Monday, August 29, 2011
There was no election by the people of Fort Worth except the kind a rubber stamp process that became de rigure for the diocese. Thereafter slates of hand-picked candidates were provided by the administration of the diocese. It wasn’t clear how those people were nominated but it was clear that no alternatives would be welcomed. Nominations from the floor of Convention were discouraged and no clear mechanisms were established for any opposition to the proposed candidates. This practice established a type of cleric-controlled administration that still raises its ugly head in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.
The governance of The Episcopal Church was set up to allow for good people of all orders to have equal influence in the running of the church. Yes, we did have bishops, but that power was limited by the clergy and laity. Yes, we have priests, but their power is limited by bishops and laity. And most of all, we had laity who were to have an equal say in the church but their power too is limited by bishops and clergy. We are not a congregational denomination in which each congregation can call their own shots. Each order has an important contribution and power in the church but the main job was for them to work together as equals. But this balance of power was not evident in the founding of the Diocese of Fort Worth and until its reorganization 2 years ago, the role of the laity was perceived by many as ‘pay and pray.’
So in our reorganization of the diocese it is incumbent upon us to provide ways of all members being involved in the governance of the diocese--both clergy and lay. The process for nomination must be clear and visible, not done behind closed doors of ‘confidentiality’. All proposed names for diocesan office who are members in good standing should appear on the ballots of our convention. There should be no vetting by a nominations committee or the like otherwise it will have the mark of previous administrations on the diocesan process of governance. Transparency is absolutely necessary to shake us from previous practices to insure the Church that the Diocese has righted itself from its past.
The job of a nominations committee is to provide the candidates’ biographical information to the convention and to check their eligibility. It is also incumbent for that committee to provide descriptions of the positions that are to be filled. That is all. No discussion as to the candidates’ viability or their abilities or personality should take place. It is the purview of the convention to determine the viability and appropriateness of candidates for the positions. No one should have to step down from the Nominating Committee in order to run for office; no one is refused nomination for any reason other than ineligibility.
Righting past wrongs is more than just giving previously disenfranchised persons voice. It requires a vigilance to put in place structures that provide for different ways of calling forth from us good governance and demanding from us all adherence to principles of transparency and openness. Ideally the governance of The Episcopal Church is one in which each order can trust the other because we have our unique gifts and charisms. We, as a diocese are getting there. But we must continue to demand from all our committees and organizations the kind of processes that speak clarity and openness.