In my last post I bragged about the fact that our Deanery "opened itself" up to voting by all deanery Episcopalians who are communicants in good standing within their parish and also within the deanery. Our thinking is/was that at least at the next lowest rung of the hierarchy, and for small things, we adopted an all-inclusive voting policy. The least we could do, we thought, to reward those who were willing to participate at the deanery level, and to keep as many persons interested in the issues of the day, was to allow them to vote. The thinking was designed to begin a process of more laity involvement so that the issues that split us in the past, one of which was keeping everyone in the dark and feeding them "pre-manufactured fertilizer" , would be less likely to happen. Well, it did not take long to discover how really wrong that thinking is.
Our new bishop, upon review by the Chancellor of the diocese, has determined/opined/stated that there is no vote permitted at the deanery level save by the legally elected delegates from each parish; oh, and the canonically resident clergy in the deanery (how about that one!). To be fair, this is the existing canon. By that I mean this part of the canon has been in existence since prior to the split of our diocese. See Canon XVI on Archdeacons and Deaneries. However, this canon was re-written just last year in order to move us from four deaneries to three deaneries but no one thought to open up the voting to all persons and so it is not. In order to to what we had originally done we need to first change the canon by convention. The change we did do violates our current canon and so it is null and void. One side-note, by going from four deaneries to three deaneries the unintended consequence (I am hoping anyway) is that the deaneries are now stacked with more clergy. That is, instead of four deaneries with the same amount clergy and more lay voting members we are now at three deaneries with the same amount of clergy and fewer overall lay persons. Clergy now have more power by virtue of the consolidation, this means that lay persons have less.
I am hoping not everyone goes nuts on this part but, what do you all think? It appears the deaneries are still stacked in favor of the bishop -- since the bishop approves/licenses all clergy in the diocese. To be sure, deaneries usually vote on diocesan council members and officers in our deaneries and that is about it. Nonetheless, it seemed like a small issue to repay interest and attentiveness with voting privilege. Oh sure, we can, and perhaps will change this in the future but my point is the deck is stacked against the laity exercising too much power -- or so it seems. I am also assuming (dangerous as this is) that it is true in all or almost all existing diocese.
Change will be long, arduous and gut-wrenching.