October 17, 2010

Convention Report

The annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh concluded yesterday afternoon. There really is little of interest to report. (In what, under Bob Duncan, was a very contentious diocese, this is not a bad thing.) The most important action taken was the passage of a resolution to begin the search for a new bishop. The revised resolution was amended to make it absolutely clear that nomination by petition will be in order only after the Nomination Committee has announced its minimum of four candidates. Various elections were held, including those for General Convention deputies. I would characterize our new lay deputies as somewhat liberal and our clergy deputies as somewhat conservative. (The diocesan Web site contains information about convention events and more should be posted soon.)

Episcopal shield banner at conventionMy favorite aspect of the convention was the presence of a banner representing the Episcopal Church shield that was prominently displayed during business sessions. (See photo at right.) It would have been inconceivable that such a banner would be displayed during the latter years of the Duncan episcopacy.

I might have been inclined to write more about the convention, but Jeremy Bonner, on his blog—see his two posts here and here—has done a reasonable job of presenting an overview of the event. I would quibble with a few of his statements, though not many.

The one sour note sounded during the convention came from Dr. Bonner himself. Trinity Cathedral, where the convention was held, is in the uncomfortable (and ultimately untenable) position of being the cathedral church both for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. Its chapter includes both Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of North America members. Curiously, Dr. Bonner appears to be a deputy to the conventions of each of these churches, though he is apparently not an Episcopalian. No one questioned his credentials, though I certainly thought about doing so myself.

Anyway, when the convention began discussing the local canonical changes needed to accommodate the recently revised Episcopal Church canons dealing with clergy discipline, Dr. Bonner gave an angry little speech telling Episcopal laypeople that the new Title IV puts their clergy at risk of unfair prosecution, a notion promoted by the Anglican Communion Institute, whose apparent mission is to find fault with everything the Episcopal Church does. Neither the laypeople present nor the reputedly at-risk clergy seemed moved by these remarks, and the canonical changes were approved with no further discussion and virtually no opposition.

Everyone except Dr. Bonner seems to have gone home happy.

October 11, 2010

Another Revised Convention Resolution

Along with the revised Resolution 2 to be presented this weekend at the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh—see “Pittsburgh Standing Committee Responds to Concerns”—a substitute for Resolution 1 was also sent to deputies via e-mail today.

The resolution was originally presented as follows:
Resolution 1.

Resolution on Episcopal Church Asking and Local Parishes

that the Diocesan Convention strongly encourages all parishes to give or work toward restoring their commitment to the missions asking of the Episcopal Church for leadership, program and ministry.

St. Paul’s letters reveal the early practice of individual churches giving tithes to support Christian churches and ministry in other places (1 Cor. 16, 2 Cor. 8). In addition, the tithe of a church to Christ’s mission outside itself provides a godly example for each member in their own personal tithes. And finally, our diocese wishes to support the program and ministry of the Episcopal Church, which has been deeply involved in such ministries as hurricane relief to the Gulf Coast, service to the poor of inner cities and earthquake relief to Haiti, and which has covenants to support missionaries in Mexico, Liberia and the Philippines.

Sponsors: The Rev. Canon Dr. Harold T. Lewis, Calvary Episcopal Church

The Rev. Jeffrey Murph, St. Thomas Memorial Episcopal Church
According to the e-mail from the diocese
The revised Resolution 1 encourages parishes to restore their commitment to the missions asking of the Episcopal Church. The original language of the resolution itself has not changed, however a new rationale statement is offered by sponsors Harold Lewis+ and Jeff Murph+.
Whereas this statement is substantially true, it is not literally true, as can be seen in the substituted resolution:
Resolution 1.

Resolution on Episcopal Church Asking and Local Parishes

This 145th Diocesan Convention strongly encourage all parishes to give or work toward restoring their commitment to the missions asking of the Episcopal Church for leadership, program and ministry.

