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.