Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Helpful Comparison

BabyBlue has a posted a lovely video of the beginning of the installation of Robert Duncan as Archbishop. I have been busy lately and have not been paying ACNA much attention, so I thought I'd see what was going on at their nuptial convention.

For those who aren't up to speed on Anglican splinter groups, ACNA is the Anglican Church in North America and is the amalgamation of an astonishing number of American Anglican fragments.

There is a PDF of the agenda here. What struck me was how little time was spent on side issues. In the space of four days they wrote a constitution and canons, debated the same, amended the same, installed a primate and still met for worship thirteen times (four eucharists), or slightly more than three times a day.

By way of contrast, the Episcopal Church is meeting for its 2009 General Convention in Anahaeim in July. It will last eleven days. There is a eucharist ten times for corporate worship, or slightly less than once per day.

Now the Episcopal Church is about seven times bigger than ACNA (ASA vs ASA). But it's been around for over two centuries. What's left to discuss that requires eleven packed days of meetings? One hundred dioceses are sending 800 lay delegates and 300 bishops to Anaheim. The dioceses are paying for these persons to come into close proximity to the Magic Kingdom.
If the diocese is very frugal, lodging would cost about $550 per person, airfare (including taxes and fees) comes to around $600 per person (Atlanta to LA and return). Throw in a $20 per day per diem for food and incidentals ($220 per person) and each diocese has to pony up $1370 per delegate. That's a cost of $1,500,000 to the dioceses for having a delegation! Some dioceses (Los Angeles for example) will pay a lot less, some will pay a lot more (Hawaii, Europe, Haiti or Bethlehem).

None of this includes the national church's budgeted amount of $5,883,779 (2009 alone, there were other amounts allocated in 2007 and 2008) to rent the facilities and put on the affair.

The delegates are certainly not going to be slackers. There is no time set aside for them to zip off and see Mickey Mouse. But a quick glance at the agenda and resolutions discussed shows very little substance. There is going to be a great deal of discussion about discussions.

Is anyone else struck by how sclerotic the General Convention appears? Were I in charge, it would have two hundred delegates (one lay, one bishop per diocese) and last three days. All of the committee appointments and meetings would be done in the three years leading up to it, on the delegates dime and therefore likely online.

But then again, were I in charge, the Episcopal Church would only have about twenty dioceses.

Leaving aside theology, which is the big issue, the other major reason why the Episcopal Church has floundered so badly is that it is a Jurassic organization in the Age of Information. It has too many heads and sub heads, too much middle management and too little authority.

One of the reasons why the Presiding Bishop has been able to dictate church discipline is that the organization with the actual authority, the General Convention, is too large and meets too infrequently.

I used to say that the Episcopal Church needed its own Inquisition. Now I'm afraid what it really needs is its own Reformation.

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