I should preface my remarks by acknowledging that producing by committee a document as ambitious as this is a daunting task, one the reorganized diocese has never before attempted. No doubt, much attention was paid to content and much less attention was focused on the writing process. For whatever reason (or reasons), the schedule slipped, and the final editing and design became a frantic marathon.
So, how good is the profile? The short answer is that it’s good enough to attract episcopal candidates, which, after all, is its raison d’être. It’s not as good as it could be, and it’s not as good as it should be.
In what follows, I will offer a detailed evaluation of the document. Many of my observations will seem trivial, though some are decidedly not. In the end, I hope to point to how such a project might be better carried off next time around.
This is not so much a follow-on to my last post on the profile as it is a fresh and comprehensive look at the document.
DesignThe structure of the document seems to have been set late in the production process, so many design decisions had to be made late. Overall, the document is attractive, though I personally like to see pages more sharply defined by headers and footers. As it is, page numbers are often uncomfortably close to the document text. Pages do not feel cramped, however, even though the design was tightened to avoid creating an even longer document.
I do wish the PDF file had been made compatible with versions of Adobe Acrobat earlier than 9. The error message I received when I loaded the file into Acrobat 8 was worrisome, and I was not sure just what to make of it. (No incompatibilities were noticeable.)
The decision to bleed the cover picture and heading underlines is curious. Few people are going to read a nearly 30-page document on the screen, and few episcopal candidates are likely to have printers that can print edge-to-edge.
There is inconsistency in the headings. For example, on pages 11 and 12, second-level headings do not match the structure seen in the table of contents. Also, some headings are underlined, whereas similarly situated headings are not. Some bodies that are named in headings are preceded with “The”; others are not. Colons end headings on page 3 and nowhere else. No doubt, problems such as these would have been fixed had more time been available for the final production phase.
Generally, the typography is fine. The one exception is the prayer from Bishop Ashton Oxenden on page 3. It is unclear why a distinctive font is needed here, but it is quite clear that the choice of font was a colossal error. The text is hard to read and is out of character in the context of the rest of the document. Did the person who found this prayer insist on using this rather precious font?
The use of hyphens, en-dashes, and em-dashes is inconsistent. The proper glyph is not always used, and spaces appear around dashes as often as not. Almost certainly, the inconsistency is exacerbated by multiple authorship. The use of two hyphens before the identification of a quotation source is odd; I would expect an em-dash in such places. In at least one instance, two hyphens are used in lieu of em-dashes in the running text.
In the table of contents, there is another inconsistency. Some section headings are followed by a space and some are not. Most readers less obsessive than I will not notice this.
The many pictures add interest to the profile. My first impulse was to complain about the lack of captions. Captions would have lengthened the document, however, and probably wouldn’t have meant much to anyone outside the diocese. I would have liked to have seen more pictures of young adults, but their absence is more a problem with the diocese than with the profile. I particularly appreciated some of the historical illustrations, though I must say that the second picture on page 25 that seems to be illustrating our industrial past is totally inscrutable.
EditingThe multiple authorship of the document is more apparent than it should be. No doubt, editing diminished inconsistencies, but it certainly did not eliminate them.
I was encouraged after reading the Welcome! section (page 1). I made not a single red mark on the page for spelling, grammar, phrasing, or word choice. Alas, my optimism was quickly dispelled. I identified more than 35 missing commas and 7 missing hyphens in the remainder of the profile.
Whereas nearly all of the text is written from a diocesan perspective—the appropriate viewpoint, I think—there are occasional lapses. The discussion of the Up 4 Reading program and Shepherd Wellness Community talk about “our local elementary school” and “Our mission” [emphasis added], respectively.
Word choice is generally acceptable, although I found a few words to quibble with and references that will certainly wrinkle brows of readers outside the diocese. I did a serious double take when I encountered the phrase “without extensive withdrawals from our corpus.” “Corpus” is a financial term unfamiliar to most people (like potential episcopal candidates and bloggers like me) and “withdrawals from our corpus” seems too close to “take it out of our hide.” A less technical term would have been a better choice.
