Administration and Spirituality: A False Dichotomy

Administration and Spirituality: A False Dichotomy July 18, 2012

Spiritual Maturity and Administrative Skills

In the controversy over the decision to involuntarily retire Bishop Bledsoe, Mr. Don House, chair of the evaluation committee, said,

. . . the committee was aware of “great things” in the North Texas Conference, and praised Bishop Bledsoe as “a gifted man, a dedicated Christian man in the church.” But he said the committee acted in the interest of the denomination.

“We need excellent administrative skills, and that’s the primary motivation behind this – the health of the church,” he said. “Although Bishop Bledsoe has excellent skills in many areas, we were concerned about some of his administrative skills.”

Now, I’m reading various commentators who seem to think that being a dedicated Christian ought to be sufficient for the office of the episcopacy. They pooh-pooh the problem of questionable administrative skills, deeming them unimportant in the big picture of things.

Losing the Clergy

Read this quote by Richard Hearne, former Lay Leader of the North Texas Conference:

‘“He lost the clergy,” Mr. Hearne said, adding he felt Bishop Bledsoe could have avoided the committee’s action by acknowledging mistakes and promising to do better.”

Yes, he did lose the clergy, or at least some of them and possibly a majority of them. I don’t think it was because of any personal animosity toward him–he was warmly welcomed here and we all hoped for great things together.  So what happened?

Before I answer that, I’d like you to enter into several scenarios.

  • If you’ve ever watched a show on those who suffer from compulsive hoarding, you may have seen how chaotic are the lives of family members who have to live with the hoarder.  That person’s inability to prioritize possessions, and bring some order to just normal activities of daily living sends spouses, children, and housemates screaming to therapists for help. How would you function in such an environment?
  • Spend some time observing children at play.  Which ones are the happiest and most engaged in their play for extensive periods of time? The ones whose play area, whatever it might be (room, playpen, back yard, sand box) is cluttered with too many options, and too many toys that do not permit freedom to manipulate the toys in non-prescribed ways? Or the ones who have limited options but within those options can do pretty well what they want with the objects therein?
  • Think about your own workplace.  Where do you thrive the best?  In an atmosphere where directions and expectations are clear, where supportive leadership is given, and where you have good autonomy to reach shared goals?  Or a place where expectations are exceedingly unclear and shift constantly, where unqualified people are promoted to top positions, where you are routinely berated for poor performance but never given tools, time and training to improve your performance and where your supervisor constantly looks over your shoulders and second guesses each decision you make?

Tasks of a Good Administrator

Each of those scenarios is essentially administrative in nature.  A good and effective administrator knows how to prioritize, discards that which is unnecessary and distractive to the main goals, intentionally limits options but offers huge space for creativity within those option, has clear expectations and then makes it possible for those working under his/her supervision to reach those expectations.

How are these things not spiritual in nature?  Do they not reflect the nature of God and the way God deals with us? How can being a good and effective administrator be de-coupled from the type of mature Christian leadership needed as an effective Episcopal servant of the church?

Holiness and Dirty Diapers

When I was a young mother, up to my ears in diapers and needy babies, I realized something exceedingly important:  the act of changing a dirty diaper was equally as spiritual as time spent in intense Bible study or prayer.  That act of changing those smelly and often disgusting diapers (and these were the days when those dirty pieces of cloth then soaked in the toilet before the move to the washing machine and dryer in a never ending cycle), when done lovingly and with unending patience, is an act of service to the least of those.  It is a holy act.  It is also an act of administration.  It is an act of bringing order to chaos.

In Genesis One, when the world was void and formless, God brought order to that chaos.  Opening space for creative ministry and holy growth is essentially an administrative act.

The Problem of Clergy Morale

So to go back to Richard Hearn’s comment about losing the clergy:  It was my sense and my experience that clergy morale sank to a deep low under Bishop Bledsoe’s leadership.  Bishop Bledsoe acknowledged that fact himself in a video put out a couple of weeks before the North Texas Annual Conference.  He invited clergy to respond.  I don’t know how many did, but I heard (and I could be wrong) that it was somewhere around forty.