Rationale: The Diocesan Convention of 1996, in a decision reflective of the divisions rife in the diocese at the time, passed a resolution to allow parishes to redirect to other recipients funds normally earmarked for The Episcopal Church missions asking, reflecting divisions rife in the diocese at the time. With a new sense of unity and commitment to the Episcopal Church, it seems altogether fitting and proper for us to express our tangible support to the Episcopal Church as well. Moreover, St. Paul’s letters reveal the early practice of individual churches giving tithes to support Christian churches and ministry in other places (1 Cor. 16, 2 Cor. 8). In addition, the tithe of a church to Christ's mission outside itself provides a godly example for each member in his or her own personal tithes. And finally, our diocese wishes to support the program and ministry of the Episcopal Church, which has been deeply involved in such ministries as hurricane relief to the Gulf Coast, service to the poor of inner cities and earthquake relief to Haiti, and which has covenants to support missionaries in Mexico, Liberia and the Philippines.

Sponsors: The Rev. Canon Dr. Harold T. Lewis, Calvary Episcopal Church

The Rev. Jeffrey Murph, St. Thomas Memorial Episcopal Church
I will comment briefly on what this resolution is all about below. First, I want to make some remarks about the substitute text itself.

To begin with, the resolution has changed. Though the meaning is the same, the new text is gratuitously different. (I count 6 distinct changes, and I see no pressing reason to have made any of them.)

The explanation has been helpfully expanded, as not all readers would have understood the background from the original explanation. Again, however, there are gratuitous differences. (Why has the “Explanation” become a “Rationale”?) The most obvious quirk of the new justification is the repetition of the phrase “divisions rife in the diocese at the time.” (Perhaps the prefixed words “reflective of the,” in one case, and “reflecting,” in the other, are meant to mitigate the impression that the paragraph has been badly edited. Suffice it to say, the paragraph is badly edited.) Even ignoring the repetition, the first sentence is a mess. Better would be something like the following:
In a decision reflective of the divisions rife in the diocese at the time, the Diocesan Convention of 1996 passed a resolution to allow parishes to redirect funds normally earmarked for The Episcopal Church missions asking to other recipients.
Another symptom of bad editing is the presence of both “The Episcopal Church” and “the Episcopal Church” in the text. I could go one, but what’s the point? (Sorry if this seems petty, but surely someone could have cleaned up this mess!)

Now to the substance of Resolution 1. As the rationale suggests, more than a decade ago, a diocese that harbored much hostility to The Episcopal Church voted to allow parishes to pay to other charitable causes that part of their assessment that otherwise would have gone to support the general church. Eventually, the diocese itself chose not to send money for the support of The Episcopal Church, although some parishes continued to send money directly, bypassing the hostile judicatory.

I had assumed the practice of diverting money from The Episcopal Church would end when the diocese split in 2008, but some of the parishes that stayed in the diocese were among those that were not supporting the church. I believe that, if parishes are going to be in The Episcopal Church, they have an obligation to help pay for the church. That said, I think there is movement toward undoing the errors of the past. No doubt, some of the money being paid to organizations would be sorely missed if suddenly diverted to the general church. Parishes are going to have to work this out.

That this resolution does not demand an immediate end to the diversions acknowledges, I think, that the transition to normality may not be as simple as it sounds. Significantly, the resolution is sponsored by what are viewed as a very liberal and a very conservative priest. Surely, that is a plus and a characteristic that will make the resolution difficult to defeat (or even speak against).
Too bad that the explanation of the resolution is not better written.

Pittsburgh Standing Committee Responds to Concerns

In two recent posts, “Episcopal Election Plan Gets Chilly Reception” and “Additional Thoughts on the Plan to Select the Next Bishop of Pittsburgh,” I wrote about Resolution 2, the resolution that, if passed at this weekend’s diocesan convention, will set in motion the search for the next bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Controversy over the resolution centered on three aspects of the plan proposed by the Standing Committee. Under this plan,
  1. Nominations by the Nomination Committee and nominations by petition would occur concurrently;
  2. Nomination by petition would be easy, as few signatures were to be required;
  3. Which candidates were nominated by which process would be kept secret.
Actually, only the first and third properties were specified by Resolution 2. The number of signatures needed to nominate by petition was only stated in the explanation of the resolution, but it was clearly the intention of the Standing Committee to require only six signatures.

Members of the Standing Committee seemed quite content with their plan and were surprised at the criticism it received at pre-convention hearings. Nonetheless, to their credit, they met Thursday night to reconsider the episcopal search plan, in part, no doubt, to head off a nasty floor fight whose outcome could not be predicted. The result of Thursday’s consultation was a revised version of Resolution 2 that has just been sent to deputies via e-mail. (Apparently, policy decisions were made Thursday night, but it took some time to achieve final wording. According to the revised resolution itself, however, it was approved October 7, 2010.) As I am writing this, the revised resolution is not yet on the diocesan Web site. You can read it here.

