It's Easier to Have a Permanent Majority When You Know What You're Doing

Ari Berman at The Nation worries:

But Democrats, beset by internal dysfunction and legislative gridlock, also run the risk of throwing their majority away. “Their chief challenge now is governance, which is daunting in its own right,” Teixeira writes. “They have an ambitious agenda in areas such as health care, financial reform, education, energy, and global relations that they are having some success in pursuing. If these policies have their intended effects and make serious progress toward remedying problems in these areas, Democrats will be in very good shape indeed and will solidify their support among emerging demographics while destabilizing what is left of the GOP coalition.

Although conservatives think of their own idea as the “natural” one, it’s always been a wonder to me that the left didn’t secure a lock on US politics in the 1970’s, and it looks like they’re letting victory slip through their fingers again.  Why is this?  I think there are two reasons.

The first is that Americans are, by nature, economically ambitious, and have high expectations.  Most welfare states have operated in environments with expectations not so high, or other objectives (lots of time off, etc.)  They can argue all they want, but relative to a successful capitalist society, the left’s agenda involves lowering living standards (that’s where the 50 square metre apartment comes in.)

The second is that American liberalism is way too utopian to run a successful, modern society.  For all of its faults, the Soviet Union built a great industrial power to achieve its objectives.  The American left would tear (and has torn) down the economic engine we have to achieve theirs.

And then, of course, there’s the plague of both parties: the need to satisfy patronage requirements, which always gets in the way of a “pure” agenda.

Demographics should be going the Democrats’ way.  Making the country run properly–governance–isn’t.

Russian Spying: "It Didn't Do Us Much Good"

The recent arrest of a “ring” of Russian spies in the US brings back memories of the Cold War–well, for those of us who were alive and aware at the time.  Readers of this blog know that I have a lifelong interest in Russia that ended up with some interesting business and other types of contacts (probably the most interesting is this one.)

On one of my visits there, I got into a discussion of Cold War related matters, including their extensive intelligence gathering.  It was extensive, all right, but our discussion was after the Soviet Union had come apart, and my Russian contact’s observation about all of his country’s espionage efforts was wistful: “It didn’t do us much good.”

When you have an opponent, it’s always good to have advance knowledge of their secrets; it can save lives and a great deal of effort and resources on your part.  So the Soviets pursued extensive intelligence gathering.  In many cases they were able to acquire technology and other valuable information, but in the end, as my friend observed, it did not prevent his country’s break-up.  And breaking up, as we all know, is hard to do.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see why this took place.  The Soviet Union, at points the greatest military power on the planet, lacked the economic strength to support itself.  In simple terms the weak economy gave out before the strong military could come through with a victory (a task complicated by the high price of nuclear war.)  Although we look like we are a long way from the same state, the fact is that it is possible for us, though irresponsible fiscal policy and growing state socialism, end up in a similar rut.  Their past may well become our future.

But that obscures another question: did the intelligence they gathered really come from “secret” or “top secret” sources?  Or could it be had from public sources processed with basic wisdom and understanding of the other side?  That’s a question that both sides should have given more thought to.  It’s one that Derek Leebaert asks about our own CIA in his book The Fifty Year Wound: was much of what they gathered through all of the methods of spy-craft simply “out there” for the taking and proper analysis?  He offers some examples of that taking place in the Cold War, and there’s no doubt it’s taken place afterwards.  And our lack of understanding of the nature of our Islamicist opponent has bedevilled our efforts in that sphere, too.  (It works both ways: Osama bin Laden doubtless anticipated domestic power challengers would begin an assault on the US government after 9/11, but instead he got his own lair invaded.)

It’s always important to have secrets in both the political and corporate worlds, and it’s obviously good to find out what your opponents/competitors are doing.  But the benefits of espionage are frequently overrated.  If you waste resources gathering secrets that you could find with simpler ways, if you misinterpret the information you have, or if your serious weaknesses catch up with you more quickly than you anticipated, it’s obvious you should have directed your main efforts at something more worthwhile.

Kagan's Confirmation: Getting the Judiciary to do the Legislature's Job

E.J. Dionne is sounding awfully triumphalistic these days:

This week’s hearings over Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court will mark a sea change in the way liberals argue about the judiciary.

Democratic senators are planning to put the right of citizens to challenge corporate power at the centre of their critique of activist conservative judging, offering a case that has not been fully aired since the days of the great Progressive Era Justice Louis Brandeis.