Now, I write a weekly newspaper column for two local newspapers.  Periodically people will write or email me in response.  I know, as do most writers, that the response of one person generally means 100 to 2000 others wanted to and just didn’t.  If as many as 40 clergy responded to the Bishop, that would effectively represent the entire ranks of clergy in the North Texas Conference.  That is a serious situation.

I was one of those who did respond.  Here the first of three questions I posed to him (all three questions can be found here):

First, how exactly are you going to define an “effective” clergy person?

This blog post more fully asks that question. Effectiveness judged by numbers is highly contextually defined, and may have much less to do with the numbers that appear on various dashboards than they do with a fortunate demographic, some deep pockets in the congregation and a compromise of the message of the gospel and of personal integrity. Those numbers may have little to do with the calling, character, or missional fruitfulness of that clergy person.

To date, I have yet to see one comprehensive statement that clarifies what an effective clergy person looks like.

Also, while I understand the Bullseye measurement system now required as part of the consultation process is supposed to emphasize narratives not numbers, the system itself appears to give numbers only the large visual prominence highlighted by colors on quick glance.  Those initial impressions are rarely easily erased by reading smaller type-face explanations.

One more factor here:  I have heard several times that you and members of the Cabinet consider one third of the clergy in the North Texas Conference as “ineffective.”  Have you let that third know of that such designation is attached to their name and record?  How about the clergy deemed “effective?”  Do they know?

To use a business analogy:  if ⅓ of a given workforce is not doing their job, and if that significant portion of the workforce is never informed of the problem nor given opportunity to see and address the evaluations, how will there be improvement? And if the other ⅔ are working up to expectation, but are also never informed of such fact, but only told that (undefined) incompetence or ineffectiveness is a huge problem, then fear and anxiety will rule. Rarely do such emotions produce more self-motivated and willing work environments.

All clergy in this conference need to know how they have been classified (effective or ineffective; fruitful or unfruitful, or the latest terminology) and the reasons for that decision.

Bishop Bledsoe and I did have a thirty-minute phone conversation concerning my questions. I did not hear from him an answer to any of them.

A Grace Issue

The Rev. Zan Holmes, who accompanied Bishop Bledsoe as clergy advocate (and it needs to be noted here that reports indicate the clergy in this conference who were called before the infamous “Triads” were denied the privilege of having a clergy advocate with them), stated,

“I’m very disappointed that the committee decided to retire this bishop at this time, in spite of the fact that he really worked hard to be a change agent in the North Texas Conference, for the good of the church,”

He added that he would go along with Bishop Bledsoe’s assessment that race wasn’t an issue in the committee’s decision.

“But I call it a grace issue,” he said. “And one of the questions I raised is where is the grace in this process where we minister to one another and affirm one another and help one another grow.”

Yes, I agree: this is a grace issue.  And it involves much more that Bishop Bledsoe’s job and position.  It involves speaking our own difficult truths, seeking to help one another move to perfection in love, moving to deep repentance when sin is exposed, and offering the fullness of forgiveness to one another.

Grace does not, however, mean keeping people in positions for which they have either inadequate gifts or a disinclination to exercise those gifts when necessary.  We separate our spirituality from our administrative gifts at our peril and at the peril of those whom we are called to lead.

I do believe that there that a holy chaos overtakes us as we move closer to the fullness of the Presence of God and discover that our sense of order may not match God’s sense of order.  However, there is also an unholy chaos that is deeply dispiriting and keeps us from our mission.  That unholy chaos must be addressed–on every level.


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  • As a lapsed United Methodist on the verge of being brought back into the fold, I have this plea for conference leaders: Please re-consider numbers as a sign of the faith’s health and vitality. It’s obvious that mainline, protestant clergy are presiding over a long funeral march as members age and die — without new Christians joining the flock to replace them.

    Instead, consider the service UM churches are giving to their neighborhoods as an extension of God’s grace. What is being done in the name of all that is holy? We might be living in the twilight of Christendom as we know it, but much work can be done in the twilight.

    Krum UMC hopeful

    Cindy Breeding

  • As a lapsed United Methodist on the verge of being brought back into the fold, I have this plea for conference leaders: Please re-consider numbers as a sign of the faith’s health and vitality. It’s obvious that mainline, protestant clergy are presiding over a long funeral march as members age and die — without new Christians joining the flock to replace them.

