Monday, May 30, 2011

Questions on Jobs

While it's not the only topic in current politics or economics, we still talk about the importance of increasing employment.  Basically, we want folks to be working.  One of the statements we hear often is that one new job stimulates twelve new jobs.  I don't know that that's true; and I've found a web page that's more specific and circumspect.  However, it seems well established that each new job does generate additional jobs, by creating additional demand as the new worker seeks to fill his or her needs or wants.  (And perhaps over time that will add up to twelve, if each new job stimulates another new job....)

So, based on that premise, I have three questions:

 FIrst, isn't that as true of government funded jobs, whether employment by government or by contractors (like, say, adding new employees on road crews spending highway funds) as of any other source of funding?  If not, why not?

Second, while political pundits talk about "the Governments money" and "our money," since we live in a government of, by, and for the people, and since we all pay taxes, isn't "the Government's money" really all "our money?" If not, why not?

Third, then, why shouldn't we encourage our Government to spend our money to generate jobs in the economy, instead of waiting for corporations, whose purpose is to make a profit for the benefit first and foremost of shareholders, to see the increased demand that will make it reasonable for them to add jobs? Indeed, isn't in the best interest of those corporations for our Government to spend our money to create jobs, so as to increase the demand to the point where it is reasonable for corporations to increase  jobs?  If not, why not?

Talk among yourselves.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Standing Before the Whirlwind

When the tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, one of the first impressions many of us had was the image in the sunrise of the battered structure of St. John's Regional Medical Center.  As a hospital chaplain, the image of the hospital, its windows shattered and dark, was immediately arresting.  I had no idea what folks there had experienced, but I had some idea what it might have meant in my hospital.

Today, we had an opportunity to learn about what happened there.  This story was broadcast on KCUR, our local NPR station, and later picked up by other stations.  It gives a sense, however limited, of what employees experienced during the tornado.

We need to appreciate what the staff of St. John's Regional Medical Center accomplished.  In the entire hospital, that took a direct hit from an EF-5 tornado, only six persons died - five patients who were already at high risk, and one visitor.  There were certainly many injuries, but this was still a major accomplishment.  It speaks to the dedication of the staff, and of the quality of the hospital's plan for disasters, and of the training that staff maintained to be prepared.

All of us in hospitals train for disasters.  No, perhaps no training could be "adequate" for an event of this magnitude; but we can only imagine how much more serious the outcome could have been without it.  About two hours north of Joplin, and a few days later, we also had a tornado warning and implemented our plan.  Blessedly, as the storm crossed the metropolitan area, there was little damage, few injuries, and no deaths.  My hospital was unaffected.  Nonetheless, we followed our plan, moving each person, inpatients, outpatients, families, vendors, and staff to the safest area possible; and we waited together until all was clear.  We were not challenged as they were in Joplin, and still we were comforted that we had trained for this event and had some idea what to do.

The story of Joplin speaks of acts of determination and courage among the hospital staff.  In one sense, I applaud their heroism.  In another, I want to recognize that they were simply ordinary people, performing well under extraordinary circumstances.  I have faith that the folks I work with would do as well.  It's not because they're somehow unusual.  It is, rather, that I know them and trust that they would also come through.

I want to thank God for the people of St. John's Regional Medical Center, who came through in the face of unimaginable natural forces.  And I would pray that neither they (nor, for that matter, any of the rest of us) are ever challenged that way again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Let Our "Yes" Be "Yes," and Our "No" Be "No" - and Our "Wait a Bit"....

We have had some interesting discussions lately about the Anglican Communion Covenant. Now, when I say “we,” I’m referring to the relatively narrow world in which I write and read. So, I don’t want to claim too much about the authority of those I read and write with. I do want to claim that the discussions have been interesting.

We’ve been discussing widely among Anglicans the meaning and import of the Anglican Communion Covenant, and among Episcopalians what action we in the Episcopal Church should take. We have noted with interest what others have done or are doing. The Church of England is in process. General Synod sent it to the various dioceses to express their opinion; and will act at the next meeting after those opinions have been received. Some other churches have acted. Notably recently that Southeast Asia has “acceded to” the Covenant; while Ireland has “subscribed” the Covenant; and both with what we might call a “signing statement.

I will admit that those choices were interesting. And being the wonky soul that I am, I went to the Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1971):

Adopt (the word in the Covenant text itself): To choose for oneself

Definition 1: gen to take (any one) voluntarily into any relationship (as heir, son, father, friend, citizen, etc.) which he did not previously occupy.
Definition 4: To take up (a practice, method, word, or idea) from some one else and use it as one’s own; to embrace, espouse.