In the new plan, each of the most distinctive features of the original proposal has been modified. Most notably, the parallel nominating processes by petition and by committee are gone, replaced by processes that run successively. The Nomination Committee will announce its contributions to the slate, after which nominations can be made by petition. Petitions will require more supporters, including lay, non-deputy supporters, and signatures will have to come from at least three, not just two, parishes. In particular, petitions will require four canonically resident clergy and six laypersons in good standing in the diocese, three of whom must be convention deputies. Three weeks will be allowed for the submission of petitions.

Something not completely obvious is that the Nomination Committee will, at the end of its deliberations, release only the names of nominees, probably along with their current positions. This represents an effort to maintain a level playing field. Detailed information about all nominees, however nominated, will be released together after background checks have been completed and all supporting information has been delivered to the Nomination Committee.

This last quirk is something of a mixed bag but probably does a good job of balancing competing objectives. Members of the diocese will have to do a little digging to figure out whether the slate coming out of the Nomination Committee is balanced (or, more likely, contains someone they think they could support enthusiastically). In the age of the Internet and unlimited long-distance, this is an easier task than formerly, but it does require special vigilance on the part of clergy and laypeople in the diocese.

The Standing Committee did not address—not in its revised Resolution 2, at any rate—what the Nomination Committee might do if it knows negative information about a candidate nominated by petition (and, possibly, rejected explicitly as a candidate by the committee). The committee members will, I hope, take some useful lessons from the last episcopal election and act for the greater good of the diocese, rather than standing on some arbitrary, predetermined ethical “principle.”

In the end, the convention cannot micromanage the episcopal search process. The Standing Committee and the committees it creates will surely face challenges that have not been anticipated, and the diocese must trust them to make reasonable decisions without undue constraints imposed at the beginning of the process. Thus, the convention should not be upset that all the details of the search process are not incorporated into the resolution proper. I’m sure the Standing Committee will be given grief if the search process is modified along the way without reasonable justification.

I suspect that at least some members of the Standing Committee feel that they worked hard to write Resolution 2 and believe they were unfairly criticized for their work. Some may even have entertained thoughts that the diocese has demonstrated that it is not yet ready to elect a new bishop. Actually, I believe that what has happened in the past two weeks is very encouraging. The Standing Committee, trying very hard to avoid the problems of the past and create a fair process, gave designing an episcopal election process its best shot. When the people of the diocese found the proposed process wanting—it matters not whether or not they were being a bit paranoid—the Standing Committee listened and tried honestly to respond to the perceived difficulties. If that doesn’t increase everyone’s confidence that we can all work together for a better Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, I don’t know what would.

October 6, 2010

Will We Act with Integrity?

I don’t think there is much enthusiasm in The Episcopal Church for the proposed Anglican covenant. That is not to say that I am certain that the General Convention will reject it. I think, however, that if deputies and bishops vote with integrity, the covenant will indeed be rejected. Alas, our experience in passing B-033 in 2006 is worrisome.

A couple of days ago, Jim Naughton posted an essay on The Lead from Bishop Chris Epting’s blog about the covenant. Epting’s essay elicited quite a number of comments. I was particularly struck by a comment from Jeffrey L. Shy, M.D. He wrote, in part
It [B-033] was coercive and counter to our sense of right from the very beginning, but we adopted it to keep the peace, which end it accomplished not at all. To me, this [the covenant/covenant process] seems just like another big B033, a way of extorting a promise of altered behavior from us. Do we really intend to “stop” doing everything that might upset someone in the Anglican Communion? Is that how we see Jesus command to us? “Verily, verily I say to you, don’t do anything to cause a controversy, but always do whatever keeps everyone from getting upset, no matter whether you believe it to be really right or wrong.” If Paul had taken that choice little piece of advice, I don’t think that the gentile Christian church would even exist today.
If anyone had any doubts about which way our church is headed, no matter what happens in the Anglican Communion, the consecration of Mary Glasspool should have put those doubts to rest. Dr. Shy has asked the right question here: “Do we really intend to ‘stop’ doing everything that might upset someone in the Anglican Communion?” Clearly, the answer to that question is “no.”

