Anglican Watch

PB nominating committee grinds away, Stinkbomb gnashes his teeth

The search for a new PB begins

Okay, call Stinkbomb a pessimist. But the nominating committee for the next presiding bishop (PB) has started work and he is feeling profoundly dubious. Underwhelmed. Unimpressed. The list goes on, but you get the idea.

To begin with, the committee comprises about what you’d expect. A glittering mosaic of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and age. That’s good, in and of itself. But as we saw in the debacle that was the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia bishop search, sometimes diversity overcomes competence. Let’s hope that’s not the case here.

But far too often, nominating committee members get named because they themselves have been nominated. Trendy gay dude? Check. Older white woman? Check. Latino? Check. Grouchy parish priest? Still working on that. There is a candidate on the west coast…oh, wait, he hates meetings. Scrap that one.

True to form, there’s the expected consulting firm involved, the Kaleidoscope Institute. Stinkbomb is not familiar with them, but their theology and approach sounds okay, if a bit underwhelming. The task at hand?  Helping the nominations committee with, “intercultural self-awareness competency.”

Holy cow. This is exactly the sort of maddeningly opaque bit of vague church-speak that drives Stinkbomb mad. Or madder than usual. As in bang-his-head-off-the-altar-rail-until-he-feels-better mad. Don’t get Stinkbomb wrong—cross-cultural training and awareness are good. But this sounds suspiciously like listening with respect, which should come with the territory. Not to mention, if most of the committees Stinkbomb has served on are any indicator, Ethics 101 might be a better starting point. As in, it’s unethical to bully someone who disagrees with you.

But Stinkbomb digresses.

From the navel-gazing, we move forward to interviewing ++Curry and ++Katherine to get their insights.

Fair enough, but ++Curry has proven to be, at best, a caretaker. He’s a politician who doesn’t give straight answers. He’s not into accountability, unless the situation is so damned ugly he can’t avoid it.

He’s an entertaining preacher. And he’s got some serious marketing spin going with the whole way of love thing. But while he rightly babbles on about the need for revolution in the church, what is coming from HQ is less like the storming of Versailles, and more like waiting in line at Walmart.

A revolutionary, Curry ain’t
A revolutionary, Curry ain’t

As for ++Katherine, Stinkbomb has been clamoring for some time to be named president of her fan club (replete with rectory and generous salary) but her tenure was most notable for the uproar with the ACNA. She handled it well, but her experience is so exceptional it’s hard to draw many inferences from it. Don’t put up with bullies. Got it. Next.

Then we get to the survey, issued by the nominations committee, asking folks what we should look for in a presiding bishop.

Stinkbomb knows you are trembling with excitement at the prospect of a survey — as were the other 2,400 people who took it.

More than a million members, and only 2,400 can be bothered? Stinkbomb is notoriously bad at math, but he’s pretty sure that is less than one percent. Something like .16 percent.

And it’s not like we had folks at the ballot box, trying to scare off voters. In other words, the response rate is, itself, the most telling answer anyone could give, and the message suggests TEC is not long for this world.

Lest you think that all that banging Stinkbomb’s head off the altar rail led to this erroneous conclusion, check out the nominating committee’s Twitter feed @PB28Nominations. Indeed, his grandmother’s Twitter feed, which mainly talks about what an ungrateful reprobate he is, gets more attention. And while she’s undoubtedly correct, people probably get bored about the fifth time they hear it. Still, she’s got a few hundred followers. #stinkbombisaningrate

As for the nominating committee’s Twitter feed, it follows five — yes, five — other feeds, and is followed by 67. That’s far fewer than the number of ads for Viagra awaiting Stinkbomb in his inbox as he groggily staggers into the church office in the morning, wishing he’d had just one more cup of joe and contemplating a day in which no activities requiring Viagra arise.

Not to mention those requests to keep $8.6 million safe for Prince Bandar Pincushion, last survivor of his family.

Then we get the inevitable jockeying for power. Just like running for political office, candidates need to be asked. But there are some who are making it very clear what their answer would be if they were, um, asked. Like Bishop Robert Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, who suddenly resigned from the committee because he’s over-committed. So what changed since he first agreed to serve? Stinkbomb isn’t sure, but he’s pretty sure it’s not a surge in new members. Hmmm. Stinkbomb would be prepared to bet there’s a play afoot for another African-American PB, but given the state of his checking account….

But then, there are some positive signs. Wright’s replacement is Bishop José McLoughlin, who is better than most members of the Pointy Hats Club. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement, but given the overall quality of the episcopacy, Stinkbomb is happy to have him. Plus, as a former law enforcement officer, José probably knows enough self-defense to escape, dog collar intact, if things get ugly. Who said Episcopalians like conflict?

