Thursday, June 11, 2015

"I Just Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Thing"

Today, I wish to reflect on the ultimate help the National Episcopal Church delivered to the diocese of San Joaquin, from a single individuals perspective.  Realize that I may have tunnel vision on several issues but that is to be expected.

First, the easiest thing to look at, at least superficially, is the financial state of the diocese. Any way one cuts this someone or perhaps, more importantly, some entity is going to take a huge financial blow.  The diocese of San Joaquin has been given some gifts from the National Church but the diocese has also received millions of dollars in loans, and with a firm commitment to repay that amount to the National Church.  Perhaps, one of the many reasons why no audit has been performed by an outside entity is due to the debt riddled financial statements.  It is true, part of that issue involves the lack of full support by the various parishes that are and have been in the continuing diocese of San Joaquin.  The rip torn by the defrocked bishop John David Schofield in the fabric of the diocese of San Joaquin warranted a completely new fabric but all the diocese got was needle and thread (and no sewing machine, we have been doing the sewing by hand.  I for one can barely spell sew let alone do it).  The lawsuits time, energy, funding, reviews, re-considerations, stays of trial dates and on and on and on have cost everyone their life savings.  I am not a real estate appraiser but I suspect in order to stave off the National Church will require more than selling Christ the King buildings.  It will take the sale of multiple buildings and re-building parishes all over the diocese.  Why there is no long range plan to deal with property and the resulting return of all the property the diocese is merely shadow boxing in the dark.

Second, how many bishops have you, in diocese other than those hijacked, seen come and go in 4 or 5 years?  Maybe, under extreme circumstances two.  San Joaquin has gone through three bishops none of which were permanent including the current incumbent. Most parishes see a new rector about every seven years although there are noted exceptions everywhere (longer than 7 years).  The problems with short term (job hopping or otherwise) tenure is nothing of real substance ever gets done.  Think about how little really does get done in a diocese that has no money, no full time bishop, more lawsuits than the Supreme Court, and no parishioners!  On top of that there appears (I stress appears) that  there is little to no experience at the top with working with financially strapped organizations.  Hard decisions get turned into a car contribution from the parishioners that cannot afford a rector picked to buy a  car for the bishop.  There is still very difficult, mean, feelings between parish and parishioners.  Every administrator worth their weight will tell you that it takes at least 7 to 10 years of concerted effort to turn an organization such as this around, not just financially, but more importantly, spiritual life.  And, while the national Church has tried to be helpful who needs a third thumb?  Yet, they pull the strings of this diocese, not based on demand, because the diocese owes so much money all the National Church has to do is wave the notes and everyone in San Joaquin jumps.

Third, the issue of planning.  It appears that the diocese (and perhaps the chancellor) in collaboration with the National Church has a plan all their own and no one but a few choice regulars get a peek under the covers.  But, even with that, the diocese has no real plan, not for recovery of the buildings and grounds and certainly not for any spiritual mission.  This would be almost laughable if it were not so deadly.  With no cohesive plan for the parishes to buy into the Episcopal Church in the diocese of San Joaquin is dead.  It just hasn't fallen over yet.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

We Have Circled The Wagons

Yesterday was a real chance to let loose!  Today, I have more questions.  For example, why, with a crippled diocese would one have the bishop turnover of approximately one every two years?  The first thing that any manager anywhere else does is establish credibility with those who follow.  It is pretty hard to establish credibility when the top post is a musical chair.

Next, why, when only five of about 19 parishes remained loyal to the National Episcopal Church would those who suffered the most, get to pay for the crimes of those who left.  Permit me to explain.  By the time those renegade parishes left the financial affairs of the remaining parishes was a mess.  Now, a renegade parish comes back, actually is chased down and returned to the real Episcopal Church and of course is in financial disarray.  One would think that the parish that had left and was dragged back would have to pay for the transgressions that created the financial hardship.  (In the Diocese of San Joaquin those parishes that left were forced to contribute to the general coffers for the purpose of legal services.  In our case, the parish of St. Paul had a nice comfortable office for Bishop Rice.  It appears he betrayed Christ the King for his own comfort.  After all, why would a Bishop create his/her own discomfort?  That would be taking pastoral care off hi/her flock to the extreme.

