Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mullins - San Joaquin - Bishops

Mullins in his deposition in Fort Worth (he also submitted a similar document in the San Joaquin case) establishes The Episcopal Church as a hierarchical church. Much has been made of this by the orthodites but the fact remains, The Episcopal Church is a hierarchical church. The General convention, the Constitution, the canons and the Book of common Prayer are THE KEYS to the TEC kingdom.

Much these days is being written about bishops. See Father Jake's post or Preludium At Father Jake's place he asks about "your impressions of bishops". Here, we are going to do a little more than that.

William White, in his writings really questioned the need for a bishop. Initially at least he leaned toward the concept that bishops were superfluous at best and a hindrance at worst. White, in his work The Case of The Episcopal Churches Considered was the chief architect of the House of Deputies, i.e., legislative body that included laity. Keep in mind that the first convention actually met without bishops. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it was the Connecticut church that insisted on an episcopacy. It was their movement that culminated with the consecration of Seabury by Bishops in Scotland. After that, the bicameral legislature of the General convention was established with the House of Bishops.

So we have Bishops and they have a significant say in what goes on. They are, subject to the following," to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church" and "to share with [his or her] fellow bishops in the government of the whole church". Here is a question I have: How did we get from a "pastor to the pastors" to running a national church? What classes in seminary do they take to make them particularly gifted in governance? What classes do they take that make them particularly gifted in administration? Are most bishops selected for their "pastoral abilities" ? We go from gee we need a bishop to handing over the keys to the car? Let's look at a couple of these.

The now bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin spent more time in the last 4 or 5 years outside the diocese than inside. He worried less about pastoring to the clergy, his primary job, to "wordsmithing" fraudulent corporate documents (The Protestant Episcopal Church In the United States of America, articles of incorporation). He stacked the clergy inside the diocese of San Joaquin and just what classes and what experiences made him qualified to do personnel selections?

How about the esteemed +John Guernsey? Wanted to be bishop so bad he could taste it. The perceived power, the real power, the ability to flaunt and to be arrogant are hard to pass up for some folks. He simply took advantage of the opportunities presented to become a "powerful person" in the church.

Now, from personal experience I grew up with at least one bishop. A Maryknoll that was focused on one thing, pastoring to the millions of folks who needed it. He was quiet, unassuming, and a blessing from God. So yes, I do know bishops that are everything they are supposed to be.

So, let's par down to a lot fewer bishops and let's make the position a servant-leader position as opposed to what it is today. Perhaps, since some folks like "numbers" one bishop per state. That ought to keep them all busy all day every day. Secondly, let's relegate the House of Bishops to a lessor status and elevate the House of Deputies to a more influential status with more lay participation. Bishops should be pastors to the clergy, let the regular priests do confirmations and the likes, let the bishops take care of the clergy. Let parishes hire and fire clergy without any consent from the bishop. Let the General Convention take care of the rest.

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