ContentGiven that potential candidates are certain to be aware of at least the broad outlines of the recent unpleasantness in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, a longish profile enumerating all our “vibrant Episcopal communities” is not inappropriate. Moreover, “Pittsburgh” still conjures the mental image of “hell with the lid off” in many minds, so even the inclusion of the historical and geographical material at the end of the profile is easy to justify.
On the other hand, the text suggests a certain ambivalence about admitting what the diocese has been through. It is important to note that we are emerging from the dark spiritual forest in which Bob Duncan had confined us, but it is equally important for potential candidates to recognize the deep hurt experienced, particularly by the clergy of our diocese, during our spiritual exile from the wider church. I believe that, curiously, the more moderate elements of the diocese that recognized what Bob Duncan was up to early and actively resisted his machinations emerged more hopeful and less cynical than the conservatives who were slow to do so but quick to criticize the Duncan opponents.
In any case, although the name of our deposed bishop does occur several times in the profile, too little is said about him to fully inform potential candidates as to his activities and influence. I get the feeling that some of the authors of the profile think of Bob Duncan as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP), which emerged from the ad-hoc group Those Opposed to Resolution One (TORO), which organized in late summer 2002, began attending Province III meetings in 2004. (Under Duncan, Pittsburgh sent no representatives to these meetings and made it impossible for clergy to attend by scheduling clergy conferences at the same time the provincial synod met.) In November 2006, PEP invited Province III representatives to one of its meetings, and PEP organized the meetings in Maryland with Provincial president Bishop Bob Ihloff about six months later. It was PEP that sent out feelers to the twelve conservative clergy who had told Duncan that they would not leave The Episcopal Church with him. It was out of these contacts that Across the Aisle, which is mentioned in the profile, developed.
PEP, however, is not mentioned. I have been told that PEP figured in earlier drafts, but the references to PEP were expurgated at some point in the editing process. As a major player in PEP, I find this offensive, and I am concerned that it is a subtle attempt by conservatives of the diocese to downplay the role of more liberal Episcopalians and perhaps even to discourage liberal candidates from applying. It may also reflect the guilt that some conservatives feel for coming so late to the party.
In fact, the historical narrative in the profile refers to the improper October 2008 vote to separate the diocese from The Episcopal Church only indirectly, yet that is the most momentous event in the recent history of our diocese. The most important legal action in our history was the filing of the Calvary lawsuit in 2003, which is referred to in the profile not at all, yet it is most responsible for our diocese being more healthy (and wealthy) than the dioceses of San Joaquin, Fort Worth, or Quincy. Again, conservatives’ guilt may be reluctant to admit that the lawsuit, which was heavily criticized both within the diocese and without, and not by conservatives only, was, in fact, a brilliant move by Calvary rector Harold Lewis and attorney Walter DeForest.
There are other omissions that are less serious. It would have been helpful had the discussion of the forums conduction by the Nomination Committee (inexplicably called the “Search/Nominating Committee” on page 8 and elsewhere) included a reference to the actual questions the committee posed to parishioners. (Not everyone was impressed with the topics covered by those questions, by the way.)
In a similar vein, the presentation of the operating budget on page 22 may raise more questions than it answers. What is the category “Other,” which accounts for more than 60% of diocesan income in the 2011 budget? Also, is not some comment in order about the category of “Legal Expenses,” which accounts for more than a quarter of the budget’s expenses?
Other statistics are not to be found in the profile at all that might be of interest to candidates. In the Worship section on page 12, for example, various service options are enumerated. But how many people are attending Rite I versus Rite II services? How many people are attending Morning Prayer more often than Holy Eucharist? Such statistics would be more enlightening than simply saying that “Our liturgies are as diverse as our membership.” A candidate might want to know a breakdown of the seminaries attended by Pittsburgh clergy and perhaps how many were originally recruited from outside the diocese. We are, one might argue, too inbred and have too many clergy from Trinity School for Ministry. Clergy diversity is a challenge for our next bishop.
In fact, Trinity School for Ministry is itself a challenge and rather a problem for the diocese, something the profile tries hard to ignore. Trinity has been a primary engine for undermining The Episcopal Church in general and the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in particular. Likewise, the existence of a cathedral that claims to be a cathedral for both the Episcopal and the Anglican dioceses is a problem, one glossed over in the profile. Arguably such challenges should have been listed under Our Search—headings are not always the most obvious ones—on page 8.
