Archive for February, 2012

Keeping Busy to Avoid Burnout

Monday, February 27th, 2012

I recently learned of the existence, in a local seminary, of a network of “Peer Wellness Groups.” Led by students, the groups foster yoga, peace work, and fitness.

There is anything wrong with such activities in themselves, of course. But I am a bit troubled by the idea that students need to organize themselves into groups to do these things–on top of classes, chapel services, special interest organizations based on sexuality and race, counseling and advising groups, administrative committees, and field work activities. Would a seminarian be better off going for a walk by herself or meditating on her own?

By far the greatest source of trouble for clergy at all stages of their careers is burnout. And burnout is very often caused by the felt need to go from one activity to another–especially from one meeting to another. More to the point theologically, we are justified by faith, not by groups. By the same token, spiritual wellness ultimately comes not through a busy schedule, but through grace. —J. Douglas Ousley 


Bishops v. Priests/laity

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

I recently heard a speech by a prominent observer of the Episcopal Church about the upcoming General Convention. He feared that a major issue at that convention would be a political battle between the two “Houses:” the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. The former consists of all bishops of the church who have shown up, including retirees; the latter consists of clergy and lay delegates elected by each diocese.

There are many perennial disagreements between the two groups. For example, the Bishops have been trying for years to reduce the size of each diocesan delegation from 8 members. (Often 8 alternates are also flown to the meeting; this is the case for New York, for example.) Delegates, fearing they may not get re-elected balk at this reform.

Apparently the biggest current issue, however, is the wish of the President of the House of Deputies to be able to speak on equal footing with the Presiding Bishop. For some, this is a matter of “justice”–giving equal weight especially to the laity. 

I have often expressed my exasperation with the current President of the House of the Deputies. But even without such feelings, I am amazed that anyone in an “episcopal” (= “having bishops”) church would feel the need to counter the weight of the primate of the whole church. No doubt this issue will need to be considered again. —J. Douglas Ousley


Costs of Discipleship

Friday, February 10th, 2012

A recent mailing to parishes in the Diocese of New York asked them to “share in the celebration” of the consecration of the new Bishop Co-Adjutor by contributing to the purchase of new vestments for the bishop. Clergy were asked to pass the invitation along to parishioners “to encourage participation by everyone who would like to contribute.

This is hardly an unusual or unreasonable request. What seems unusual to me is the dollar amount needed: “about $10,000.00.” Admittedly, purple cassocks and other episcopal garb are surely expensive. And the total is equivalent to around 25 cents per New York Episcopalian.

Still, at a time when so many parishes are struggling financially–a point stressed by the new co-adjutor during the election process, putting the dollar amount out there could be off-putting. —J. Douglas Ousley