December 20, 2013

Weaned from a Pickle

The perennial question of the location of the headquarters for The Episcopal Church is on the table once more, in part in response to a resolution from the 2012 General Convention mandating a departure from the Church Center building at 815 Second Avenue, NYC. Note that this resolution only concerns the building, not NYC, as some seem to think. Still, many want that question reopened, even as a major study is going on concerning just what the structure of TEC is to be down the road, including whether it should even have an HQ at all.

The latest step in this peculiar dance is a survey designed to receive input on all sorts of aspects of a possible HQ, including its location. (Disclosure: I tried to take the survey yesterday soon after its announcement, but I think I engaged it as it was still under construction; on my second and successful "go" one of the questions I'd answered in the first round had disappeared.)

Having been a part of many such surveys in the past, however, I do wonder at the soundness of this approach to decision-making. Too many times I've seen survey results ignored as a particular juggernaut presses forward regardless of results. (The adoption of the Revised Common Lectionary is a telling case in point.) It's a good thing Moses didn't survey the Israelites as to location issues. They wanted to go back to Egypt! Oh the leeks, oh the cucumbers! It is hard to be weaned from a pickle.

Frankly, when it comes to the Church Center and its location, I've seen this road traveled so many times it has become extremely tedious. I've been around long enough to see the plans under Presiding Bishop Allin to move to the Seamen's Church Institute undone by city office-space code; the sale of Seabury House in Connecticut; the decades of various studies and plans brought to GC; and the collapse of the General Theological Seminary space-sharing scheme.

Dealing with location issues -- by survey or study or any other means -- prior to making decisions as to restructuring seems to me to be utter madness. Form follows function... or you're stuck with the form and it shapes how you function! And a diet of pickles makes for a sour disposition.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


Barbara said...

These are really good points; the one about making decisions in the right order especially.

I hope you (and others?) can make that case to the whole church and its various committees so that the "right order" will prevail in the end....

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Barbara... we'll try, and I hope the church will act with care.