Pages 9 and 10 of the profile, in various ways, attempt to define what the diocese is looking for in a new bishop. Largely, the text addresses matters the Nominating Committee avoided asking ordinary parishioners about. The sections here are a mixed bag. What do we value about being Episcopalian? is probably the best constructed section here. It reflects a very conscious affinity to the general church growing out of our past isolation from it. I would quibble about our valuing being part of the Anglican Communion, but, as Episcopal Church convenor for the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, I can at least assert that this value is not uniformly held in our diocese.
I find What hopes and dreams do we have for a future with the new bishop called to serve our diocese? problematic. “Reconciliation with each other and with those who have left” seems to require qualification. I believe that reconciliation with those who left will not result in reunification in our lifetimes and is not even a reasonable aspiration before all property issues have been settled. Finally, I take exception to “Biblically focused,” which seem like code words for cutting two legs off the Anglican stool. I have no problem with “We believe Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation,” however.
The section How can the new bishop help the diocese move forward? is mostly fluff that should have been—actually, is—incorporated in the section about who we are looking for. “Be a bishop of the people” is redundant, romantic poppycock.
The section Who is God calling to lead us into that future? seems mostly reasonable. To say that we want someone with a “Biblical base,” however, worries me. What does that mean? I would prefer something more like “well versed in the Bible and biblical scholarship,” which, one might argue, sends a different message. Some other characteristics that I would like to see listed:
- An unshakable commitment to The Episcopal Church that takes priority over any commitment to the Anglican Communion
- Someone who has been a deputy to the General Convention
- A competent extrovert with proven administrative and communications skills
- Someone with no substantial disagreement with the general direction of The Episcopal Church over the past three decades
Finally, I am sorry that there is no concluding section in the diocesan profile. We have a Welcome! section but no Farewell! section. A short, concluding section inviting nominees would have offered a more elegant end to the document than does the sterile nomination submission form.
ProcessAs I suggested earlier, the profile clearly suffers from having been produced by a committee. It had to be produced by a committee, of course, it did not have to be developed as it was. Although individual sections may have gone through multiple drafts, the assembled document seems not to have done so. Multiple drafts were what was needed, however. I do not know if the schedule was too compressed or was sabotaged by delays. I suspect both.
How could the process have been improved? First, I think a writer should have been hired to develop the text. Hiring someone would have assured that sufficient time was being spent on writing and that the writing would display substantial consistency. This does not mean that only the designated writer could produce text but that all text would at least be filtered through the stylistic sensibilities of a single person.
There should have been an editorial committee of stakeholders with demonstrable editing skills. Drafts of the profile should have been released through the editorial committee. Others could then offer criticisms feeding into the next draft. Three complete drafts should have been enough.
The person responsible for for document design should have been attached to the editorial committee, so the design could be developed in parallel with the text.
All of the above assumes the availability of certain resources, of course, including time. Since I don’t know how approvals of the text were solicited, I don’t know just how various diocesan groups in the diocese had to fit into the development process. I do know that the Standing Committee, which is a very important body of the diocese, was given very little time to bless the final document.
I thought it was OK not to go into a lot of detail about our difficulties in the profile--not appropriate, I think, for a public document. --And I thought it was OK to emphasize the positive about our parishes. The big negative was met head-on right at the beginning--and that was the loss of parishes and of members. --Was surprised at your comment that some people still thought of Pittsburgh being hellish because of the smoke. That was over fifty years ago, when most potential candidates either weren't yet born or were little kids. But I do have to say that my pet peeve about those who tell newcomers about Falling Water, as though it was the only thing unique and interesting about Pittsburgh--and don't mention the historical importance of our region. Jumonville Glen, Fort Necessity, and Braddock's grave are all close to Falling Water and are equally deserving of a visit. It isn't just eastern PA that's rich in the nation's history. Washington's use of the PB is mentioned, but not what he was here to do in the first place.ReplyDelete
Lionel, A few random reactions to your comments...ReplyDelete
I think that anyone seriously considering the position is probably well aware of what we have gone through. I don't think the gory details are necessarily appropriate in this document.