Deputies to the 2012 General Convention should follow their consciences, give the covenant a thumbs down, and let the chips fall where they may. We should not even sugar-coat a resolution with statements of how much affection we have for our fellow Anglicans and how much it pains us to cause them distress. They have caused us infinitely more distress. It is time for The Episcopal Church to say, “We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore!”

No Anglican Covenant

Get your No Anglican Covenant merchandise at the Farrago Gift Shop.

October 5, 2010

Additional Thoughts on the Plan to Select the Next Bishop of Pittsburgh

A few days ago, I wrote about the discussion at the first pre-convention hearing regarding the resolution setting out the ground rules to be used for searching for the next Bishop of Pittsburgh. (See “Episcopal Election Plan Gets Chilly Reception.”) Apparently, the two subsequent hearings were also spirited in their discussion of Resolution 2, the resolution proposed Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh sealfor adoption at the October 15–16, 2010, convention. There was less consensus at those meetings, however, about the wisdom of the proposal of the Standing Committee.

In fact, the Standing Committee is going to meet later this week to revisit Resolution 2. Others in the diocese are discussing possible changes that might make the resolution acceptable to more people. Meanwhile, I have been thinking about the Standing Committee proposal and would like to offer additional thoughts on our situation and on where we might want to go from here.

What Went Wrong?

I should begin by pointing out that there is a good deal of anxiety about the episcopal election process because there is a strong consensus in the diocese that something went wrong the last time we selected a diocesan bishop. I was a deputy to the convention that elected the Rev. Canon Robert Duncan, so I have some first-hand insight into what happened. I have also talked to others who were involved, and, although I may not be in a position to write the definitive history of that election, I suspect that many in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, even those with whom I often disagree, will have few quibbles with at least the broad outlines of my analysis.

Robert Duncan was nominated from the floor at a 1995 special convention and eventually was elected bishop, defeating all the candidates proposed by the nominating committee. (Few readers of this blog need ask why that outcome was unfortunate.) Duncan was canon to the ordinary at the time, and there was a widespread feeling that his coming to the diocese had done much to rescue Pittsburgh from the depredations of the administratively challenged diocesan bishop, Alden Hathaway.

But what, exactly, went wrong? Not everyone agrees here, certainly not on the relative significance of various events. Did the nominating committee, operating by consensus, fail to provide a diverse and exciting slate of candidates? Certainly, a lack of enthusiasm about the candidates presented by the committee made it easier to turn to Duncan, someone widely known throughout the diocese, as a possible bishop. The committee had considered and rejected Duncan as a candidate. What did its members know, and why did they keep that knowledge secret? There is even reason to believe that they realized that failing to propose Duncan as a candidate risked having him nominated from the floor and elected with the benefit of a substantial sympathy vote for his having been, as we might say now, disrespected.

And yet, the committee members were perniciously silent. In selecting candidates, they certified that, by some criteria, those persons were qualified to be bishop. If the committee members had reason to think Duncan unqualified, did they not have an obligation, once Duncan became a nominee, to say what negative information about him had been discovered in the course of their work? (Or, at the very least, what reservations they had?) After all, deliberations were in the Committee of the Whole, and outsiders were excluded. Committee members could have even “leaked” what they knew without having to announce it to the entire convention. Was the silence of the committee the fatal mistake in the election process?

What is probably not well known outside the diocese is that Bob Duncan did not appear to be strongly partisan; he certainly evidenced no obvious antipathy toward The Episcopal Church. I suspect that most of the people who encountered him in the diocese in those pre-election days would have been hard-pressed to characterize Duncan as liberal or conservative. Instead, he seemed genuinely interested in having every parish succeed at whatever it considered its mission to be. To many, that was an attractive quality in an episcopal candidate. Having been nominated from the floor, however, deputies had not had the benefit of being able to ask Duncan questions qua episcopal candidate, nor could they compare his performance in Q&A sessions to that of the other candidates. How important a factor was that?

Some of those who managed the nomination and election of Duncan almost certainly had a pretty good idea of what they were doing and what direction Duncan’s episcopate would take. Others, I suspect, were duped by Duncan’s performance as canon to the ordinary and wronged victim of the nominating committee.

