Thursday, June 18, 2009

Constitutional Government

I have been relatively vocal on this blog about locally trained clergy. I am not opposed to locally trained clergy who can lead their congregations and preach the Gospel. I have been concerned with the lack of awareness that many of the locally trained have of canon law, church history, and Holy Scripture. One-day seminars on topics cannot replace the education of a 3 year seminary education.

The locally trained clergy used to be called Canon 10 clergy. There were limitations on what those clergy could do. Canon 10’s could not change dioceses; they were ordained for service in a specific diocese. Then Canon 10 was changed to Canon 9 and then the whole thing was dropped and locally or non-seminary educated clergy were grandfathered into the college of clergy—some were forced to get a seminary education to maintain their ministry. Today, we have a much abbreviated course for locally trained clergy. And from what I have experienced at clergy conferences and diocesan conventions is that their grasp of important tenants of Canon Law, basic legislative process, Robert’s Rules is none to poor. They often do not know the basics of Biblical scholarship and Church tradition. And I am unaware of any continuing education requirement for those who are in charge of parishes. (A continuing education requirement was passed for all clergy at the last General Convention; however, I do not believe that this has been enacted in our diocese.)

Often these locally trained clergy are good pastors. They are usually raised up from the congregations that they are going to serve. They are well respected by their parishes. And that is an important piece of what it means to be a priest of the Church. But priests serve a wider Church than just their parish. Like bishops, the priest is also ordained for the whole of the Church. It is why seminary has been the norm for those to be ordained in the Church.

I am concerned that these locally trained clergy are now delegates for General Convention—the policy making organization of our denomination. Those who have little or no training in the Constitution and Canons of the Church are now the voice to General Convention for our diocese. And with the revision of Title IV on the docket for consideration, I am more than a bit nervous about those who have been elected to represent me.

I subscribe to the HOB/D list serve, the list-serve of the Houses of Deputies and Bishops. I follow the lively discussions in preparation for General Convention next month. I have yet to see a comment from a CNY delegate or alternate. The CNY delegation either is unaware of the list-serve or chooses to remain silent on major issues of the Church. Those of us in this diocese have no idea the stances that our delegation or even the individuals might address the momentous issues that face the Church. How are they going to approach the Anglican Covenant? B033? Title IV? To my knowledge the delegates have not attended any district meetings—if there have even been any in preparation for GC. So how do they know of the gravity of such issues? Or is their only source of information what the bishop tells them?

In times past, there were always meetings in the districts which the delegates came to hear the conversations in the different areas of the diocese so that they could represent the people better. Now it is almost a rotten borough experience. No one is listening to the clergy and laity in preparation for Convention.

This is a major breakdown of our democratic system in the Church—one of the basic principles upon which our Church was founded. If this diocese is ever going to be a diocese that is functional again, the clergy and laity are going to have to demand for better education of our clergy, and careful custody of our Constitution and Canons. The present ignorance will not do.


Jennifer BB said...

Hi Lauren,

Just saw this post...

I'm sorry you missed the General Convention listening and information sessions that were held across the diocese of Central New York in April and May. The one is Syracuse was good and lively. Even so, if you have questions for the deputies, you are always invited to ask us. We published our email addresses on DioNews when we announced the listening/information sessions.

And, as I'm sure you aware, there are fora for conversing about the issues before beyond the HoBD list.

In peace,


Jennifer BB said...


I might also, though we have some excellent locally-trained clergy serving in the Diocese of Central NY, alas, none of them are serving as deputies or alternates to General Convention this year.

Jennifer BB