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Elder’s Fisk of Bp. Briedenthal’s 2009 DSO Convention Address – (Part III of V)

11 November 2009

Clearly, common ministry speaks to our young people. They understand it, they embrace it, and they demand it. How does it speak to the other main problem facing most of our congregations, namely, the cost of a priest’s salary package – to say nothing of the high cost of seminary? Let me say, first of all, that our seminaries are in a period of tremendous flux,

They’re going bankrupt. 

 as the whole church reflects on the value of this kind of formation for ordained ministry. My own view is that a deep, thorough and communal immersion in Bible, theology, ethics and church history is essential for the formation of priests who will be effective resources for the whole church. How we will be accomplishing that five, 10 or 15 years from now is an open question, but it is certain that such immersion will not come cheap, and will produce priests who will continue to need fair compensation for their education and skills.

Also, the seminaries are going bankrupt.. at a time when our membership numbers are steadily going in the toilet. 

What we can begin to do right now, however, is to clarify the role of the priesthood in our church in the light of common ministry. Priests share with their bishop the duty and the authority to gather the church wherever they are in such a way that the gathered body knows and understands the larger reality of which it is a part, that is, the church throughout the world, in all times and in all places.

…Wait for it…

 …Others will exercise more of a traveling ministry, moving among two or more congregations. There may be Sundays when a congregation says Morning Prayer instead of celebrating the Eucharist, because there is no priest present. But if common ministry has been fully lived into, these will be times especially to give thanks for the kingdom work that is going on in the local church, freely, joyfully, creatively, without benefit of clergy – which is how so many of our oldest and most venerable congregations in Southern Ohio began.

Okay, so in other words, the pressing economic times dictate that  priests are to be regarded as a luxury.  So, we shouldn’t be surprised if “some” of our priests have to be sent packing.  Gee, what criteria would be used to determine who gets to keep their job, and who gets to take early retirement? 

I wonder…

Now here let me say something about deacons…Just as priests gather the baptized into communion with all other Christians, so deacons constantly goad the baptized into ministry, even dispersing them for this purpose.

No argument. 

Clearly, common ministry is a paradigm that we will be exploring and living into for a long time. For now, three practical implementations of it are or will soon be underway. First, we are exploring several places where a large congregation can partner with a smaller one for the purpose of shared ministry and the exchange of spiritual gifts. More on that after the New Year.

No surprise, there. 

Second, since the key to common ministry is the dynamic synergy between the full ministry of the baptized and the catalyzing function of the ordained, Canon Johanssen and Canon Karl Ruttan have developed a program for developing mission leadership teams at all levels. A mission leadership team is a group of four or five lay persons raised up in a congregation to provide pastoral oversight in collaboration with a resident or regularly visiting priest, and with the deacon or deacons operating in the area.

Great idea.  Too bad that your goal of legitimizing what goes on during your average Jerry Springer Show, misses the mark by at least the length of the chasm between Heaven and Hell described in Luke 16:23.  Also, too bad that Jerry Springer does it better than TEC clerics could ever hope to do it. 

We have recruited seven congregations representing a range of sizes and resources to participate in this course as a pilot project in 2010 and hope to offer it to all interested congregations in 2011.

Does this have anything to do with the Alban Institute (you know, the mission development organization our diocese used a while back, that prides itself on being interfaith)?  If so, I think my friends and I will pass. 

Check upcoming editions of the Interchange for news about this.

Right.  Because your priest might be laid off by then, and wouldn’t be able to make the announcement. 

Now I’d like to mention some other developments that are just cause for celebration. Since common ministry is about shared ministry, it is also about our obligation constantly to look outside ourselves, to jump at every opportunity for collaboration, and to rejoice in the challenges that come with being stretched. In regard to collaboration, I am extremely pleased to announce that, after seven years across town from Diocesan House, Forward Movement is moving back onto the third floor, which has lain empty all this time. The historical bonds that unite us to this great Episcopal publishing house are strong and deep, and we are blessed to share space with them again. Their global reach will keep us honest about our own commitment to the big picture.

Yup.  Our numbers are down (because our clergy is preaching a false gospel), and we’re getting walloped by the economy (probably because we’re under some kind of judgment), so our publishing house had to move out of its old digs. 

Yay!  Let’s rejoice and be glad!!

As for being stretched, nothing can do that for a diocese like a vigorous, two-way relationship with a companion diocese on the other side of the world.

What do they think about the initiative to bless what God clearly calls sin? 

But looking outside ourselves can also happen close to home. I know I speak for everyone here when I say how proud I am of our Bishop Suffragan’s election as provisional bishop of Pittsburgh. Bishop Price…

Is that the same Bp. Price who served as Episcopal Witness to KJS deposition of Bp. Duncan?  Gee, I don’t know about you guys, but in the corporate world, such is viewed dimly as stepping on other people in order to climb the ladder.  Maybe it’s just .. different .. y’know .. in your profession. 