I doubt that statistics are available as to attendance at Rite I vs. Rite II services (and I'm not sure that it would mean that much, since there are many other reasons for choosing to attend a particular parish or a particular service). As far as Morning Prayer--I somehow thought that St. Andrew's was the last "Morning Prayer Parish" in the Diocese--and we have cut back to one Morning Prayer service and one combined MP/Eucharist per month.
How to deal with Trinity School for Ministry is, I agree, a problem, but I'm not sure there is a better way to deal with it. Its presence is at best a mixed blessing, but saying so could be as off-putting as ignoring it. Again, I think potential candidates will be aware of the problem without us needing to tell them.
You seem to think that "valuing being part of the Anglican Communion" implies favoring the Anglican Covenant, but that is by no means a given. Many people like myself oppose the Covenant because we value being a part of the Communion and feel that the Covenant is bad for the Communion.
I don't see any problem wishing for reconciliation with those who have left. Reconciliation does not mean reunification. It does mean restoring friendship. It may, but does not necessarily, mean resolving differences.
I also have some concern with the terms “Biblically focused” and “Biblical base.” Taken at face value, they are fine--there perfectly good progressive ways to be biblically focused--but you are right that they can too readily be taken as code words.
Lionel, I think you buried your lead... which shows legitimate concern.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the post, Lionel.ReplyDelete
Part of the problem with a profile at this point, of course, is that we don't have much of an agreed narrative or a settled identity. Much as we like to say that we've dusted ourselves off and are ready to move on . . . . At least, I have my doubts.
Overall, though, my concern is that there isn't enough emphasis on the real challenges we face going forward, and on the need we have for some outside-the-box thinking.
The profile in this sense seems rather generic--and almost a document from another age. We seem to want so much to say, "we're just a 'normal' diocese, if discombobulated a bit by recent unpleasantness." And we just want a "normal" bishop.
The diocese has of course some financial resources--a legacy of an era of ministry long past. But who are we really? 2 or 3 larger congregations, 6 or 7 reasonably stable mid-sized, and then a scattering over a wide and diverse region of what we can only call "missionary outposts" of one sort or another. At the time the profile was composed, 13 clergy deployed full-time in parishes and compensated at or above diocesan minimum full-time guidelines, with 5 of those 13 serving in just two parishes. And of course with Nate Rugh's departure for Los Angeles, that number is reduced, at least temporarily . . . . By almost any metric other than financial, we're among the very smallest of dioceses of the Episcopal Church.
My views about our next bishop will, of course, contrast with some of the things you have said. I hope we will have a theologically conservative bishop who will view the Covenant favorably and who will deeply value both the Anglican Communion and, more deeply, the Anglican identity and spiritual heritage--and I hope we will have a bishop who with deep loyalty of course to the Episcopal Church will be able to differentiate him or herself with some respectful critical distance from much of what you describe as the "direction" of the Episcopal Church in recent years.
You and I will of course disagree about some of these things, and that's in part why we have elections. I imagine there will be nominees who will represent different points along the spectrum, and the diocese will need to discern prayerfully the way forward. But the point shouldn't be to discourage more conservative or more progressive nominees, but rather to find the strongest folks possible along the whole range, to give the diocese as a whole an opportunity to pray, discern, and speak.
But what I think we need, beyond those kinds of questions, most of all, is what we in this church used to call a "missionary bishop."
Not someone who sits in an office and manages staff and program, budgets and administration, etc., and who "articulates vision," but someone instead who gets on his or her horse and rolls up his or her sleeves and gets out into the world. Whose "main office" is in the trunk of his car or the cab of his camper. Or I suppose these days the chip in his IPhone. Someone who will love spending evenings in church basements with gathering of small congregations of aging Episcopalians eating tuna casserole and speaking words of pastoral encouragement, someone who can inspire with friendship and prayer a small, mostly part-time, often "tent-making" cadre of clergy and clergy families--and most of all someone with a compelling Christian witness who can speak to those who are outside the church, with an evangelistic energy, not just in the East End and suburbs, but in Donora and North Versailles and Beaver Falls and the distant reaches of Greene County. A Jackson Kemper. A William Kip.
And I'm just not sure what the Jackson Kempers and William Kips of 2011 will make of this Profile, whether they will sense that they just might be the ones we're looking for . . . . I hope they will, but I think we might have made the invitation a sharper one.
