I spent last week in New York attending the January board meeting of NNECA; (The National Network of Episcopal Clergy Associations). We met at 815 on Tuesday and Wednesday and at the Church Pension Group’s office on Thursday. On Friday morning we met at the House of the Redeemer, where we had been lodged. It’s a wonderfully eccentric place, a town house built for a Vanderbilt relative: a mixture of palace, Victorian Hotel and monastery with some of the cheapest rates in Manhattan..
For many years NNECA has represented all the clergy of our church. The January meetings enable the board to meet with many of those in leadership. This year was no exception. The Presiding Bishop gave us a good deal of her time. I was impressed by her openness, her willingness to speak to us frankly and clearly and her sense of humor.
Our new Primate met in the NNECA board a cross-section of TEC as it is now, from “left” to “right”, from rural to urban, male and female, African American and white, Pittsburgh to El Camino Real.. She fielded questions about the South Carolina election and her vision for the future. She heard us ask that she recognize and encourage the center, the moderate majority, ranging from those who are traditionalists but won’t leave the church to those who are liberal but don’t want to leave the Anglican Communion. We asked her to encourage the parish clergy who get on with being faithful parish priests and pastors in these difficult times and the women and men across TEC at home and abroad who struggle to pay the bills and worship week by week in their parish churches.
We spent all of Thursday morning, ranged around the largest conference table I have ever seen, built to accommodate the CPG trustees, hearing from Dennis Sullivan, Pat Coller and Matthew Price, the Brit who has brought honesty to our statistics. Many of the improvements the clergy enjoy have been the result of NNECA’s advocacy. It was such a witness which deflected the IRS from seeking to tax clergy owned homes.
We also discussed –centering on a recent case – the problem of clergy “black-balling”; bishops and Deployment Officers contacting each other through what we used to term “the old boys’ network” and disqualifying clergy, and in particular interim clergy in a process in which such clergy have no right to defend themselves and who often remain unaware that they have been marked until the inevitable gossip catches up with them. As a result a letter is being sent to DOs and Bishops asking that this pernicious habit cease. We predict that if it does not, there will be law suits. NNECA continues its role as an advocacy group for the parish clergy and a body to which clergy who feel abused or are in crisis may turn for professional help and counsel.
We also concluded plans for our 2007 conference which will meet in Williamsburg, Virginia on the days following the 400 Anniversary celebrations of the Jamestown landings in June. The speakers include the Presiding Bishop, Dr. Michael Battle, Loren Mead, and Tex Sample. Representatives from the CPF, CDO and other agencies will be doing workshops. For further information go to: http://www.nneca.org/. Y’all come,hear?
NNECA is in the process of renewal. Reflecting on the cultural changes in the church and nation since NNECA was founded; we are now exploring opening our ranks to individual clergy and being more creative in describing what form a clergy association might take in this computerized world while encouraging the formation of new diocesan or regional associations and affirming our present vibrant associations.
I’ll grant you this blog is a shameless promotion of NNECA. I believe that NNECA is a bright light in our church. Clergy from across the spectrum and on both sides of what is alleged to be a hopeless divide, work together collegially and in real trust and friendship both on the board and in the associations and by individual support. As editor of LEAVEN, our journal, I try to include writers who represent the church, warts and all.
If you have a bee in your bonnet, a descriptive narrative of ministry, something you want to say, I’m always looking for copy. You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I staggered home after this my first outing since being diagnosed with cancer and last Sunday baptized seven babies. I was considering installing a conveyer belt. Yesterday and today I attended a meeting of the Diocesan Interim Clergy, mercifully held at St. Thomas a Becket’s Church, the parish I serve. I may take tomorrow off!
I’m on vacation from chemo for five weeks. I feel so much better. I am grateful to so many of you for your prayers and concerns.
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