Frank, and very Earnest

It is true that this magazine has, from time to time, indulged in parody. But we know when we are outclassed.

The following – from the pen of Pluriform Frank, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States – is a masterpiece of that most exquisite of all genres, self-parody. The prose style, the pretension, and the pomposity of this memorandum make it a rare example of all that so tragically afflicts the life of that once proud Church.

English readers should be aware that the author of this effusion is the Co-Chair of International ARCIC and a major player in inter-Anglican relations.

They should also note that this paper was read to the assembled Executive Council. Obviously the Council is so devoid of a sense of humour that the ordeal was one which the author had no reason to fear.

Without the exuberant self-importance which marks this piece out as special, similar passages could no doubt be identified in the verbiage of almost every English diocese. English bishops, too, are an endless source of innocent mirth. We invite readers to contribute similar passages from their own dioceses for possible publication.

February 22, 2002

A progress report from the Presiding Bishop

The following report was read to the Executive Council, meeting in San Antonio, during a plenary session February 22, 2002

Since the beginning of this triennium I have been working with the Management Team on a strategic thinking process. A broad segment of the staff has also been invited into this process, and that work is ongoing. Our efforts to date have produced specific actions that reflect our thinking on how we will best deploy staff resources over the next five years.

The work of the staff must be in response to the General Convention and the mission energies of the broader Church. We now see our work falling within five general areas: congregational growth and development; leadership development; faith formation and spiritual development; justice and peace; Anglican, ecumenical and interfaith partnerships. We are devoting day-long staff meetings to each of these areas, and are part way through the process of thinking about how we can best be organized to do this work. We see ourselves in more fluid task groupings around the five areas, and thus are working on strengthened collaboration among staff. As well, we have developed a new staff alignment where the Management Team meets twice monthly with programmatic heads. These gatherings have been enormously productive.

Our work has already informed several decisions that have great import on how we do our work. The Reverend Charles Fulton has been named Director of Congregational Development. Effective March 1, the Reverend Canon Benjamin Musoke-Lubega will take up his duties as Partnership Officer for Africa. Also on March 1, Douglas Fenton will join our staff as Staff Officer for Young Adult and Higher Education Ministries. These decisions strengthen our work in areas of great opportunity that demand our attention.

The decision late last year to put on temporary hold the search for a person to be responsible for ministries by and for women was also based on our ongoing look at how we are organized. It was impossible to place that work within any of our existing departments because it is threaded through all we do, finding a place in each of the five general areas of our work. We will establish a Women’s Ministry Office with the Director part of our group of programmatic heads, working collaboratively across our system with accountability to Sonia Francis, the Assistant to the Presiding Bishop for Program. A new job description is being formulated, and a search process will be re-engaged very soon.

We have come to a new place with regard to ethnic ministries. In a Church free of the sin of racism and the other ‘isms’ there would be no need for a focus upon particular ethnic groups and identities because the Church, in all its variations, would reflect the fullness of Christ and the face of Christ, and be transformed by the multiplicity of languages, races, and the cultural particularities incarnate in the members of Christ’s risen body. But we have not yet become who we are called to be. Given that it has become clear that our best energies in seeking to serve the ethnic communities need to be focused on congregational development and clergy recruitment. This is in line with the vision of 20/20, the mission energies around the Church and the demographics of our nation.

Accordingly, we are expanding and revisioning our ethnic ministries and creating a new grouping to be called Ethnic Congregational Development. The Director will also be part of our group of programmatic heads. A job description for that position is in the final stages of preparation. The communities we are focusing on are African American, Asian-American, Hispanic, and Native American. The job descriptions in each of these areas will be refocused on this emerging priority of growing and planting congregations. Clearly, this effort requires close collaboration with other staff, firstly Congregational Development.

I think it is fair to say that the strongest components of the work of the Ethnic desks, as they have been called over the years, have been networking and advocacy. This was necessary and proper and has borne fruit in healthy networks. And, advocacy – having to do with the inclusion and dignity of all persons – is foundational to engaging God’s project of reconciliation. This work will continue and the staff in Ethnic Congregational Development will work in close collaboration with those staff whose assignment is advocacy and public policy work, that is the Peace and Justice cluster, including the Office of Government Relations. As well, we know that advocacy is strongly articulated through the local congregations, as we can see from the ever-increasing effectiveness of Jubilee Ministries.

I am keenly aware that there is a personnel aspect to these decisions. I met on Wednesday with those persons whose assignments as they have known them are ending.

These are individuals who have dedicated themselves over the years to a faithful ministry and who have been flexible through this time of discernment and transition. Sonia Francis will continue in conversation with them on an individual basis. With regard to the timetable, our first task is to complete the job description and recruit the Director.

The Most Reverend Frank T Griswold