UPDATED 02.08.08 – Blog Responses

Reyes-Chow

When I agreed with God to enter this moderator craziness, I knew there were going to be a few things I would have to deal with at some point.  One of those things has to do with my engagement with the whole techno-blogger-web2.0 world and how I would integrate that part of my life and ministry into my candidacy.

Well . . . we have been hearing it.  Some of you who are reading this may even be thinking it and have been sending subtle messages my way about some of the discomfort that is being caused by the way I, and those working on the campaign, are going about this moderator journey.

Now I don’t want to dwell too much on the criticism, but I suspect this will and has been an issue not just at a denominational level, but at middle-governing body and congregational levels.   So I figured, I might as well get a post out there sooner rather than later.

So here is what we are hearing:

  • You are moving too fast.  Slow down.
  • You are too public. Why talk about these things now?
  • You are "campaigning." We stand for moderator, we do not run for it.

At a certain level I get the critique and I understand where people are coming from.  I KNOW that some of this seems just plan wrong to some folks.  At the same time I struggle with a providing a helpful response as these critiques, in many ways, describe the very essence of this whole crazy new way of being community in a flattening, globalizing, web 2.0 world.

Therein lies the problem and the reason I am in this.  The PC(USA) is at a crossroads in so many ways.  There are generational, cultural and technological shifts taking place within the wider society and no longer do we have the luxury to wait 50 years before dealing with them.  Change is upon us.  Things are indeed moving faster, interactions are more transparent, and I would say our lives are more intentional.  Now we can disagree whether these shifts are good or bad, but they are indeed happening.   My fear is that in the midst of these cultural shifts there are languages being spoken that are ultimately undecipherable to the other.  My hope is that I may be able to help translate.

Knowing full well that much of this cannot be boiled down to need blog-length explanations, let me push-back a little on the push-back and try to explain my ways 😉

  • On SPEED – Yes, things are moving faster.  The viral nature of social networks and the ways people interact cannot be controlled no matter how hard we try.  Yes, there are times for intentional deliberation, but the world is culturally faster not only in the ways we interact, but in our expectation of how information is distributed.  To act slowly when there really is no reason creates a sense of secrecy.  When it comes to the moderator journey, we always get questions posed beforehand magazines like The Outlook and Laymen.  Why wait until they set the platform?  Why not go ahead and start now.
  • On TRANSPARENCY – Welcome to the Web 2.0 world my friends.  Pull up a chair and enjoy the view because this is one area that I am pretty clear about.  Just to be clear, I will always choose full disclosure that builds up relationships over and above restraint for fear of political discomfort.  In fact, until we start to be more real with each other over issues that we are afraid to talk about, we will move no where fast.  Additionally, being transparent is not something we do, but it is a way of life and a way of being.  In terms of my Moderator journey, I think folks want to know who I am, where I stand and find out if I can be painfully fair while still owning my own places of discernment.
  • On CAMPAIGNING – Goodness gracious, this is biggie.  Again, lets be REAL, every moderator "campaigns" in some way.  In the past however, the campaign time has been yet another version of "Don’t ask, don’t tell" that runs polar opposite to the whole "transparency" posture.  Do we really think that people don’t make phone calls, visit with people, try to find out about what "side" of what issue he/she is one.  Call it networking, call it informal relationship building, call it campaigning.  The difference with me is that I will not participate in the wink-n-nod nature of the journey.   We are doing the same thing, using different mediums and being upfront about it all.

Lastly to add a little more to the pot and because sometimes I just can’t leave well enough alone, I think there are some other things going on specifically about my candidacy that are raising issues for some folks.

The rules . . . we are breaking no rules of the moderator campaign.  In fact, knowing that we would be running a campaign that would be outside the norm, we have been excruciatingly diligent about obeying the rules.  A great example has to do with my blog.  In the rules, the Office of General Assembly says that they will not link the the candidate’s website.  I think there is a safe assumption that candidates will generally have one.  Why am I then criticized for having one?  Is it because it is more interactive than past moderators, more visible, seen more, more informative?  I think the disconnect is that never before has a website been used as a a key place of interaction.  This combined with the whole Facebook thing and other ways folks interact, has created a "That’s not what we meant." atmosphere.  Again, the shift shows up again.  Different ways of interacting are just that, different.

How dare you . . . even though I am one of the oldest people every Sunday at my church and have the more General Assembly level experience than most folks many years older than I, I have still been peppered with the whole tone that I am too young, have not paid my dues, have no right, etc. to stand for this office.  Last I checked, the office was not a right, but a privilege not to be given as a prize for a career well spent, but as a statement about who the church is and will become.  Sometimes this will be about our past while at others, like I feel now, must be about our future.  Plus I feel old 😉

Who are these people . . . I might get in trouble for this one, but I think an underlying issue around my candidacy is that is some ways, folks had no idea that this was what it was going to be like.   Theoretically, I am an attractive candidate: young, child of the church, racial ethnic, network well, all the things that we would want.  Open arms at the beginning, not so much in some areas.  Little did folks know that I really do not want to be the same kind of Moderator that we have generally had.   I think this is symptomatic of the church.   The reality that we as a church want to engage the next generation of the church, but have absolutely no idea what it means if folks actually accept the invitation.  We have the best of intentions, but are we really ready for the radical cultural changes we must go through if people actually start showing up?  If we are REALLY going to be relevant to the next movement of Presbyterians we must be able to be open to the transformation that they bring.  In fact whether God should have me be moderator or not, there is already a growing movement and I suspect at some point transformation will be our choice to make.

Okay, so there you have it.  A little ranty I know, but wanted to just put it all other there and see what happens.  Welcome to the world of blogs.  And lest anyone feel like my little rant above should just be one big "I told you so." or "You knew this would happen, so quit whining." nothing could be further from the truth.   The interactions that I have already have with friends, old and new, over all kinds of issues, has further bolstered my resolve that these kinds of conversations must be had if we are to move forward as a denomination.

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