I was elected to the Executive Council at 161st convention of the Diocese of California yesterday by a six vote plurality on the first ballot. That means 120 of the 227 lay delegates voted for me but 107 did not.
This was my third attempt at election to a Diocesan office.
At St. Timothy’s we have come to see our chances of election as a curse until Shelton Ensley broke the curse and served three years in a term ending at the end of this year to the newly constituted Executive Council. He broke the curse in style going on to become President of the Executive Council and doing what all admit has been a stellar job under trying circumstances. These words of praise for Shelton’s work seem way too modest for his accomplishments.
Instituting a new order of things, as we know from our history lessons, is a tough job. Over the past five years, the Diocese of California has been in the midst of transformation changes in governance. Along with Bishop Swing’s retirement and the call of Bishop Marc we also upset the old order by changing the constitution and canons of the church to modernize its governance.
The two principal governing bodies are the Standing Committee and the Executive Council. The former, the Standing Committee, as we were reminded yesterday at convention by Paul Evans, the retiring president of the standing committee in his convention report, date back to the beginning of the church in America when the first presiding bishop instituted the standing committee in a deliberate attempt to distinguish the new church in America as more democratic than the mother Church of England. No doubt bishops, ever since, have sworn under their breaths many times at this rowdy colonist invention.
The Standing Committee’s role is to be both a council of advice to the bishop and a check on him by its control of his compensation and involvement in decisions related to the ordained of the parish and the bishop’s actions. All bishops resist supervision believing they were chosen by God and should answer only unto Him. But the Constitution is designed to be more—well, democratic. So there is tension.
The Executive Council is the result of a very deliberate decision to eliminate the absolute powers of the bishop by winding down the corporation sole. Under the old rules, the bishop served as president and board of directors—thus the name corporation sole—for the entirety of the Diocesan assets and business and could, literally, do much as he pleased with it. The new structure combined two bodies, the Diocesan Board of Directors and the Diocesan Council into one new Executive Council to be the fiduciaries for the temporal or business sides of the work of the Diocese while the Standing Committee deals with the personnel-laden and spiritual business of supervising the bishop and clerics.
The reports of the retiring presidents of both these bodies to the convention yesterday reflected both the difficulty in instituting these new orders of governance and the progress being made at making it so. Standing Committee president Paul Evans was the most blunt stating that he had reported the year earlier that all was not well in the relationship between the Bishop and the Standing Committee but they has decided to work harder at dealing with the issues. This year he reported that things were better and much progress had been made—but unsaid was the continuing admonition that the Standing Committee and Bishop still had much work to do to agree upon their roles and live into them.
Shelton Ensley’s report on the work of the Executive Council was much the same—we made progress but it has been slow and frustrating and there is much more to do.
And so I begin this new adventure in Diocesan office properly warned to expect tension, politics, and differences of opinion and break-through areas of agreement on occasion. I can’t help thinking about those 107 people who did not vote for me. I need to pray about why that was and what I can do to reach out and discover the secret to building bridges and seeking insight from those whose views are different than my own. Given the tensions at work in the Diocesan governance process as it evolves to maturity, it feels like listening is more important than talking, working together is more important than working at odds.
I think my daily prayers are going to starting taking a little longer after January.
Pray for me!