    Instead, consider the service UM churches are giving to their neighborhoods as an extension of God’s grace. What is being done in the name of all that is holy? We might be living in the twilight of Christendom as we know it, but much work can be done in the twilight.

    Krum UMC hopeful

    Cindy Breeding

  • And one more thought: Where I work, if workers are “ineffective” as a whole, it is considered a failure of leadership. It is not diagnosed as a failure of the workers.

    • That really is a basic management principle, isn’t it. But it has not been practiced here in any visible manner.

  • And one more thought: Where I work, if workers are “ineffective” as a whole, it is considered a failure of leadership. It is not diagnosed as a failure of the workers.

    • That really is a basic management principle, isn’t it. But it has not been practiced here in any visible manner.

  • Lots of paths taken in this blog post…inspired some thinking and soul searching from this momma who is knee-deep in diapers and ministry in this phase of my life. And, my desk is certainly not organized and my house needs help too…hmmm…how does personality type influence one’s organization?

    • I’m not suggesting that everything needs to be in perfect order–that has its own pathology associated with it. We’ve each got a different system of order, of deciding what is clean and unclean, so to speak. But, I am coming to the conclusion that if one’s children (or church or church members) are routinely discouraged, fretful, clingy, needy and unable to discover their own creativity, then something is wrong with the larger structure, i.e., the organization of the system.

  • Lots of paths taken in this blog post…inspired some thinking and soul searching from this momma who is knee-deep in diapers and ministry in this phase of my life. And, my desk is certainly not organized and my house needs help too…hmmm…how does personality type influence one’s organization?

    • I’m not suggesting that everything needs to be in perfect order–that has its own pathology associated with it. We’ve each got a different system of order, of deciding what is clean and unclean, so to speak. But, I am coming to the conclusion that if one’s children (or church or church members) are routinely discouraged, fretful, clingy, needy and unable to discover their own creativity, then something is wrong with the larger structure, i.e., the organization of the system.

  • Denise Peckham

    Once again you have offered a courageous and thoughtful response to a painful reality that is faced in the Church. I understand that many well-meaning church people seperate administration and spirituality, but that type of thinking is nothing new. The gnostics tried seperating the physical from the spiritual centuries ago. It works to cast blame and offer excuses, but yet my understaning is that we are created complete – body, mind, spirit (soma I believe is the term) – and as such we cannot seperate one part as if it is a silo.

    Our vocation includes our whole being as well – while we may have particular strengths or gifts, we are called as a whole person into ministry to love and serve in all aspects. Granted, some of us need help in particular areas, but that does not excuse our behavior or take away responsibility if we have caused harm. In spite of this, the work of the Church (not just the UMC) continues, the reign of God is still at hand, and the the saints – and sinners – continue to walk in faith by grace alone.

    • Thank you, Denise. You are absolutely right about the Gnostics–and we separate ourselves that way at our peril. I just keep praying, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” and know that the work of the church has almost ways been a long, slow process. This is not new.

  • Denise Peckham

    Once again you have offered a courageous and thoughtful response to a painful reality that is faced in the Church. I understand that many well-meaning church people seperate administration and spirituality, but that type of thinking is nothing new. The gnostics tried seperating the physical from the spiritual centuries ago. It works to cast blame and offer excuses, but yet my understaning is that we are created complete – body, mind, spirit (soma I believe is the term) – and as such we cannot seperate one part as if it is a silo.

    Our vocation includes our whole being as well – while we may have particular strengths or gifts, we are called as a whole person into ministry to love and serve in all aspects. Granted, some of us need help in particular areas, but that does not excuse our behavior or take away responsibility if we have caused harm. In spite of this, the work of the Church (not just the UMC) continues, the reign of God is still at hand, and the the saints – and sinners – continue to walk in faith by grace alone.

    • Thank you, Denise. You are absolutely right about the Gnostics–and we separate ourselves that way at our peril. I just keep praying, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” and know that the work of the church has almost ways been a long, slow process. This is not new.

  • As someone who has the gift of bringing order to chaos–gift of order/administration–along with the gifts of teaching and discernment, I so appreciate your well stated and thoughtful words you have written. I am thankful and recognize, too, the time and effort you made to contact and talk with Bishop Bledsoe.