Accede: To come to a place, state, or diginity; to come into an opinion, to agree

Definition 3: To join oneself, become a party, give one’s adhesion; hence, to assent, agree to.


Definition 1: To write (one’s name or mark) on, orig. at the bottom of, a document, esp. as a witness or consenting party; to sign (one’s name) to. Now rare.
Definition 3: To sign one’s name to; to signify assent or adhesion to, by signing one’s name; to attest by signing.
Definition 4: To give one’s assent or adhesion to; to countenance, support, favour, sanction, concur in.
Definition 7: To give one’s assent to a statement, opinion, proposal, scheme, or the like; to express one’s agreement, concurrence, or acquiescence.
Now, perhaps the differences among these words aren’t so great; and yet these words were deliberately and carefully chosen. I find “accession” especially interesting, in that we have been discussing “accession” a lot these last few years in the Episcopal Church. A diocese “accedes” to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church; that is, acknowledges and accepts the normative authority of the Constitution and Canons, and recognizes its own documents and actions as subsidiary. It suggests that Southeast Asia accepts the Covenant as a constitutional document, to which provincial actions would be subject.

Of course, the Irish “signing statement” said just the opposite, asserting as normative the provincial Constitution and Canons. Rather, they chose to “subscribe,” which suggests more an agreement among separate but equal participants.

And that, of course, was different from the “adoption” called for in the document itself. “Adoption” says more about a change in identity, establishment of a new relationship, and in this case participation in a new body: churches within the Anglican Communion that are signatories of the Anglican Covenant (which, at this point, within the Covenant text are indeed separate if overlapping groups).

We have also seen something different, if only in a preliminary step. While this was not their definitive action, the church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia voted on each Section of the Covenant separately. Sections 1, 2, and 3 were passed, and Section 4 wasn’t.

So, what is the Episcopal Church to do? Several of us who speak to the issue have some stake in the conversation, not just because we are Anglicans and Episcopalians, but because each has some small part in the governance of the Episcopal Church.

Mark Harris, a past Deputy to General Convention (and perhaps again), and a member of the Executive Council, has expressed at “Preludium” the opinion that we must say no. This is based in part on the thought that the idea of a Covenant is un-Anglican, and in part that the Covenant text establishes a new centralized structure more like, if not just like, Roman ecclesiology; but mostly because it appears the point of the exercise is to exclude those who most think have stepped too far in embracing changing understandings of who we are as human beings living in the world and before God – and in the first instance, the Episcopal Church and (probably) the Anglican Church of Canada. To do this, the Covenant so changes the relationships among Anglican churches and to the Instruments of Communion as to subvert and divide the Anglican Communion in service of a new Anglican Church. While this is not explicit in the Covenant text (and perhaps not inherent in it), Mark and colleagues simply do not trust those others who will embrace the Covenant not to take these next steps.

Tobias Haller, a Deputy to General Convention, has argued at “In a Godward Direction” that there is a rational reason to sign the Covenant. As he sees it, the descriptions in the Covenant text of the roles and authority of the four Instruments of Communion, as well as of the renamed Standing Committee are not new, and in fact reflect accurately their current extant roles and authority. The Covenant text also incorporates means for revision of the Covenant itself. So, he argues that we need to pursue appropriate revision of the Covenant; and to do that we have to be signatories. We might say he trusts the text of the Covenant itself, and some responsiveness of other signatories sufficient that they will engage with us immediately in a process of amendment, as the Bill of Rights is not part of the U.S. Constitution as passed, but were instead the first amendments to it. He also trusts that some Anglican churches, and specifically some that we could expect to militantly resist efforts at amendment, will follow through on opinions already expressed saying that they can’t sign.

And I, also a Deputy to General Convention, have been reading and responding on both blogs (and especially to Tobias). I have a concern that for signatories of the Covenant, the processes of Section 4 will eliminate reception, Indaba discussions, and mediated conversations (from Section 3 of the Covenant text). As I wrote,

Perhaps my greatest concern is that this will indeed stifle adhocracy (sic) - when in a world more and more "networked" than institutional, adhocracy will be useful more often than it will be painful. "If your only tool is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail;" and while we can imagine that there will be other means for addressing differences, the temptation of possible resolution will pull more differences, more "problems," under the "hammer" of the Covenant's Section 4.