I agree with much of what you say, although I think we need a broad-church bishop. Electing a conservative bishop would be viewed by many of us as a sad ending to an even sadder story.
That said, I think we might agree that the Nomination Committee studied closely the trees (i.e., parishioners) in the diocese and completely missed the forest. I agree that we do need to figure out who we are and, perhaps, who we want to be.
I must say that the profile had me asking myself if indeed we are ready to elect a bishop.
The people of the diocese are stronger than they were prior to October 2008, but they are also a bit weary. We do indeed need a bishop who will roll up his or her sleeves and work on the front lines. That person needs to be a leader, but not a dictatorial one.
I may be pathetically optimistic, but perhaps discussions like this one can help us clarify our own identity and inform potential candidates about the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh as well.
Interesting comment about the forest and the trees, the implication being that one is so hung up on the details one doesn't see the "big picture." I usually want to do the detail side in whatever issues I'm dealing with (American history, church history, and political issues, for example) because I don't want to see things I consider essential parts of the "forest" left out. The problem is, I think, that we have competing narratives, competing "big pictures", competing "forests." When that occurs, a safe way out is to do the details. If we want a "mission bishop" as Fr. Robison suggests above, though, how to we make it clearer to such candidates that that's what we need?ReplyDelete
It's important to say that a robust conversation can provide additional "profiles" to be shared hither and yon. Certainly the days of "information management," if they ever truly existed, are long past. The official document is important, of course, but I for one would like to see a lot more in the days to come, and from various perspectives. Perhaps to be most open the diocesan website could provide a space for "further comments" from all and sundry.ReplyDelete
In terms of a "Broad Church" bishop, I'm not exactly sure what that term means any more. In the old days it meant less smoke than the Anglo Catholics and shorter sermons than the Evangelicals. But is it clear what "broad" means now?
One thing is for sure, which is that if our new bishop "tends to be more progressive," he or she will find him or herself leading a diocese filled with many conservative clergy and laity, and will need to chart a path that can inspire common life and not division. And if the new bishop "tends to be more conservative," likewise. I think it's pretty clear that we're a diocese that continues to contain a wide range of perspectives, deeply held, and that if we're not careful we could re-polarize in ways that might be reminiscent of past divisions, unhealthfully. The "one big happy diverse family" image seems popular, but I think it is in fact untested. Maybe yes, maybe no. A new bishop will need to be able to communicate well across some distance, or he or she may find a rather precariously balancing structure a-tumbling down . . . .
Bruce, "broad church" may have been an unfortunate choice. I really meant latitudinarian. No bishop is going to make theological differences go away. We do not need to fight over them to the death, however.ReplyDelete
Celinda, we do have competing narratives. We need to come together and and discuss those narratives. Such a process could lead to consensus on some issues and to a clear understanding of our differences on others. We have not done that, and it may not be safe at all simply to look at details.
Ok, I probably don't belong in this conversation but since it's my pet peeve for the entire Christian church I'll put in my two cents. I think you guys first need to determine what you believe the Christian faith stands for and then pick the person who best supports that definition. Personally I don't think as mere men (and women) we have the prerogative to define it but only to understand what has been revealed, but either way I think we are avoiding the issue by not articulating clearly what we believe. Everything else is man-made, institutional, business sense that may be important but really doesn't get to the heart of the matter, I think. That's all. Blessings.ReplyDelete
I don’t literally agree with you, but you have a point that the profile does not really define where the diocese stands and what it is looking for. Two people today have complained to me that the profile seems “generic.”