    In my experience, without order their can be no vision and no implementation of vision. Visionaries have to have administrators/detail people whom they trust to help them implement their vision they must also be capable of building trust so that others will own the vision

    Teachers also know that when bad behavior–ineffective ministry–is rewarded, then you continue to get ineffective behavior. Ineffective behavior is not often measured by numbers. Ineffective behavior is measured and demonstrated in broken and poor or non-existent relationships–lack of trust.

    Numbers can easily be manipulated ask a statistician, an accountant, or a lawyer. The UMC continues to choose to a address the reality of our condition and status by relying on a system that is hell bent bound and determined to use numbers to solve problems. Healthy relationships among clergy and laity–all God’s people and all ministers of Christ–that are based on trust, order and rewarding effective behavior–not numbers– is the only way for the UMC to move forward and solve our problems instead of using smoke and mirrors to focus on symptoms.

    • Dear Susan, I so appreciate what you’ve added to the mix of thinking here. We really have rewarded bad behavior, and now, as the Episcopacy Committe has tried to address this on a high level, I’m betting they get slammed rather than affirmed by their very courageous decision. This also happens with lower level clergy and laity. The loud, whiny, complainy ones often get what they want just to get them to be quiet–and we all pay the price.

      Thank you for taking the time to write–and for reading my blog.

  • As someone who has the gift of bringing order to chaos–gift of order/administration–along with the gifts of teaching and discernment, I so appreciate your well stated and thoughtful words you have written. I am thankful and recognize, too, the time and effort you made to contact and talk with Bishop Bledsoe.

    In my experience, without order their can be no vision and no implementation of vision. Visionaries have to have administrators/detail people whom they trust to help them implement their vision they must also be capable of building trust so that others will own the vision

    Teachers also know that when bad behavior–ineffective ministry–is rewarded, then you continue to get ineffective behavior. Ineffective behavior is not often measured by numbers. Ineffective behavior is measured and demonstrated in broken and poor or non-existent relationships–lack of trust.

    Numbers can easily be manipulated ask a statistician, an accountant, or a lawyer. The UMC continues to choose to a address the reality of our condition and status by relying on a system that is hell bent bound and determined to use numbers to solve problems. Healthy relationships among clergy and laity–all God’s people and all ministers of Christ–that are based on trust, order and rewarding effective behavior–not numbers– is the only way for the UMC to move forward and solve our problems instead of using smoke and mirrors to focus on symptoms.

    • Dear Susan, I so appreciate what you’ve added to the mix of thinking here. We really have rewarded bad behavior, and now, as the Episcopacy Committe has tried to address this on a high level, I’m betting they get slammed rather than affirmed by their very courageous decision. This also happens with lower level clergy and laity. The loud, whiny, complainy ones often get what they want just to get them to be quiet–and we all pay the price.

      Thank you for taking the time to write–and for reading my blog.

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  • Jerry G Putnam

    I once heard the analogy of the duck. A duck can fly. A duck can swim. A duck can walk. The duck is functional in all three roles yet there is a difference in the level of difficulty that is presented the duck given it’s God given gifts of flying, swimming, and walking.

    I believe we all are somewhat like the duck. Each of is is gifted by God. We have areas in our lives where we can soar like the duck in flight. We have areas where we like the duck swim. We are proficient and reasonably able to get the job done but it is not lke soaring. There are also areas where we waddle. These areas are more difficult for us. They don’t come naturally and we struggle more to perform in these areas. No one soars in all areas. No one swims in all areas. no one waddles in all areas.

    The real freeing thing about this analogy is when one is self aware they know their areas of strength and they know their areas of weakness. When we know we waddle we can develop compensatory skills, or we surround ourselves with people that help us in the waddling and allow us to function in our stronger gifts.

    Why did I say all this? I believe it is at this point where Bishop Bledsoe had some serious issues. When one acts as though they can soar and every one can see they are waddling, tension develops along with frustration. When there is no self awareness of strengths and weakness and therefore no developed compensatory skills leadership is impaired. One can lead in areas where they waddle only if they are self aware enough to address those areas and compensate.

    Bishop Bledsoe like all of us had waddling areas especially in leadership and interpersonal skills. He like some uf us was not self aware enough to deal with his stuff. He became threatened and then defensive which tends to cut one off from the very help he needed. The high visibility of his office made it very apparent to all except the Bishop.

