists from 815 to work on his team. But that's just a fantasy. We are stuck with a Communications Director who isn't committed to communications. I grieve the good journalists who are no longer employed by our Church, and I give thanks to the few journalists who still try to ply their craft in the employment of our Church Center.

What say you? Do you think you are getting useful information from the Episcopal Church? Where do you go for timely and reliable information about the Episcopal Church?

Got Communications?

I was struck by the comments of Nathaniel Pierce here at The Episcopal Café. He is right. The Episcopal Church Communications staff could so easily have managed this story, if only they had been honest and open – if only they had run their business according to Biblical principles. They could have been honest. They could have shared the news with all of us – or at least with the Executive Council. But they didn't.

And who is in charge? Linda Watt, Chief Operating Officer, is in charge. She needs to be held accountable for her hideous mismanagement of the story. She failed to use responsible communications that could have saved us this travesty.

Here's what Nathaniel Pierce wrote:

... imagine a different scenario. The Church Center puts out a public statement in early January. It says something like this:

-- describes the RFP process

-- speaks candidly about the business issues involved

-- acknowledges D-047 passed by ... GC and its relevance to this situation

-- identifies the various issues which were weighed by TEC staff, especially union vs. non-union

-- announces decision; notes that new firm is minority owned, has a strong record of treating employees fairly

-- shares how the Church Center said good-bye to those who had served there, some for many years

Now then, what would have been accomplished by such a scenario?

1) TEC puts the story out there -- we are ahead of the curve (this is PR 101). This avoids being put in the position of reacting to a bombshell story.

2) TEC demonstrates its sensitivity to the issues involved, thereby avoiding the appearance of being deaf to the social justice ramifications

3) A feeling of openness and transparency is communicated to traditionally skeptical folks like me.

4) What is left to criticize? Decent folks clearly struggled with all the issues and then made a decision. I might disagree with the outcome, but would feel comforted by the fact that all the important issues were considered.

Nathaniel Pierce is correct. That would have been responsible and honest. But that’s not the course Linda Watt chose. Why didn’t she? Time and again, she opts for duplicity. Why does she never opt for transparency with our church?

My friends, she has run rough-shod over many faithful employees at our Church Center. This is just the most recent in a long series of bad judgments.

Monday, February 08, 2010

What TEC Says

I'm grateful to Bill Carroll, in a comment at the Episcopal Cafe, for reminding me of this.

Let's remember the stirring words of Bonnie Anderson on the feast of Vida Scudder:
"Unless it is to literally stand beside the oppressed and injured where we can touch each other and put our arms around and comfort each other, to stand firm in proclaiming the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ does NOT mean standing still."
(From here)
Time to put these words into action.
What would Vida do? What would Jesus do?
Stand with the opporressed and put our arms around and comfort each other. Is that what we heard in the canned statements of Linda Watt and Neva Rae Fox, after the cleaning crew found themselves unemployed? I think not.

Matthew 25, anyone?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

A Day (or Two) Late for TEC Communications

Thanks to the Episcopal Café for publishing (in its 3:30 p.m. update today) this statement from TEC’s Office of Public Affairs, on behalf of Linda Watt, whom I must grudgingly recognize is “our” church’s Chief Operating Officer.

The Episcopal Church
Office of Public Affairs

[February 5, 2010] The following information is from Linda Watt, Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church:

Budget constraints have prompted The Episcopal Church to review all contracts and to implement cost-cutting measures where possible.

A major item in our facilities budget is the cleaning/housekeeping service that covers 815 Second Ave. in New York City, including the Ad Council and Episcopal Church associated agencies as well as DFMS offices. This line item was cut substantially in the budget.

A Request For Proposal (RFP) was issued as part of normal business operations. The RFP was issued to both union and non-union firms, including minority and women-owned businesses.

Following a thorough review of the proposals submitted, Benjamin Enterprises, a minority-owned firm, has been awarded a one-year contract for housekeeping services at The Episcopal Church Center effective January 4, 2010.