There is virtually no sentiment in the diocese now for allowing nominations from the floor. That Duncan would be so nominated in 1995 was not widely known, and many deputies were ruffled by the development and were then caught up in the emotion of a convention loosed from its moorings. Was allowing such a nomination the fatal flaw in the system?

Fixing the Problems

At the recent hearings, members of the Standing Committee asserted that they want to make the process of selecting our next bishop as transparent as possible. There is no reason to disbelieve this declaration, but neither should the diocese be willing to accept their initial proposal, particularly after they have told us that no diocese has ever used a procedure like the one they are suggesting. Perhaps there is a reason for that.

What everyone wants, I think, is a process designed in such a way that whatever problems marred the last episcopal election cannot occur or are unlikely to occur this time around. How that desire manifests itself as we consider the details of the electoral process may depend in part on how significant we feel particular problems were last time. It is possible that some members of the diocese are looking to design a process that somehow encourages the election of a person to their liking, however understood. Thus far, however, I see little evidence that people are trying to game the system or to create a system that can be gamed. I think people are genuinely looking to create a fair system likely to present the diocese with a slate of candidates in which everyone can find one or more persons they can support wholeheartedly.

The election process proposed by the Standing Committee has some obvious virtues—the lack of nominations from the floor and the insistence on the use of a consultant, for instance. One wonders if the Standing Committee wasn’t trying too hard, however. In an attempt to give even small minorities a chance to put a candidate favored by them on the ballot, the proposed rules, arguably, make it much too easy to clutter the ballot with improbable candidates, a situation that can introduce a disconcerting element of chance into the election.

Consider some specifics.

Issues Raised by Resolution 2

The most surprising feature of the process set out in Resolution 2 is the simultaneous nomination by committee and by petition. While the Nomination Committee is soliciting names of potential bishops, vetting them against some desired profile and checking their backgrounds, three clergy and three lay deputies from at least two parishes can, by petition, force a name to appear on the ballot, subject only to a background check. (Resolution 2 is ambiguous, by the way, as to whether the clergy or both the clergy and lay deputies must be drawn from at least two parishes.) What are the virtues and deficiencies of this system?

The parallel-mode nomination process—this is what I will call running the two methods of nomination at the same time—saves time, though it isn’t clear that we need to be in so much of a hurry. It is “inclusive,” in that it makes it relatively easy to get someone on the ballot if you are willing to do a little work—very little, it turns out. (I suspect that, by the time the convention passes a resolution to begin a bishop search, any petition process will require more than six signatures.) From the outset, the process relieves the anxiety some might feel as to whether a candidate of their choice might get on the ballot. Because the Nomination Committee need only run background checks on candidates advanced through the petition process, the parallel-mode process saves the committee work, likely a good deal of work that it might otherwise have to do to research candidate backgrounds.

It has been suggested that if one knows of a candidate one genuinely believes would make a good Bishop of Pittsburgh, one needs to act on that knowledge in some effective way, and the parallel petition process makes that possible. The process might even increase the diversity of the slate. Waiting until after the nominating committee announces a slate to accept petitions makes a candidacy so initiated seem, at least to some people, like a bit of an afterthought. Moreover, such a candidacy is necessarily distinguished from one predicated on the work of the nominating committee, which could reduce the credibility of the candidate.

I have already enumerated disadvantages of the parallel-mode nomination process, but I will repeat them here:
  1. Particularly because the ballot is not to distinguish candidates by nomination mode, the process creates two classes of nominees, one of which has been subject to considerably more scrutiny than the other. The process encourages nomination by petition if at all possible, simply because that assures nomination.
  2. The requirement that candidates not be identified by mode of nomination hardly represents transparency. Rather, it obscures what some would consider to be important facts. (It is unclear that the distinction could be kept secret, in any case.)
  3. The process favors candidates within the diocese, who are likely to have an easier time being nominated by petition.
  4. The process suggests a distrust of the nominating committee. Given the diocese’s history, we would do well to encourage trust, rather than distrust.
Additionally, the parallel-mode process provides no recourse once the slate, consisting of those nominated by one mode or the other, is announced. If, for example, people put their faith in the committee, restraining what will be a nearly irresistible temptation to nominate by petition, and the committee produces a dreary slate of candidates, the diocese will be painted into a corner, and the convention might even be forced to reject all the candidates and start the process over.