    I believe the JEC wanted to help Bishop Bledsoe and would have helped him had he showed any ability to see and address his areas of weakness. He was surly and defiant and showed no willingness to do this. I believe the Committee was frustrated and backed into a corner. Thus the outcome.

    It is a message to all of us. We all need honest reflection and correction in order to move forward in leadership. When this is not present we suffer and cause others to suffer as well.

    I pray for the Divine illumination that only the Holy Spirit can give to help me be open and humble enough to receive the help I need to be effective for the Kingdom of God. I pray for my Bishop as well because I have done the same thing at times in my ministry and was blessed enough to have those who came along side and showed me grace and spoke the truth in love. Praise God I have learned and am learning to listen, even when it is painful. I have heard the voice of God through those who cared enough to lovingly confront.

    • Jerry, I was just in the midst of composing another post about our blind spots. I think you’ve got a very good take on this–Bishop Bledsoe apparently is remarkably unaware of his weaknesses and the places where he has compromised the essentials that are imperative for one who has the position of spiritual leader of a large organization. But he can’t see it. We’ve all got big blind spots, and unless we systematically arrange to hear painful but healing truths about ourselves, we will persist in destructive behavior. It appears the Bishop has surrounded himself with those who either can not or will not speak that kind of truth to him–or they do, and he choses not to integrate it into his soul. I, too, hope we all learn from this.

      • Jerry G Putnam

        Thanks Christy,

        I really appreciate you candid thought.

  • Jerry G Putnam

    I once heard the analogy of the duck. A duck can fly. A duck can swim. A duck can walk. The duck is functional in all three roles yet there is a difference in the level of difficulty that is presented the duck given it’s God given gifts of flying, swimming, and walking.

    I believe we all are somewhat like the duck. Each of is is gifted by God. We have areas in our lives where we can soar like the duck in flight. We have areas where we like the duck swim. We are proficient and reasonably able to get the job done but it is not lke soaring. There are also areas where we waddle. These areas are more difficult for us. They don’t come naturally and we struggle more to perform in these areas. No one soars in all areas. No one swims in all areas. no one waddles in all areas.

    The real freeing thing about this analogy is when one is self aware they know their areas of strength and they know their areas of weakness. When we know we waddle we can develop compensatory skills, or we surround ourselves with people that help us in the waddling and allow us to function in our stronger gifts.

    Why did I say all this? I believe it is at this point where Bishop Bledsoe had some serious issues. When one acts as though they can soar and every one can see they are waddling, tension develops along with frustration. When there is no self awareness of strengths and weakness and therefore no developed compensatory skills leadership is impaired. One can lead in areas where they waddle only if they are self aware enough to address those areas and compensate.

    Bishop Bledsoe like all of us had waddling areas especially in leadership and interpersonal skills. He like some uf us was not self aware enough to deal with his stuff. He became threatened and then defensive which tends to cut one off from the very help he needed. The high visibility of his office made it very apparent to all except the Bishop.

    I believe the JEC wanted to help Bishop Bledsoe and would have helped him had he showed any ability to see and address his areas of weakness. He was surly and defiant and showed no willingness to do this. I believe the Committee was frustrated and backed into a corner. Thus the outcome.

    It is a message to all of us. We all need honest reflection and correction in order to move forward in leadership. When this is not present we suffer and cause others to suffer as well.

    I pray for the Divine illumination that only the Holy Spirit can give to help me be open and humble enough to receive the help I need to be effective for the Kingdom of God. I pray for my Bishop as well because I have done the same thing at times in my ministry and was blessed enough to have those who came along side and showed me grace and spoke the truth in love. Praise God I have learned and am learning to listen, even when it is painful. I have heard the voice of God through those who cared enough to lovingly confront.

    • Jerry, I was just in the midst of composing another post about our blind spots. I think you’ve got a very good take on this–Bishop Bledsoe apparently is remarkably unaware of his weaknesses and the places where he has compromised the essentials that are imperative for one who has the position of spiritual leader of a large organization. But he can’t see it. We’ve all got big blind spots, and unless we systematically arrange to hear painful but healing truths about ourselves, we will persist in destructive behavior. It appears the Bishop has surrounded himself with those who either can not or will not speak that kind of truth to him–or they do, and he choses not to integrate it into his soul. I, too, hope we all learn from this.