Business practices for Benjamin Enterprises are in line with the values, practices and priorities of The Episcopal Church, including a comprehensive compensation package, laudable employee relations practices, and the use of eco-friendly supplies. We look forward to working with their management and staff.

Linda Watt
Chief Operating Officer
The Episcopal Church

But note this! The New York Daily News story was posted this morning, February 7. Linda Watt’s statement from our Office of Public Affairs is dated February 5 – two days ago!

Did Watt and Public Affairs actually write that statement two days ago? If so, why did they not release it until today, after the news story broke? I know for a fact they did not share the news with the Executive Council. I'm pretty sure they also did not release it to the diocesan communicators, the media, or anyone else. Were they divinely prescient to realize two days ago that a firestorm would erupt? If so, why did they not release the news to anyone in the Episcopal Church?

Or did they write and distribute it today, and backdate it two days ago?

Or did someone make an honest mistake, dating today's statement two days ago? (I suppose that's a theoretical possibility.)

I want to know.

Frankly, I want to know whether certain senior managers at TEC Church Center can actually say the baptismal covenant without their heads spinning around like Linda Blair's in The Exorcist. Yeah, I know that's a harsh statement. But I've seen too many good people who are also excellent workers get trampled under the hobnailed boots of the current regime at Church Center.

Given the track record of our "Episcopal Communications" office, my hermeneutic of suspicion is operating at full alert, so this visual icon will have to suffice as my characterization of Watt and her management style.

TEC and Unions

Here's a bit more on the story I blogged this morning regarding people now unemployed, who used to clean the offices at Episcopal Church Center.

Over at the Episcopal Café, Ann Fontaine reminds us that General Convention 2006 passed this resolution:

Resolution Number: 2006-D047
Title: Support Worker Unions and a Living Wage
Legislative Action Taken: Concurred as Amended
Final Text:
Resolved, That the 75th General Convention support actively the right of workers to form a union, and increase the support in our cities and states for passage of “living wage” legislation; and be it further
Resolved, That the Convention commit the Church at all levels to contract solely with union hotels in its meetings, or to obtain confirmation that local prevailing “living wages” are paid by all hotels the Church uses; and be it further
Resolved, That the 75th General Convention strongly urge the Church Center staff and especially the General Convention Planning Office to assure that dioceses that host events of The Episcopal Church comply with GC2003-A130 and provide a living wage for their employees; and be it further
Resolved, That we commend to the Church at all levels the services of Informed Meetings Exchange (, a new non-profit agency committed to helping organizations make informed decisions regarding convention and meeting planning.

That resolution, of course, merely related to the venues in which the Episcopal Church would hold meetings.

Nowhere did it express any commitment by our church to unions with whom TEC contracts, nor to the union workers who do the work of our church.

So TEC management is quite free to treat union contractors and workers however it wishes. And the church’s Chief Operating Officer is totally within her rights.

Within her rights, yes.

On the side of Christ and the Gospel? Well … that’s another question, isn’t it?

I have at least one more blog-post yearning to come out on this topic. Stay tuned.

I Am an Episcopalian ... and I am Ashamed

From the New York Daily News: "Crew of 9 at Episcopal Church Center Abruptly Fired." Go read the entire article to find out about the latest self-inflicted black eye upon the Episcopal Church.

It seems the leadership at Church Center cancelled the contract with the unionized cleaning company and entered into a contract with a non-unionized firm. I assume that decision would have been made by the Chief Operating Officer of TEC, Linda Watt.

That left 9 employees, many of whom had worked at Church Center for over 10 years, fired with not one minute of warning.

Of course, our Church's leaders are showing remarkable Christian virtue in the aftermath of all this.

"It needs to be clear that looking for a new contract is a normal business procedure," said church spokeswoman Neva Rae Fox.

Linda Watts, chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church, put out an official statement: "Budget constraints have prompted The Episcopal Church to review all contracts and to implement cost-cutting measures where possible," she said. No mention of the plight of the nine men and women thrown out to the streets or of lending them a helping hand.
I must head to church, where I shall beg forgiveness for the evil we do and the evil that is done in our name.