Although some have suggested that there be no nominations by petition, I think that most people would view the need for a petition process as a given. Even the best nominating committee can overlook or under-appreciate an excellent candidate. Given the widespread belief in the diocese that the last nominating committee bears some—perhaps even most—of the responsibility for the diocese’s having made a terrible choice of bishop, the safety net represented by some other means of putting a person on the ballot would seem an essential element of any credible episcopal election procedure.

If nomination by committee and nomination by petition are not to proceed in parallel, they must run serially. Before anyone is nominated, a profile must be drawn up that characterizes the diocese and its needs in a bishop. Perhaps this is to be done by the Nomination Committee, although Resolution 2 does not say anything about how the needs of the diocese come to be represented. (Many interesting questions could be asked here. Who has influence over this process? How involved is the Standing Committee or other diocesan bodies? Is there to be any public review of the profile once drawn up? Inquiring minds want to know. I understand that, at the last hearing, someone asked about this and was told that no profile would be drawn up until a series of meetings, probably at every parish, takes place. For whatever reason, this was not set out either in Resolution 2 proper or in its explanation.) If the two modes of nomination are to be carried out serially, either one, at least in principle, could proceed first.

To my knowledge, no one has suggested that a season for nominations be followed by one during which the Nomination Committee selects nominees, but this scheme is not obviously flawed. In such a system, people in the diocese place candidates on the ballot, after which the committee can offer alternative candidates, rounding out, in some sense, the slate. In some dioceses, nominations are made only by petition, so this process duplicates that one while adding an additional safeguard. But if one is inclined to be suspicious of committees—it is worth noting that Resolution 2 does not indicate how big a Nomination Committee is to be appointed by the Standing Committee or how members will be selected—then one would have reason not to trust the committee to round out the slate.

I believe a more attractive way of implementing a serial-mode nomination process is to have a period during which nominations may be made by petition after the Nomination Committee has done its work. People with strong feelings about potential candidates will, of course, submit names to the committee, which will measure the candidates against the profile and evaluate their backgrounds, presumably recommending some for consideration as our next bishop and filtering out others. If this process works well, most people should be happy with the resulting slate. If some are not, a period of, say, 30 days could be offered during which nominations by petition could be accepted.

Advantages of this scheme include the following:
  1. It encourages people to trust the Nomination Committee, rather than presume that it will fail to do the right thing.
  2. It puts in the hands of the diocese at large the responsibility to “fix” any last-minute problems, that is, to round-out the slate of candidates as may be necessary.
  3. It will likely result in more candidates being thoroughly vetted by the Nomination Committee and fewer candidates avoiding such close scrutiny by means of the petition process. The committee, after all, has both greater responsibility and more resources to investigate fully proposed candidates.
This serial-mode process makes it impossible to keep secret who was nominated how. I consider this positive, but some may think otherwise. The process also necessarily takes more time and makes more work for the Nomination Committee.

Other Loose Ends

Resolution 2 says nothing about the existing rules of order for electing bishops. It is beyond the scope of this essay to discuss those rules of order except to say that they will not be acceptable, if only because they provide explicitly for nominations from the floor. Resolution 2 or the accompanying explanation should indicate that the rules of order will be revised.

I have already mentioned that I think six signatures are too few for any petition, and I fully expect this number to be increased. I would also like to see signatures from non-deputy laypersons to be required on petitions. Moreover, signatures should attest that not only do signers believe the person to be a good candidate but also that that person’s credentials have, in some sense, been personally evaluated. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that petitioners will have the inclination or wherewithal to examine candidate qualifications as thoroughly as could the Nomination Committee.

Neither the parallel-mode nor the serial-mode process overcomes the objection that not all candidates are subject to the same careful scrutiny by the Nomination Committee. In fact, in the last election, all candidates underwent the same vetting process, but whatever negative information found about Duncan was never disclosed. There is a serious problem here. I have a suggestion to address this concern, though one likely to be controversial.

If the diocese insists on the parallel-mode process, the deadline for petitions should be early enough that the Nomination Committee has time to investigate all candidates equally. The committee should be allowed to flag candidates as not meeting its own standards and/or be free to disclose what its members consider negative information discovered about particular candidates nominated by petition. Notice that such an ability given to the committee, whether used in a parallel-mode or serial-mode process, discourages all but the most serious nominations.