      • Jerry G Putnam

        Thanks Christy,

        I really appreciate you candid thought.

  • Don Wiley

    These responses have been both very passionate and clear-minded. It’s a welcome change from the way collegial discussion (or lack thereof) has gone over the past 3 1/2 years. A huge difference I noticed was in the reliance on power based leadership models rather than consensus building through shared visions and goals.

    In my experiences with several members of this leadership group, I have found much evidence of the ‘Robert McNamara syndrome’ – “Sometimes in error, never in doubt”. For some – like former Defense Secretary/CIA Director Robert McNamara himself (a brilliant, organized leader) it was just arrogance. [surprisingly, in his retirement he seemed to have learned this. In our one meeting, he was brilliant, but self-deprecating, funny and surprisingly modest.] For others, this attitude is all bluster that says much about personal insecurity. My experience has been that those who rely on power that comes with position instead of the authority they bring as a leader are often insecure about their abilities to lead.

    I think it is fair to say key members of the Bishop’s leadership team are/were not suited to their jobs – in fact, I think it is fair to say tha.t a couple of the choices for District Superintendents of the new, far-too-large districts were as much a reason for failure of the ‘reorganization’ as the severely flawed plan itself. When you throw in the manner in which he and many of his leadership team forced through his objectives, you have a veritable thesis on how to reverse the ‘good will’ and ‘benefit of the doubt’ that comes to new bishops.

    Effectiveness begins at home. One of my personal failings as a leader is followup on detail. When I was asked to lead a building committee/capital funds drive, I knew the most important position on the committee was not mine; it was the vice-chair who kept all the records straight. I made it a point to make sure everyone knew that. I also know that there are times when I cannot just say, “That’s not one of my gifts.” I f I am going to ask for effectiveness, I must reflect it – in my work, in my decisions, in my personnel choices and in my willingness to listen.

    Much like changing the baby, some things simply must be done whether one is good at it or not, whether one likes it or not, and whether it is hard or distasteful. Communication, facing those who disagree, a willingness to listen with attention to solution instead of saving face – these are all things which would have stood my bishop in good stead. It would have shown a collegiality that bespoke comfort in who he is and true humility in his service as an episcopal leader. Had he understood he had made some profoundly bad personnel choices for critically important positions and been willing to make the difficult decision to remove them and find better qualified persons, had he been willing to listen to others regarding implementation of some of his plans and had he been willing to ask for help in fixing the situation, we would not, as a jurisdiction, had to endure what was by consensus, a most grueling and painful conference AND be facing the expense of a special jurisdictional conference to replace him once his status is determined.

    And yes, I am aware that the root word ‘spirit’ has not entered this post … and that should tell us boatloads.

    • Don, I am so grateful to read what you’ve written–your insights here provide some validation for what I’ve seen and thought but have been extremely reticent to voice publicly. I know there is at least a small movement by some of the clergy to speak out more truthfully and stop letting fear shut us down so much. But there is no question that such courage can also mean a terrible price to pay when dealing with someone with nearly total power over us and who has functioned in a nearly unaccountable way. Even so, we must do so.

      Thank you for so freely giving of your wisdom to the work of the church and the hope of kingdom of heaven reality. You are a blessing to all you touch.

      • Don Wiley

        I spoke up … and out … and I was: (1) summarily removed by my DS from a committee to which I was elected by the Annual Conference, one on which I had served with joy and commitment for over a decade – forget the fact that the Discipline only empowers the Bishop to take such an action if based on cause or lack of attendance; and (2) was told in June I was not a member of the 2012 Annual Conference, although elected by my church charge conference and reported to the DS with all other church members.

        This is why I am no longer a participant in the connectional church. As I said at my last committee meeting and at Annual Conference nearly two years later “I have better things to do with my time.” I _choose_ to be involved in ministry which makes a difference at the local church level, in mission work and in outreach.