We also need to look at the situation in the context of the recent search for a bishop of Virginia, the largest domestic diocese in the church.

By any definition, it should be a plum job. Couple hundred grand a year, a house in the middle of a resort, and layers of sycophants to tell you what you want to hear? A big old plantation house right across from a four-star hotel? There should have been hundreds of candidates, and not just Stinkbomb’s pal Prince Pincushion.

But the end result was a slate of candidates that is spectacularly unremarkable. And don’t be blaming that one on the Holy Spirit—she’s got way more common sense than to come up with those four knuckleheads.

Of course, the real reason for the debacle, which is the dysfunction of the diocese, is hardly a secret. Everyone knows it. Yet even now, the only communication we hear from Stevenson is that he plans to hire a new canon to the ordinary. Hold it! Stop the presses. Breaking news, that. We’re staggered.

Stinkbomb imagines, with a note of vague hope, that perhaps Stevenson is signaling he’s going to give diocesan chancellor J.P. Causey the heave-ho and clean up the disgrace that is clergy discipline in the diocese. But that’s based probably more on a lack of sleep than the possibility that change, yes change, could actually come to the church.

What we really need to hear is straight talk about the condition of the diocese. It’s a hot mess, a putrid crock of goo that threatens to engulf anyone who comes too close. In fact, not long ago, it couldn’t even identify all its assets and whether there were restrictions on these assets. Yet the diocese purportedly does an annual audit? Really? If so, time to post that puppy on the website. Even Stinkbomb knows that you cannot audit that which you do not know about.

So how is Stevenson going to fix this mess? Does he have a plan? And does he have a bulldozer big enough? Serious messes require serious cleanup, and it’s going to take a lot more than a stated desire to actually serve the parishes that send money and having three full-time bishops. Gee, and for so many years us little folks thought we were getting big bang for our buck when da bish rolled through in full regalia. Who knew?

By now, your head’s probably swirling. But Stinkbomb invites you to take another step further down this slippery slope of slop.

Imagine the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, multiplied by four in size, then chopped into 99 pieces and scattered across the country. Each with its own mountains of paper, layers of committees, and localized versions of dysfunction. Add in the crumbling churches in Europe and the gun runners in the Diocese of Haiti, and behold! It’s the Episcopal Church, replete with a Madman-era heap in Manhattan.

By now, if you’re like Stinkbomb, apocalyptic visions are swirling through your mind. Swarms of locusts, boils, frogs, pestilence….you get my drift. And no, Stinkbomb has neither been reading the Old Testament lately, nor watching “The Mummy,” for that matter.

Would you really want the job? Forget dealing with the Nile turning to blood. That’s chump change. Instead you’re facing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which on Planet Episcopal are named:

  • Dysfunction
  • Ineptitude
  • Indifference
  • Corruption

Oh, and they’re bringing identical twins with them: Lack of Urgency and Lack of Accountability. They look amazingly alike and it’s sometimes tough to tell the two apart. But they’re an integral part of succession planning and they’re already up to speed. In fact, Stinkbomb is pretty sure they are vestry members somewhere. In fact, they probably got themselves elected to General Convention. Maybe even Executive Council.

All of which is a long way of saying it’s hard to imagine the rational actor interested in taking the job. Thus, it’s hard to imagine the nominations committee putting together a slate of successful candidates.

So Stinkbomb’s desire for a militant, African-American lesbian who led a homeless shelter, likes to cuss, and turns 815 into a treatment center for addicts probably isn’t in the works. She and her ilk are too smart to fall for our tricks.

What we likely will get instead will be a “safe choice,” like Virginia bishop-elect Mark Stevenson. A non-entity, a bureaucrat, good at telling people what they want to hear, quick to hit the block button if someone says something on Facebook that he doesn’t like.

Jesus hung out with tax collectors, prostitutes, and the other dregs of society. Stevenson won’t hang out with you if you criticize him. Slight difference. And Stevenson’s about as interesting as the dirty socks under Stinkbomb’s bed.

And thus the church will slumber on, clinging to its vestiges of past glory, even as the roof leaks and funerals outpace baptisms two to one.

Of course, Stinkbomb may be wrong. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

Nor would Stinkbomb object to being wrong and waking up one morning and saying, “Wow! Great things are happening in the church and we have an AWESOME presiding bishop!”

But the reality is the church is so wedded to its own demise that, were that to happen, Stinkbomb would probably call Uber and hitch a quick ride to the ER.

Why? Because the church is in such a bad way, and clutches so tightly to the chains that bind it, that Stinkbomb would have to conclude that thinking we had a vibrant PB who actually got stuff done was the result of putting one too many dents in the altar rail using his head.

Here’s hoping Stinkbomb will be proven wrong.

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