Friday, June 22, 2012

Budgeting - Getting into the messy details in a contemplative yet pragmatic way

It's been so long since I've been able to post something here. I wish that I took more time to keep my blog current. I'll work on that project during the summer when life should, at least hopefully, slow down a little bit.

I recall that I first started blogging when I was going through the ordination discernment process. I was very interested in The Episcopal Church's life, mission, and processes. Thus, it's not surprising that something that is presently going on in The Episcopal Church (re)captured my attention.  Episcopalian leaders will be gathering in Indianapolis for this year's (77th)  General Convention in about two weeks. Lay persons, priests, deacons, and bishops will work separately and with one another to work on and resolve hundreds of issues. The  Blue Book details all of the various committees, councils, and agencies working throughout the convention. Unquestionably, the most pressing and controversial issue facing the bishops and deputies is the work upon the denomination's 2013-2015 budget. The processes leading up to the adoption of this budget have been convoluted and unsettling. Many observers, including me, were shocked by the proposed cuts to Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministries. One of the church's brightest stars and a St. James parishioner made an excellent video explaining the impact a 90% budget reduction would make upon her, her family, and other Episcopalians. The Dean of Bexley Hall wrote a very penetrating and meanigful commentary about the entire process on his Crusty Old Dean blog.

Here's the deal, last night, I made some comments about this whole budget thing on The Rev. Scott Gunn's Facebook page.  I did so after learning that The Presiding Bishop had decided to submit her own budget. That felt odd to me because she's a member of the denomination's Executive Council and certainly should have had a major stake in their budgetary decisions and debate.  On some level, it feels like Presiding Bishop Schori was very unhappy with what happened with the Executive Council's activities so she is consequently using her organizational authority and leadership status to adopt a budget, that's probably better, on to the General Convention's docket. Top-down decision making and influence scares me, probably because of my military background. Then I read some more comments on Bishop Kirk Smith's blog this earlier today. I wrote some comments there that I won't repeat here.

Here's what I do want to say .... We continue to be in the midst of numerous reformations, within and outside of the Church. Reformations evolve through technical and adaptive changes. Technical changes are about managing and reallocating resources. Technical changes require managers, "leaders," or resource controllers to make rapid organizational or institutional decisions. They often if not always produce new results. That are rarely, if ever, transformational. Adaptive changes hold a greater possibility for truly reforming people, communities, and hopefully Christ's Church. They are messy, protracted, and usually more organic than disciplinary. Ronald Heifetz writes: "Leadership is about mobilizing people’s capacity to sift through and hold on to what’s essential from their past. (Leaders) sift through their organization’s past, or from their family, neighborhood, or community’s past, and hold on to what’s precious and essential from that past (in order) to)hold onto what’s essential. They carry that forward, and discard and let go of that which is no longer essential so that they can take advantage of the opportunities that are generated from these cross-boundary interactions and from contemporary life. 

I hope that The Episcopal Church's deputies and bishops will not get too bogged down in only figuring out technical solutions for our church's budgetary and canonical processes. I pray that they and we as a Church will venture out on to that longer and unforeseeable path like the early disciples and apostles did. I understand that we are by far more institutional and concretized than Sts. Peter and Paul. However, the General Convention, at least from my perspective is hardly post-modern and typically concerned with preserving the status quo. We Episcopalians speak publicly about desiring to become more organic but most of our responses and actions are truly more technical than adaptive. Those persons exercising leadership need to boldly, faithfully, act in an integrated manner. There is an important maxim that I am in the process of learning from Hugh O'Doherty through the Clergy Leadership Project.   It is: "People only take responsibility for those things and actions that they help to create." I am striving to live into such leadership behaviors as a priest, pastor and person. I pray that the Holy Spirit will be present in Indianapolis, especially as Episcopalians discuss the budget and other life-changing and hopefully transformational challenges/opportunities that will be present there.  

Blessings Along The Way, Jim+


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