More later, as I learn more.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Bloemker "What Not to Wear" Coverage

This is a follow-up to my earlier story.

Episcopal Life Online wrote a good story yesterday about Emily Bloemker's appearance tonight on What Not to Wear.

Sometimes, it's hard to find archived versions of the ELO stories, so I'm pasting the whole story below.


Missouri priest discovers 'What Not to Wear'
By Pat McCaughan, February 04, 2010

[Episcopal News Service] Frumpy dressing isn't one of the seven deadly sins, but it landed the Rev. Emily Bloemker in a Friday, Feb. 5 upcoming episode of the reality television show "What Not to Wear."

Bloemker had no idea she was part of the program, broadcast weekly on The Learning Channel, until October 12, when she addressed a packed audience at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri.

She thought she was delivering the opening address at a ONE event. ONE is a nonpartisan grassroots organization committed to fighting extreme poverty, co-founded by Irish singer and musician Bono.

Instead, program hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, burst through the church doors—along with the Cathedral Choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus. London and Kelly pre-empted Bloemker's address, saying the young priest had committed one fashion faux pas too many.

And they weren't referring to her priestly collar.

"It was totally unreal," recalled Bloemker during a Feb. 3 telephone interview. The segment is slated to air at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time."I was supposed to be talking about world poverty and all of a sudden, I was offered $5,000 for a new wardrobe."

The reality series hosts first got a whiff of Bloemker's fashion disasters when a family member nominated her last year. Intrigued by fashion challenges for a 27-year-old single female priest, the hosts decided to give Bloemker a makeover. The program format includes secretly following and videotaping nominees for two weeks, then surprising them with a visit and offering them a $5,000 Visa debit card to buy a new wardrobe.

That was the "ambush" part of the show and Bloemker said she that, while initially clueless about what was happening, she was also conflicted about the choice.

"Part of me felt very conflicted in accepting that much money, especially when I believe in tithing, in giving of our excess to the poor," she said. "I was really concerned about what sort of statement this might make to the world about how priests value clothing and money."

At the same time, she said, it was a chance to highlight The Episcopal Church and women clergy on the show, which has an estimated 3 million viewers."

"Part of me knew it was a really great opportunity to think about and to talk about my priesthood. It was too great a chance to pass up," she said.

Bloemker said she was a pretty snazzy dresser prior to her 2009 graduation from the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University. But once ordained the associate rector of St. Timothy's Church in Creve Coeur, a suburb of St. Louis, she began living into the realities of gender, youth and the priesthood.

"Most of my wardrobe issues came from the issues priests face," Bloemker said. "The division between private and public life; whether … to step into the role of a priest do I need to leave parts of myself behind, or does sexuality have a place in the priesthood?"

Those challenges "manifested in the way I dress, in shapeless gray and black palette, no color, shape, detail or femininity. I didn't wear makeup and didn't do anything fancy with my hair or jewelry. I'm one of two single female priests in my diocese and I'm the only single female priest under 35 in my diocese. I found it very difficult to reconcile all those things."

She said London and Kelly criticized her wardrobe because of its "shapelessness, lack of color and for the man-clergy shirts. Or I wore like a man-dickie under a black T-shirt with grey pants and black shoes. It's what I was wearing when they surprised me."

That was then.

Bloemker gives a sneak preview of now. Once she arrived in New York City, where the show is filmed, stylists convinced her to go from blonde to brown hair and "helped me to see that color was something that could be incorporated into a priest's wardrobe."

They even made her a special collar garment that she wears while trying on clothes during the segment. "That was cool. They taught me how to accessorize, wear jewelry. But the biggest thing they convinced me of is that it's okay to be feminine and to look really fantastic and professional."

She found the show extremely empowering because she realized "I don't have to separate my life as much."

The Rev. Teresa Danieley, rector of St. John's Church in Tower Grove, a St. Louis suburb and a friend of Bloemker, said the program raises significant issues about gender identity and parity that plague female clergy, particularly younger, first-career priests.