First, about our beloved Procter Camp & Conference Center, faithfully administered by penny Buckley and her staff. As you will recall, our exploration of common ministry is funded by a generous grant from the Jessie Ball DuPont Foundation. We are focusing on three areas of common ministry: in congregations, at Procter, and in ministry to college campuses and young adults. At the moment, we are still focused on congregations, but

Yes, “still focused on congregations, BUT…”

but congregations are probably a lost cause, so let’s focus on something else, so we don’t have to be depressed about the problems in our congregations.  ‘Something,’ like oh, I dunno…

we will soon begin to turn our sights on Procter as a place where common ministry is fostered, formed and nurtured – or, as one might say – where we deepen our sense of connection with one another, with the earth, and with God.

You’re forgetting Mother Nature.  It’s not nice to forget Mother Nature. 

In anticipation of a wide-ranging diocesan conversation about Procter,

Okay, so now that we’ve concluded a one-sided conversation about SSB’s, let’s take a break and have a conversation about how a campground could save our diocese from oblivion. 

I have appointed a task force to assess Procter’s current strengths and weaknesses.

It’s a campground.  Take care of the potholes and make sure that there are clean bathrooms, deal with the roadkill, and you should be fine.  See now, that was easy.

This task force is chaired by ..

..people who will need to come up with a more flowery way to say what I just did. 

Second, Bishop Price’s ministry in Pittsburgh leaves a huge hole in a diocesan staff that has already been stretched by cuts and a freeze in new hiring. In effect, having gone from three canons to two, we are further reducing the senior staff by one.

It’s simple, really.  Just tell the Presiding Bishop that you can’t spare Bishop Price, and that she’ll need to send someone else to try to manage the Pittsburg rump diocese.  Besides, Bp. Price served as episcopal witness when KJS inhibited Bp. Duncan, so it’s probably better anyhow if another assistant bishop somewhere else takes over Pittrump.  You know – so as to avoid the appearance of evil, and all. 

And if she complains about it, then just explain that you’re a prince of the Church, and you won’t let another bishop muscle you around. 

This was never my intention or that of Diocesan Council, which in its proposed budget for 2010 meant to maintain our senior staff at its present level, not to reduce it further. As proud as I am of the ministry Bishop Price is taking up in Pittsburgh..

.. managing a couple dozen parishes composed of liberals who couldn’t stand Bp. Duncan, along with conservatives who liked Bp. Duncan but didn’t agree in principle with hiving off into a new Anglican province, which at best has sporadic recognition within the Anglican Communion.  Oh, and handling the lawsuit.  I almost forgot about the lawsuit.  Say, since we’re on the subject of lawsuits, I’m confused about something.  I know when we decided to lay aside Scripture for various other things, but just when did TEC decide to hard-wire the power of lawsuits into its canons?  Also, was there any debate over what Scripture has to say about this?  Just curious. 

I am very concerned about our ability to carry on effectively with him gone much of the time. To be sure, we will be able to keep the ship afloat, but will we be able to explore new territory, respond to new challenges and develop new initiatives?

Sure.  The Alban Institute.  That will save everything.  And if it doesn’t by next year this time, we can always frantically look for another magic bullet to save everything. 

Therefore, in order to ensure that we do not lose our focus on coordinated mission efforts as they relate to stewardship, evangelism and congregational development, I am calling for the creation of a Canon for Mission, who will focus on diocesan mission initiatives (for instance, Latino ministry, collaboration with local farmers at Procter and elsewhere, inner city work in Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus, campus and young adult ministry, and diocesan partnerships in North America and abroad).

Post-secondary educational background for the successful candidate will include (but not be limited to) Spanish, Spanglish, Agriculture, Communication Arts, ROTC.  In addition, qualified candidates will need to show proof of an extensive track record with ministries to the urban poor, and college and university students.  In fact, at least ten years each in both mission fields would be a good start. 

So, if you know of a seminary graduate with bachelor’s degrees in Spanish, Agriculture, and Communications, who served in the military, who has spent ten years doing mission work with university students and ten with the urban poor, and who is a liberal, please have them promptly submit their CV to the diocesan office for consideration. 

This person would also work with congregations in transition and tend to the care and feeding of those in training for mission.

Oh, and they should also have experience as successful church-planters. 

This position will add nothing to the proposed budget for 2010, since it will be funded by that portion of the convention budget which will be freed up by Bishop Price’s work in Pittsburgh. It will be freed up as follows. I have proposed to the trustees of the diocese that the difference between Bishop Price’s total compensation package and what the Diocese of Pittsburgh can pay him be covered by the William Cooper Procter Fund, for as long as Bishop Price is serving in Pittsburgh.

In other words, the new position won’t cost us anything because we’ll apply what had been Bp. Price’s salary to cover it.  But, we’ll cover the difference between what Pittrump can afford to pay Bp. Price, and what he made here, with the Proctor Fund.  So you see, it really costs nothing more at all, even though it sort of does. 

The trustees assure me that this proposal will be favorably received at their next meeting in December. 

Of course it will.  Why wouldn’t it be?

..(to be continued tomorrow)..

– Elder

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