Friday, July 17, 2009

The Budget was the Main Event

We began the day with the budget and spent all morning on it and a bit of the afternoon session. As advertised it was often painful. For example, among the 30 Church Center staff positions eliminated were the Women's Program Officer and the Racism Officer. There were many attempts to amend the budget, but in the end, it was adopted as presented by the committee. The majority of deputies realized, I think, that it was just too complex to fiddle with and that the time to shape the budget is before it's prepared and the discussion is still on priorities. The final product calls for about $52 million dollars a year of spending for each of the next three years in the triennium. The total represent about a $23 million dollar reduction from the triennium just ending.

Some other significant legislation of the day included a resolution to ask Episcopalians to oppose Defense of Marriage Acts at the state level and work to overturn the federal law and in squeaker, a resolution to petition the government for a single-payer, national, all-inclusive health care plan - our deputation was divided on this one. There were of course dozens of other resolutions and for those interested in the details, go here. A lot of it deals with social action issues that are vitally important, but produced little disagreement among the deputies.

There is some disagreement among the deputies on whether the Church should advocate for public policy since it appears to speak for every member of the Church when we know that not every member agrees with the position approved.

The blessings resolution, CO56, is in the House of Deputies Friday morning at 9:30 am.

It takes a Particular Kind of Shepherd to be a Legislator

St. Paul famously taught us that some are called to teach, others to preach, etc. but having never experienced a working democratic assembly, he didn't know to add that some are also called to rise to a point of order. So many of the deputies just love it - 70% of the action is procedural - changing the schedules for things to happen; structural - recounting the number of deputes that dance on the heads of the countless Joint Standing Commissions; parliamentary minutia - points of privilege, information, clarification and common sense. Given the opportunity, many of these good folks would do it 24/7. And as if they don't get enough legislative process during the session, several rush the platform at the recess to tell the presiding officers what they did wrong or how they can do it better. Now, mind you, none of this will keep them out of heaven and if you're going to have a democratic 'parliament' then parliamentarians are required to make it work and if you're going to have a church parliament, then saints are needed to do what becomes the Lord's work. The good news is that we are not wanting in this vocation.

What I think I've come to realize is that for me, there is enormous satisfaction in participating in shaping the great issues - a small minority of the total agenda - but little pleasure in the required micro work of a legislative process that extends over two long weeks. I'm very glad to have been here and to have had the opportunity to vote on many things particular to this convention, but not because I'm a natural at this sort of thing. I'll have to re-reference Paul and see what else is available.

The Most Interesting Character of the Day

The Starbuck's line has been disappointing the last couple of days, but yesterday as I was waiting my turn, I realized the hotel itself was a character of some interest. Hiltons, Hyatts and Marriotts are not built for kings - there is not a bit of elegance about them. If you stand in the middle of one of their lobbies, or guest rooms or hallways and turn 360, you know at once that they are designed for herding, not promenading. In a given convention day thousands of tired feet trek across carpets and tile strong enough to carry a Roman Legion. The decor is mostly functional, monochromatic and again designed to withstand the living habits of the great and varied middle class.

What is wonderfully amazing about it all is that so unlike our churches, in general, it will all be replaced in accordance with a disciplined schedule - mattresses every 13 months, lobby furniture every 36 months, new T.V's every year and so on. And it's not limited to what one can see - the mechanical systems of the building, the elevators, etc. are also subject to the same rigorous process.

From a management point of view, it's easy to do - simply put away some money every year so that the maintenance and replacement schedule is funded. There are even several software programs to aid the procedure. By comparison, we often tend to manage our church plants as landlords do rental properties - put into the property as little as possible while continuing to collect the income. The landlord's advantage is that s/he sells when the place becomes exhausted. My 'Buildings and Grounds' editorial aside, a modern convention hotel is a marvel to observe. Grand residence no, rather the fast food version of out-of-town lodging, a notch above Motel 6.

by Jim Greer

No comments:

Post a Comment