Fr. Joe, I think a "forest" that we all agree about is that the Christian faith means following Christ as our savior, and as our Lord. The "trees" that keep us from uniting on that fairly simple statement have to do with differences in what we think Christ is directing us to do, and how to find out his will for us. "Biblically based" is a phrase that in some cases means different things to different people, all of whom may be in Bible study groups. To Evangelicals, the Bible is the word of God, the heart of how we find God's will for us. To Anglo-Catholics, the Eucharist--the mass, representing Christ's love for us-- is central in our relationship with God. I don't know about Latitudinarians; I think some have said that the church created the Bible, so perhaps they believe that the fellowship of concerned, reasoning, and ethical people is the bottom line. On another subject related to the Profile: --What do others think about Fr. Robison's suggestion that the Profile be rounded out by a Comments section? That way, candidates could form their own idea of "the forest" as they looked carefully at the trees.ReplyDelete
I'm not sure about a "comments" roll for the official Profile. But it seems to me that anyone with access to a keyboard can give this a try. What does the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh look like to you? How would you describe it? What are its strengths? What are its places of fragility? What challenges will be of priority in the coming decade? What are the values and concerns important to you as we consider the election of our next bishop? Let a thousand flowers bloom . . . . Perhaps an unofficial "off-campus" site could be developed by some enterprising Pittsburgher for this purpose . . . . I'm sure any potential nominee, made aware of such a site, would pay attention.ReplyDelete
Would it make sense for the Standing Committee to initiate the project Fr. Robison mentioned above? On re-reading Lionel's post, there's the comment that the Standing Committee did not have much time to discuss and "bless" the document. The project could be started off with a statement from the Standing Committee (carefully crafted?). Not official, not superseding the work of those who prepared the profile--just a comment by the Standing Committee as an important body of the diocese, with the invitation to all to participate in the kind of discussion we're having on Lionel's blog.ReplyDelete
I found a better definition of "latitudinarian" than the one I guessed at above. It was first used ('derisively") in the 17th century to describe Gilbert Burnet and other London clergy who, like the Cambridge Platonists, "advocated toleration for divergent views on the two issues that most divided Protestants of their day--predestination and ordination." My source: Robert W Prichard of the Virginia Theological Seminary in his book _The Nature of Salvation: Theological Consensus in the Episcopal Church. 1801-73_. Prichard says that Bishop William White of Pennsylvania was sympathetic to this view in his treatment 39 Articles. At his recommendation, they were adopted, despite the 17th article (which could be interpreted in a strictly Calvanist manner) by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 1801, with the stipulation that interpretation of the articles should be guided by Gilbert Burnet's book about them. Burnet's book offered a choice between Calvinist and Armenian definitions of predestination. --If this manner of dealing with highly controversial issues (allowing diverse interpretations within certain limits) is what Lionel means by "latitudinarian" as a desirable quality of a candidate for bishop, then I tend to agree with Lionel.ReplyDelete
I think we're going to be in trouble very quickly if our new bishop can be pinned as a conservative OR a liberal. I would rule out any candidate that stated that they wanted to influence the present direction of our national church. Pittsburgh has played that role, and look at how things played out. Let some other diocese take that role if they must; we need time to heal. A ++Mark Lawrence in Pittsburgh would only complete the emptying of our churches.ReplyDelete
I think you could characterize the bishops who have assisted us since the split as liberal, and we’ve all gotten along just fine under them. Our diocese having been nearly destroyed by a conservative, I think conservatives have lost the right to have one of their own as a bishop, at least for now.ReplyDelete
In truth, conservatives and liberals are equally unlikely to be recruited to the other side or to consider those at the other end of the theological spectrum to be anything but wrong. Liberals tend to tolerate conservatives and to value them for other than their theological views. Conservatives, on the other hand, seem to want simply to eliminate their liberal opponents.
In the near term, perhaps Pittsburgh had best not try to lead the wider church. On the other hand, under Duncan, we were isolated from The Episcopal Church, and the next bishop should aspire to connect us strongly to the rest of the church.
Hmm. Being "tolerated" isn't something any of us want, I think. It's not a whole lot better than "eliminated." "Respected" and "understood" is a better goal, and it's what both Bishop Johnson and Bishop Price made/make possible. As Dr. Prichard made clear in the book I discussed above, Bishop White of Pennsylvania was what some called "latitudinarian" as he matured in his job. It didn't mean "middle and hazy" and it didn't mean that the Bible was no longer considered basic to one's beliefs, or that "the Church created the Bible" (with the corollary that in a hieararchy of values, the Church, rather than the Bible, is the primary source of our beliefs)-just that it was clear that sincere, knowledgable people had different interpretations of some parts of it. The hot button issues then weren't the same as they are now, but equally divisive. By not fundamentally changing the liturgy or the wording of the creeds or the 39 Articles (other than the political references), church leaders made it possible for worshippers to feel part of the church even as they differed.ReplyDelete