Next, in the midst of all the financial destruction going on, and in continuing for the diocese to borrow money for litigation, the Bishop decides he needs a new car.  The natural thing would be to wait for the diocesan budget and cut in one or two places to free up money to buy a new car.  Well, that just cannot be done!  See, the diocese is in such financial straits that Bishop Rice had to ask each parish to come up with extra funds to give to the diocese for the purpose purchasing a car for the bishop.  Now, Christ the King, clearly to be merged into St. Paul's, was asked to give to the diocese for the purpose of a car for the bishop.  So, the bishop gets his car in part on the back of the parish that held firm when the winds of John David blew not only got to help buy a car for the bishop but the bishop saw to it that Christ the King parish.

The diocese from early 2008 until September of 2014 one would think that there would be two full scale long range plans developed.  One for the financial side of churches being returned to the diocese and how they would fit or not fit or be sold.  The second should have been for the purpose of re-establishing a long range mission plan for the diocese to bring to fruition.  Nothing was done in either case.  I was told by the bishop, our rector, the diocesan office, and the Standing Committee that there was a plan but no one in any place could produce the long range plans.  Supposedly it was in some form of transition but there is no plan.  How in the world does our diocese seek the return of every piece of property if there was not a plan and a plan on how to integrate the return of these buildings and grounds.  And develop a new mission for the diocese and adopted by the parishes--- why would we need that?  Bishop Rice said he was "known as a missioner bishop"  so why would he need a plan?  Plan, plans, we don't need no stinkin' plans!

Finally, for now,  why in the world would the following happen in an Episcopal diocese?  Most of the parishes of a diocese are ripped from the comfort of the arms of the National Episcopal Church, placed in the hands of the "Anglican diocese of the Southern Cone", and told that the Anglican Church was the only true denomination?  That diocese then turns right back around and elects an Anglican bishop from New Zealand?  Is there any need to explain why parishioners in te diocese would be skeptical?  Well, turns out Bishop Rice wants to come back to his homeland of the United States and needs to have a place to work for immigration purposes.  What better pace to put an Anglican Bishop than the nearly destroyed diocese of San Joaquin.  Bishop Rice, gets to come home, gets to have a new car, and gets to keep his comfortable office while Christ the King, faithful follower of the National Episcopal Church. gets less than spit.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Bishop David Lewis: "Goodbye - Don't Let the Door Hit you On the Way Out"

Fellow Episcopalians,  I am at a genuine loss for words.  Our beloved Episcopal Church in the presence of Christ the King Community Episcopal Church has been removed from the church rolls and left members to their own devices! Better yet, out in the cold and with no Episcopal Church to live within.  My family and I are in deep, deep mourning for our loss.  The bishop of San Joaquin (yep, the Episcopal Bishop, yep Bishop David Rice) has violently and without regard to many of us ripped our religious/spiritual world to shreds.  Am I, are we upset? Oh, you bet!  Is there any thing that we can do about it? Apparently not.

Shall we begin at the beginning.  In 2007, our nightmare began.  We lived unattended and un-served until March of 2008.  Joyously we came together in the diocese and from 5 parishes up sprang new life in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin!  Pretty much everyone from all sorts of places including the Presiding Bishop came to celebrate our new life.  The members of these parishes and of the diocese were told of a new beginning -- no more hidden agendas, full transparency,  and love and grace all around!  We were ecstatic at Christ the King Community Episcopal Church.  Bishop Lamb came to serve and usher in this new age of openness and "all are welcome".  Bishop Lamb then handed off the diocese to Bishop Talton, Bishop Talton continued to remake our diocese and our parishes into new life in Christ.  Bishop Talton  then handed the reigns over to the new Anglican bishop from New Zealand, Bishop David Rice.  With this "election" we were slipping back into the nightmare we had so many months ago thought was gone.  The Bishop was brought to our diocese by the Standing Committee without any input from the parishioners of the diocese from New Zealand.  He was elected by the standing committee without any widespread knowledge of who this person was.  Bishop Rice was hailed as the new "missioner bishop" from wherever and before we the parishioners of the diocese knew we had a bishop.  When the convention was asked to approve his eection Bishop Rice had moved everything from New Zealand to our diocese and had lived here for months.  At no time did Bishop Rice make a visit to Christ the King and yet we were asked to "ratify" his election.  He was not even approved to practice in our diocese before he was elected.  The Standing Committee (of which no one knows exactly who is because the names of the Standing Committee have never been posted to the diocesan website)  simply said to us, here is your new bishop.  Let me clear a little of the water, the Standing Committee and the Diocesan Council have not had their names posted on a diocesan website.  If you from our diocese recall, we were in a new beginning, a breath of fresh air?