If a serial-mode process is adopted—I assume here that petitions are accepted after the Nomination Committee has done its work—the situation is trickier. One option would be to require the names of potential petition candidates to be submitted in advance, so that the candidates can be evaluated by the committee, whether or not the committee puts them on the ballot. (This does create possibly wasted effort on the part of the committee should a particular candidate never be nominated.) Another option would be to allow a period after the petition period during which the candidates nominated by petition could be vetted. As before, the committee should be free to disclose what it knows.


In consideration of all the foregoing, here are the changes I would like to see to Resolution 2:
  1. The resolution should specify how many people are to be on the Nomination Committee. (As of now, I have no strong feelings about what those details should be.)
  2. A period for nomination by petition should occur after the Nomination Committee offers its slate. The period should be not more than 30 days, after which the Nomination Committee, which cannot disqualify a candidate so nominated for anything other than a failure to pass the background check, is given time to vet each petition nominee according to the same criteria used for other candidates.
  3. The Nomination Committee should be free to make any statement about a candidate nominated by petition that it feels necessary for the convention to carry out its charge.
  4. The Nomination Committee should be free to recommend to petitioners that a petition be withdrawn, based on its investigation, but the recommendation need not be accepted.
  5. Nominations by petition should require at least four clergy, four lay deputies, and 10 other lay signatures. In each case, at least three parishes should be represented. Signatures should attest to the fact that the person signing has examined the qualifications of the person nominated and sincerely believes that that person is qualified to be Bishop of Pittsburgh.

October 3, 2010

Farm-grown Ingredients

Ever since I saw a Campbell’s soup commercial on television a few days ago touting the company’s Campbell’s logouse of “farm-grown ingredients,” I have been meaning to write a post about what a strange phrase “farm-grown ingredients” is. Time’s Michael Scherer beat me to the punch in a commentary that included this paragraph:
Yesterday, I caught a new spot for Campbell’s soup that boasts of the company’s “farm-grown ingredients.” I did a double take. “Farm-grown ingredients”? As opposed to what? Test-tube carrots? Magically conjured potatoes? I imagined Peggy on Mad Man presenting the idea to Don Draper. The scene did not end well.
That reaction was similar to mine, though the first alternative to “farm-grown ingredients” that came to my mind was Soylent Green, not an appetizing thought!

Campbell’s, in an attempt to suggest that its soups are wholesome and nutritious, has come up with a phrase that seems to be saying something but is really quite meaningless. I would be willing to bet that, for example, Progresso soups also contain farm-grown ingredients. In fact, I would be much more impressed with Campbell’s’ power of innovation if the company could produce soups without using farm-grown ingredients.

The Adweek Web site offers a story about the new Campbell’s campaign. The campaign’s tagline is not actually about ingredients, at least not directly. The tagline is “It’s amazing what soup can do.”

Actually, it’s amazing what advertising executives can (or will) do.

October 1, 2010

St. Laika’s

The Rev. Jonathan Hagger of Newcastle Upon Tyne, aka Mad Priest and author of the blog Of Course, I Could Be Wrong… (OCIMBW), initiated a new blog today, St. Laika’s. Describing the new site, Hagger writes, in part:

We are an ecclesial community without any formal membership. You are part of it if you want to be part of it.

We are pan-denominational and nobody is excluded because of their personal beliefs or lack of belief. Our worship is from the Christian tradition and our liturgy is borrowed from any source that takes our fancy.

LaikaTobias Haller, BSG, describes St. Laika’s as a “virtual parish.” From what little there is on the blog so far, that seems like a fair description. The blog carries the tag line “You don’t have to be like me and I don’t have to be like you,” a commentary, I take it, on the uglier trends within the Anglican Communion.

A companion site to St. Laika’s is THE ANCHORHOLD @ St. Laika’s, administered by Ellie Finlay.

Hagger seems to have a thing about “St. Laika,” who has long appeared in the OCIMBW sidebar labeled “OUR PATRON.” Laika, it turns out, is the Moscow stray sent into orbit on Sputnik 2 in 1957. Laika actually was something of a martyr, as she could neither be sustained in space nor brought back to earth. (See the Wikipedia article on Laika here.)

Check out St. Laika’s.