"There are issues of gender identity and parity that go beyond clothing but clothing is one of the visible signs of the problem," said Danieley, 32.

She said she didn't turn Bloemker in to the fashion police, but "I was so excited for this opportunity for the Episcopal Church to be on a national cable show. I was excited that people would see female clergy and acknowledge a female clergy person, and I was excited for the opportunity for Emily and for me, that I could learn from her."

"I know a lot of people think it's silly or superfluous but … I think that teaching young women how to be themselves and professionals and women all at the same time, especially if you're clergy, is really important.

"I'm really grateful that 'What Not to Wear' took this challenge on because I think a lot of people are going to learn about the Episcopal Church and to learn about Episcopal clergy and hopefully people in our own church will learn something as well."

Bloemker said her parishioners were supportive, but it did take a little while for them to get used to her new image. "They needed to make sure I was still the same priest," she said. "But just because the clothes were different didn't mean I cared for them any less or that I cared for myself a whole lot more."

She also tithed $500 of the $5,000 gift to fundraisers for the Sudan and to a local charity and said "What Not to Wear" empowered her.

"They were very interested in the church. They listened to everything I had to say about the experience of a priest, of a female priest, what the Episcopal Church is like. I tried to explain that we were really progressive, an exciting church to be part of and I knew that my image was not expressing that before."

"Watch" parties have been organized at the Cathedral, her seminary and elsewhere, she said. "It means a lot to a lot of female clergy and in general to female religious people to see a normal, young person portrayed as not a crazy person because she believes in God. It's really cool that this show is portraying someone like me."

-- The Rev. Pat McCaughan is Episcopal Life Media correspondent for Provinces V, VI, VII and VIII and the House of Bishops. She is based in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Young Episcopal Priest on “What Not to Wear”

I had never watched the TLC cable channel until recent events. Here's a “Must See TV” alert for all my Episcopal friends. Mark your calendars for this Friday evening, 8:00 Central Time on The Learning Channel (TLC).

Watch What Not To Wear Friday night. For it features one of the younger priests in our diocese, Emily Bloemker, who is on the staff at St. Timothy’s.

This is oral tradition, but this is what I understand.

Emily was a student at the Episcopal Campus Ministry at Washington University, led by the Rev. Michael Kinman, a few years ago. She heard his appeal and traveled on one of our diocese’s first trips to the Diocese of Lui, in The Episcopal Church of Sudan, in 2005. I hear it was in reflecting on that trip that Emily claimed the call to ordained ministry. She went on to seminary and was ordained in June 2009. [I blogged about her ordination here.] I know that Emily was one of my best advisors when I made my own trip to Lui, Sudan, the next year.

Emily is a smart, passionate, joyful, no-B$ priest. As I hear it, she is a fan of the What Not To Wear show and expressed a wish they could do a wardrobe make-over for her. Apparently, some of her friends contacted the show. And the show decided to take her on.

Then Mike Kinman invited Emily to deliver a presentation on Sudan early this year at Christ Church Cathedral. Except it wasn’t really a Sudan session. It was a set-up … into which the What Not to Wear Duo sprang. My St. Louis friends tell me it was a very pleasant evening. Apparently, Mike had warned the crew that they were filming in a church, and a certain decorum must be obeyed. From all I have heard, it was a delightful evening with much good-natured banter between the show’s crew and the gathered Episcopalians.

If you’re in the St. Louis area, we are having a “watch party” on Friday, February 5, at the Lucas Park Grille in St. Louis. Be there if you can. It promises to be a fun evening.

Otherwise, just watch the program.

It will be interesting to see what these people do with a lovely young Episcopal priest and her wardrobe.

At What Not To Wear, the promo for this new episode says "Emily is your typical single girl with one divine difference... she's an Episcopal priest. She may have been called by a higher power but her friends and family called Stacy and Clinton. Can Emily find a feminine style that balances her youthful energy?"