In the meantime the bills for the continuing lawsuits against those parishes and the faux diocese continued to mount into the millions of dollars borrowed from the National Church.  Then, out of the blue, came the need for the diocese to close the episcopal Church of Christ the King and "merge" with the renegade parish of St. Paul in Modesto.  Votes were taken, visits were made, private meetings were held, secret deals were made and then un-made.  One of the five parishes that stood with the National Episcopal Church through thick and thin was to be closed and merged with a renegade church that had just been hauled back into the diocese.  It was at this point that I put several questions to the Rector of Christ the King, the bishop of the Diocese, and the Chancellor of the diocese.  These questions included when was the last time the diocese, Christ the King and St. Paul's books and records were audited?  Why, well, in accounting in order to merge to entities it is only fit to understand the current financial pictures of both parishes prior to merging.  Turns out Christ the King had not had a financial audit in over 6 years.  Turns out neither has the diocese.  According to the constitution and canons of our church audits are REQUIRED on an annual basis.  The parishioners of CTK were told that our parish was in a horrible state and that St. Paul's was "not that bad".  So I asked anyone and everyone to have an audit done -- and nothing happened.  We, CTK, could not even see the financial records of either the diocese or St. Paul's.  See, the diocese has a ton of borrows from the National Church.  The money that has been sent from the National Church to the diocese is in the millions and can be accounted for it in the books in only one of two ways.  First, an outright gift is income to the parish and outgo from the National Church.  The National church gives the Local parish a dollar. The national church the lowers their net worth by a dollar and the parish increases their net worth by a dollar.  But wait!  These millions were mostly loans!  That means that in order to maintain the same net worth at the National level there needs to be a due to/due from entry to show that the loans have not decreased the National Church's net worth.  Think we could see the books and records?  Well, hell no.  None of our business, don't worry, everything is okay.  If something fast and loose has not gone on at the diocesan level then the diocesan Bishop and the Chancellor want us to think there is.

Now comes the "cone of silence".  First Bishop Rice said that the two parishes were going to merge and CTK will be closed.  The parishioners rose up and said, uh, do we get a voice in this here sing-along?  The bishop backs up and has the CTK vestry vote on the merger.  Then, no, no vote was taken, the vestry needed to have parish input.  The single page flier that was distributed said that the paln for restructuring the diocese   called for the merger and the vestry was asking the parish to support this plan.  Well, I asked the bishop, the rector, the chancellor, the standing committee and no one could produce any kind of "plan" at all.  Apparently it was all in the head of Bishop Rice and the Standing Committee but no one could see it because ?? Well, it flat out did not exist.  But, the parish voted on the merger with almost all but 4 approving the merger but all said, "What else can we do?"
The railroad had left the station just like in December of 2007.
Over the course of several written emails and messages to the Chancellor I asked for audits, financials, for explanation of how our merger met with the constitution and canons since I had read them and as far as I could tell the process was really truly screwed up.  I asked for all sorts of explanations in April of  of 2014 from the Chancellor of the diocese. He told me he was just too busy to deal with such questions.  I wrote to the Bishop.  I wrote to the Rector.  Then, in the Fall, August, I wrote an other letter to the Chancellor and copied the National Church.  The National Chancellor told me that she had spoken to the San Joaquin Chancellor and sure enough, Mr. Glass was going to take care of it.  I wrote a third letter to the Chancellor.  I then had the audacity to use messaging to contact Mr. Glass.  Mr. Glass wrote back and said do not use messaging, that is my social outlet.  And, he said he did not even remember what I had written to him about.  So, I went back, re-examined my sources and cites and then sent him another letter.  He emailed back he was just too busy but he would get back to me.  Needless to say he has not to this day!  Some of those questions and citations had to do with the procedural way in which Christ the King was closed and the way in which St. Paul had agreed to merge.  O well, so much for the openness, transparency, for long range planning, for short range planning, for punishing the parish that stuck with the National Church while rewarding the parish that not only left the Episcopal church but linked up with some diocese in Africa!
Needless to say my spouse has MS, I have a 100% complete and total disability assignment from the VA and the VA wrote to the the DMV and the DMV revoked my license.  See, we have no transportation.  This is a huge thumbing of the collective Episcopal nose and a family that really has no voice, no vote, and that family has been virtually removed, no excommunicated, from the Episcopal church.

My gosh, evryone is welcome -- everyone except those not welcome by Bishop Rice, Father Glenn Kanestrom and some silly officious senior warden from St. Paul Parish in Modesto.