Sunday, September 19, 2010


Today’s Gospel reading about the dishonest manager certainly is a perplexing one, and I’m not sure Mabel’s sermon this morning made its message clearer. Perhaps my thoughts were diverted, however, by Mabel’s assertion that the recent feasibility report on Fulfilling the Vision from the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) suggests that St. Paul’s parishioners are not quite ready to trust—read take on a $1.83 million fund-raising campaign—given what Calvary rector Harold Lewis refers to as the “recent unpleasantness” in our diocese.

I believe the ECF report exaggerates the effect of the diocesan schism on St. Paul’s, and I think Mabel further exaggerates what was said in the report. The report states, for example,
  • This schism rippled through St. Paul’s and numerous long-term members left, again depleting energies and good will. Church membership and stewardship have suffered as a result.
In fact, St. Paul’s lost remarkably few members as a result of Bob Duncan’s depredations, and which camp the parish would end up in was never really in doubt, even if parish leaders waited painfully long to declare the obvious. Whatever loss of membership there has been in recent years—see “Is St. Paul’s Growing?”—has largely been due to other factors. Trust may indeed be in short supply at St. Paul’s, but the ECF report uses the word “trust” only once, and not in the context of diocesan schism.

There is much that can be blamed on Bob Duncan, but the leadership of St. Paul’s must take responsibility for the failure of the Fulfilling the Vision proposal to gain traction. The proposal was a bad plan that was ill-timed and poorly promoted. If the parish could not put its trust in the plan that was advanced, it had good reason for not doing so.

I fear that Fulfilling the Vision II—be assured that there will be another proposal, of whatever name, coming down the pike—will simply drop the more ridiculous aspects of the first proposal while failing yet again to solicit parishioner input as to priorities and objectives. The small group of people who completed the Vision 15 work clearly did not capture the sentiments of the parish as a whole, and continuing to rely on Vision 15 to guide the parish will only further alienate the majority that finds it difficult to take Vision 15 seriously.

I will have more to say about how parishioners should be consulted on certain matters in a future post.

Let me conclude by noting that St. Paul’s, despite an explicit promise by Lou to put the ECF report on the parish Web site, has not yet made the ECF report available to parishioners in electronic form. My guess is that few members have gone to the office to read it. Poor communications within the parish, a concern identified long before Lou arrived, continues to plague St. Paul’s.

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