        One of the things I have learned about arrogance, and this is my personal experience of my _personal_ arrogance, is it sows the seeds of its own destruction very capably. Put another way, I believe there is a coming seminar in humility which is born in the adolescence of my pride. When my willfulness reaches its prime, that lesson in humility finally reaches maturity … and I get the grace that comes with its instruction. God uses everything for His own plan [and please forgive my gender backwardness when it comes to God pronouns – it is not meant to be exclusive; it is just the best way I can express my relationship and I am just that kinda guy… 😉 ]

        • Don, I had no idea that this had happened. But it makes even more sense why so few are willing to speak up. A friend of mine just texted that she had lunch with a bunch of clergy who have been reading and admiring my blog and courage for writing. But few (or none) will actually say that in person–because it would be dangerous to be in association with me.

          • Don Wiley

            The problem, Christy, is not the Annual Conference’s loss of my rapier wit, wisdom and all-around charisma: it is the tag that goes with any such disagreement if you happen to be disabled, as I am, by being a middle-aged, North Dallas Anglo male. it is the tag of ‘racist’, ‘racially motivated’, ‘ethnically insensitive’, or, my favorite phrase, ‘has problems with persons of color being in positions of authority’… It is the most demeaning thing a person can say…not to me, but to persons of color. It demeans by assuming (1) no one can have a valid critique of another unsullied by racial prejudice and (2) persons of color will always need preference

            When I can say that my _______ (fill in the blank), not my African American/Anglo/Asian/Hispanic _________ is doing a great job or a poor job, without fear of reprisal or label, without someone first checking MY racial/ethnic background, then we will have made strides. I thought we were there. I certainly thought I was. If we in the Body of Christ will not and do not accord each other the common decency of the assumption of good will and good intention, then we are lost.

          • Don, I completely agree and wrote this on another post: ( http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thoughtfulpastor/2012/06/21/the-impossibility-of-proving-a-negative-why-metrics-dont-work-as-evaluative-tools/ )

            No “isms” have a place in kingdom of heaven living. *Nonetheless, issues of call, character and competence do have a place*. We must not move someone from a leadership position on the basis of an “ism” but we can and should move someone on other grounds with sufficient reasons. If a person, by reason of any “ism,” is no longer subject to evaluation of call, character and competence, then what we have is a whole new and disturbing paradigm of unaccountable leadership, itself based on an “ism.”

            We become truly racist when we ignore this issue. **

  • Don Wiley

    These responses have been both very passionate and clear-minded. It’s a welcome change from the way collegial discussion (or lack thereof) has gone over the past 3 1/2 years. A huge difference I noticed was in the reliance on power based leadership models rather than consensus building through shared visions and goals.

    In my experiences with several members of this leadership group, I have found much evidence of the ‘Robert McNamara syndrome’ – “Sometimes in error, never in doubt”. For some – like former Defense Secretary/CIA Director Robert McNamara himself (a brilliant, organized leader) it was just arrogance. [surprisingly, in his retirement he seemed to have learned this. In our one meeting, he was brilliant, but self-deprecating, funny and surprisingly modest.] For others, this attitude is all bluster that says much about personal insecurity. My experience has been that those who rely on power that comes with position instead of the authority they bring as a leader are often insecure about their abilities to lead.

    I think it is fair to say key members of the Bishop’s leadership team are/were not suited to their jobs – in fact, I think it is fair to say tha.t a couple of the choices for District Superintendents of the new, far-too-large districts were as much a reason for failure of the ‘reorganization’ as the severely flawed plan itself. When you throw in the manner in which he and many of his leadership team forced through his objectives, you have a veritable thesis on how to reverse the ‘good will’ and ‘benefit of the doubt’ that comes to new bishops.

    Effectiveness begins at home. One of my personal failings as a leader is followup on detail. When I was asked to lead a building committee/capital funds drive, I knew the most important position on the committee was not mine; it was the vice-chair who kept all the records straight. I made it a point to make sure everyone knew that. I also know that there are times when I cannot just say, “That’s not one of my gifts.” I f I am going to ask for effectiveness, I must reflect it – in my work, in my decisions, in my personnel choices and in my willingness to listen.

