Really and truly, I do not mean to preemptively apologize for everything that I may do as moderator. This is not a mea culpa post that means to soften the reaction to something that I may do later. Do not fear, some of the things that I may do or say as Moderator are quite intentional in pushing for groups, institutions and friends to hear certain things I believe are important to the future health of our church. Still, really and truly, in some areas, I am simply stumbling and meandering in that area of tension between where we have been and where we may be headed as a denomination and community.
One such area that I have noticed some tension and anxiety from and towards me is around acts and expectations of protocol.
AKA unspoken rules
AKA making sure folks are in the loop
AKA respect of the context
You get what I mean. There are certain ways of being that we all, knowingly or unknowing, buy into. Now these ways of interacting are not bad in themselves unless they ensure unhealthy exclusion: not sharing the rules, holding onto the rules past their effectiveness, holding it against people when the don’t observe the rules, etc. I am pretty sure that I have broken many so far and admittedly some have been intentional like not wearing a tie, being transparent about the moderator process and even standing for moderator at this stage in my “career.” Now I don’t think these are revolutionary by any means, but still, I am under no delusions that I have subscribed to all the norms of the process.
Here are a couple more areas that I think we are standing in some kind of in-between when it comes to the office of moderator and what I think is behind some of the awkwardness with which I am in it.
Standing when the Moderator enters . . .
PRO – There is something about recognizing a connection to one another that runs across our denominational life. Standing when the Moderator enters is a symbolic gesture that we have some connections to one another. I also think it helps us to remember that grace can and should be extended to all, despite what you may think about the person.
SHIFTS – I think the awkwardness that I and those expected to stand face are around shifts in understanding of authority and leadership. With a world that no longer trusts or assumes authority as we usedto, the idea that we stand for someone that we do not even know or have not heard is odd at best and insincere at worst. I do realize that there is room to honor a position, but the idea that we can separate the position from the person and can assume some kind of authority for many is inconsistent with how they see leadership and authority today.
Information and Communication
PRO – Coordination is highly needed needed in this day and age of information saturation. It is one thing to be a blogger and participant in viral movements and quite another when one is trying communicate a common message from a multi-faceted organizations like a denomination.
SHIFTS – I think we are still figuring out how to share information as an institution, both internally as well as to the outside world, in an increasingly information-packed world. In a world where information is so quickly and easily shared, we are still trying to figure out what it means to hold, disseminate and share information well. Gone are the days when we can control information, so we need to figure out how to best open the pipeline with the same kind of diligent and integrity we have now.
Keeping folks in the loop
PRO – Dealing mostly with my travel plans, it is helpful to have someone that can operate as a main contact or conduit for helping folks know about context and particularities of an area.
SHIFTS – Because of the nature of my personality and ways I interact, as we have been planning travel, much has taken place via the connections where my natural contacts and relationships lie. On more than one occasion, I have forgotten to instruct my local assistant to talk with the General Presbyter/Executive about my visit. This is not an intentional disrespect of the leadership of any area, rather a nod to the grassroots, personal and accessible ways I have operated in the past. Again, I think there is justification to have things go through one central place, but this runs somewhat counter to my natural proclivity to just put something out and see where it heads.
I offer these things up to the community not as way to critique the ways in which we interact, but simply to name some of the reasons behind some of the awkward interactions that have taken place already and, if not already, will come up in many churches in the future.