Our understanding of engagement and gradual reception seems largely gone from our discussions of how ideas are shared and embraced (or not) among the churches of the Communion. I hesitate to sign on to the Covenant, in fear that it will only "drive another nail into the coffin."
Perhaps we might say that I don’t trust the process – either the specific processes suggested in the Covenant text, or the intentions of all those who might be in the signatory group. With that in mind, I have noted that there is no deadline by which we must sign. We could at the next General Convention express our commitment to Communion, and to the existing Communion structures, and to continuing the Covenant process without being ready yet to commit. We could continue study and reflection until 2015. In the meantime, we would have more information. We would know who else had signed on. We would know what intentions had been expressed by signatories and by some of the Instruments of Communion in understanding the relationship between the churches of the Anglican Communion and the signatory churches of the Anglican Covenant. We would be embracing some tension in delaying, but we would be making a more informed decision.

And there are other possibilities. We could adopt the Covenant with our own “signing statement.” We could act something like Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia, considering each Section separately and announcing what we have adopted, and what we haven’t. We might adopt, and also pass a resolution describing the amendment(s) that we intend to pursue.

We also need to acknowledge that each of these choices has some risk. If we choose not to sign, then among those who do sign there may well be enough still who wish to redefine participation in the Communion as participation in the Covenant so as to make that certain. Indeed, some who have said they couldn’t sign might just change their minds, magnifying the possibility. If we do sign with the intent to amend, there may still be enough among the signatories who don’t want amendment to prevent it; and so we’ll find ourselves committed in relationships that can inhibit us in living out the Gospel as we understand it in our own time and place. First and foremost, we’d be embracing further tension at home, and confusion and frustration among Anglican colleagues abroad. We would continue to be challenged as to whether we’re serious about communion. Moreover, if we delay for more reflection, time may still hurt us. While I think it unlikely that significant change could be accomplished in three years, enough change could happen to establish a trajectory we’d find it hard to turn. Even if we sought to adopt in a more controlled way, whether section by section, or by adding a “signing statement” or proposed amendments, some of these same risks would be present.

So, what are we to do? Like other Deputies, right at the moment I can’t say what I would do. That’s because the real action will be that taken in General Convention; and we don’t know yet what resolutions will be proposed, much less what will come from the appropriate legislative committee to the floor of either House. We don’t know what amendments or substitutions will be presented. So, we can’t commit to one specific vote or another, whatever we think about in all this thinking out loud (and what, after all, is a blog but thinking out loud?). I think first and foremost, we need to be conscious and informed about possible choices, and about the risk each entails. Then when it comes to a vote, we’ll be offering our best, most informed leadership.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Caught My Attention: 5.11.2011

 For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:3-5)
Whenever I encounter it, I find myself wondering about the "conquering the world" thing.  From the way I've sometimes seen it protrayed, it's a long way from the one who said, "My kingdom is not of this world."

A Side Comment

You may have noticed that I was silent for a while.  Part of that was Holy Week and Easter, always a busy time.  Part of that was recovery from Lent, Holy Week, and Easter - harder this year for some reason.

But, part of it was looking for something new and interesting to say.  Let's face it: there are lots of folks saying interesting things about the Anglican Covenant, or about ethics, or about the Episcopal Church.  I was feeling some writer's block: what did I have to say that was noteworthy?

So, I'm stepping back a bit, and taking a different focus.  That's why the momentary reflections on the Office Lectionary have been happening.  I'll get back to writing the essays soon.  With even a few days of a different focus, I'm picking up on some news items I'd been overlooking.  In the meantime, the door stays open. I'm happy when folks find interesting something I've posted here.  And even if it's an old post, feel free to comment. After all, it's nice to find some of those things still relevant.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What Caught My Attention: 5.10.2011

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters* also. (1 John 4:7-8; 12; 16b; 20-21)
Love brothers and sisters? Wait - all of them?

And what is the standard of love? How is love demonstrated? 1 Corintians13:1-13 comes to mind. But, let me get more explicit. Is it first about what is good, healthy, life-giving for the other? Does one rejoice, not for his or her own joy, but for the joy of the other? Or weep for the sorrow of the other? Does one sit long hours at the sickbed, or drive to appointments, or fix a meal? Does one stay for years, to the point of sitting with the dying, and mourning in the loss, to the point of losing some part of her or his identity?

That is love enough to convince me. That looks like love to me, regardless of the exact description of the relationship, of its legal standing or its social acceptability, or just how it's physically expressed. That seems to me to be love; and love is of God, for God is love.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Caught My Attention: 5.9.2011

From today's lections for the Daily Office:

And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us. 1 John 3:19-24
So, if this is his commandment; and if all who obey it abide in Christ; and if we are comfortable with this, not condemned by our own hearts; I have to wonder just what we spend so much time fighting about....