    Much like changing the baby, some things simply must be done whether one is good at it or not, whether one likes it or not, and whether it is hard or distasteful. Communication, facing those who disagree, a willingness to listen with attention to solution instead of saving face – these are all things which would have stood my bishop in good stead. It would have shown a collegiality that bespoke comfort in who he is and true humility in his service as an episcopal leader. Had he understood he had made some profoundly bad personnel choices for critically important positions and been willing to make the difficult decision to remove them and find better qualified persons, had he been willing to listen to others regarding implementation of some of his plans and had he been willing to ask for help in fixing the situation, we would not, as a jurisdiction, had to endure what was by consensus, a most grueling and painful conference AND be facing the expense of a special jurisdictional conference to replace him once his status is determined.

    And yes, I am aware that the root word ‘spirit’ has not entered this post … and that should tell us boatloads.

    • Don, I am so grateful to read what you’ve written–your insights here provide some validation for what I’ve seen and thought but have been extremely reticent to voice publicly. I know there is at least a small movement by some of the clergy to speak out more truthfully and stop letting fear shut us down so much. But there is no question that such courage can also mean a terrible price to pay when dealing with someone with nearly total power over us and who has functioned in a nearly unaccountable way. Even so, we must do so.

      Thank you for so freely giving of your wisdom to the work of the church and the hope of kingdom of heaven reality. You are a blessing to all you touch.

      • Don Wiley

        I spoke up … and out … and I was: (1) summarily removed by my DS from a committee to which I was elected by the Annual Conference, one on which I had served with joy and commitment for over a decade – forget the fact that the Discipline only empowers the Bishop to take such an action if based on cause or lack of attendance; and (2) was told in June I was not a member of the 2012 Annual Conference, although elected by my church charge conference and reported to the DS with all other church members.

        This is why I am no longer a participant in the connectional church. As I said at my last committee meeting and at Annual Conference nearly two years later “I have better things to do with my time.” I _choose_ to be involved in ministry which makes a difference at the local church level, in mission work and in outreach.

        One of the things I have learned about arrogance, and this is my personal experience of my _personal_ arrogance, is it sows the seeds of its own destruction very capably. Put another way, I believe there is a coming seminar in humility which is born in the adolescence of my pride. When my willfulness reaches its prime, that lesson in humility finally reaches maturity … and I get the grace that comes with its instruction. God uses everything for His own plan [and please forgive my gender backwardness when it comes to God pronouns – it is not meant to be exclusive; it is just the best way I can express my relationship and I am just that kinda guy… 😉 ]

        • Don, I had no idea that this had happened. But it makes even more sense why so few are willing to speak up. A friend of mine just texted that she had lunch with a bunch of clergy who have been reading and admiring my blog and courage for writing. But few (or none) will actually say that in person–because it would be dangerous to be in association with me.

          • Don Wiley

            The problem, Christy, is not the Annual Conference’s loss of my rapier wit, wisdom and all-around charisma: it is the tag that goes with any such disagreement if you happen to be disabled, as I am, by being a middle-aged, North Dallas Anglo male. it is the tag of ‘racist’, ‘racially motivated’, ‘ethnically insensitive’, or, my favorite phrase, ‘has problems with persons of color being in positions of authority’… It is the most demeaning thing a person can say…not to me, but to persons of color. It demeans by assuming (1) no one can have a valid critique of another unsullied by racial prejudice and (2) persons of color will always need preference

            When I can say that my _______ (fill in the blank), not my African American/Anglo/Asian/Hispanic _________ is doing a great job or a poor job, without fear of reprisal or label, without someone first checking MY racial/ethnic background, then we will have made strides. I thought we were there. I certainly thought I was. If we in the Body of Christ will not and do not accord each other the common decency of the assumption of good will and good intention, then we are lost.

          • Don, I completely agree and wrote this on another post: ( http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thoughtfulpastor/2012/06/21/the-impossibility-of-proving-a-negative-why-metrics-dont-work-as-evaluative-tools/ )

            No “isms” have a place in kingdom of heaven living. *Nonetheless, issues of call, character and competence do have a place*. We must not move someone from a leadership position on the basis of an “ism” but we can and should move someone on other grounds with sufficient reasons. If a person, by reason of any “ism,” is no longer subject to evaluation of call, character and competence, then what we have is a whole new and disturbing paradigm of unaccountable leadership, itself based on an “ism.”

            We become truly racist when we ignore this issue. **

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