It was Brandeis who warned against the “concentration of economic power” and observed that “so-called private corporations are sometimes able to dominate the state.”

I wonder how corporations got that way…

The answer is simple: the legislature (with help from the executive) let them get that way.  Through a combination of the shrinking of our world and a lot of lobbying, multinational corporations have gained a great deal of power.  But they couldn’t have gotten the job done without the complicity of Congress, which has let them do it through Democrat and Republican control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Now the clarion call goes out for citizens to have the possibility to challenge all of this in the judiciary, with people who will gladly rewrite the laws to suit their own vision.

There are at least three problems with this rosy vision:

  1. The usual victims of this kind of thing are small businesses.  Large corporations, with their deep pockets and legal budgets to match, can outlast such assaults much better than small businesses.
  2. Who’s going to go to bat for us when the government is the bad actor?  Anti-corporatism is frequently underpinned by the acceptance of the idea of the natural beneficence of government, when in fact both are perfectly able to abuse their powers when it suits them.
  3. Why should the judiciary consider its chief role in doing the work the legislature is too cowardly to do?  That’s one of the core problems with American politics: it’s too easy for our legislators to duck the serious issues and hide behind the skirts of the judiciary.  And if the latter is happy to assume that role, they’re off the hook even more.

In the long run, it challenges the whole idea of elected, represented government.  And when that’s out of the way, the fun (for those in power) really starts.

Sometimes Permanence is a Liability: The Lesson of Meyers Luggage

The death of Palm Beach luggage dealer Edwin R. Meyers brings back some interesting memories of travel gone by.  Meyers Luggage played a crucial role in my family’s foreign travel, but my last encounter made me do something I never thought I would do.

In the 1960’s my parents did a great deal of travel in Europe in conjunction with my family business, especially relating to our Belgian business associate.  It was a grand time to be on the road, especially from Palm Beach, and one stop my parents made to prepare for that was Meyers Luggage on Worth Avenue.  My parents did well by Meyers; most of the suitcases and briefcases (I still have one of the latter) my father and mother sported in the 1960’s and 1970’s came from there.  They were emblazoned with a little brass plate to remind us where they came from.

My mother invested in a set of French’s luggage, the velour kind with the stripes.  More durable luggage one could not hope for, but the technology of the time required that it be heavy.  As my brother pithily put it, it was great luggage as long as someone else carried it, and that’s the way my mother travelled.  I ended up with it and used it for a while, but my budget for porters was not in the same league as hers.

In the meanwhile technology advanced.  Using newer materials, luggage became lighter and sported wheels, both of which were welcome innovations.  I disposed of the French’s luggage.

In 2001, the summer just before 9/11 made commercial air travel a complete fiasco, my wife and I went to Palm Beach, only to discover that Meyers on Worth Avenue was going out of business (the West Palm Beach store is still open.)  The brass plates were still on the merchandise, and Mr. Meyers was a very persistent salesman with me as he was with my parents.  By that time I finally had broken down and realised that I needed a wheeled roll on, so he had a nice Hartman model he was trying to sell me.

He went on at length about the virtues of the Hartman, which I knew, as my superior at Laity Ministries (who travels 40+ weekends a year for the ministry) is a Hartman fan.  The price was good and he just about had me buying it when, at the end of a long sales pitch, he said that this is the luggage I would be using twenty years from now.

Something clicked in me.  I had just disposed of the luggage that my family had kept for thirty years.  Why would I want to look at another piece of expensive luggage for twenty more?  We thanked him and left, but then went to the outlet in Ft. Lauderdale and bought a much cheaper roll-on.

With luggage, the truth is that, unless you live out of your suitcase and it takes a continuous beating, you’re better off buying something cheaper, using it a while, letting it fall apart, chucking it and buying something with newer technology.  This is especially true if you know how to buy and are willing to be flexible with the brand name.  It’s a throwaway mentality, and it’s sad, but it’s a fact of life.  Even the buildings we put up, impressive and permanent as some of them look, are designed for lives whose brevity would shock most people.

But the passing of Edwin Meyers reminds us of one thing: the time will come when we too will reach the end of our life.  And eternity with God will prevent us from ending up like the luggage, i.e., disposed of.  That’s true whether we are Meyers Luggage with a name brand or other kinds with not so well known name brand.

My condolences go out to the Meyers family in their loss.  Meyers Luggage was and is a great Palm Beach institution and memories of same are part of the fun of being an old Palm Beacher.

You Will Never Be Forgotten for Being a Jerk

This gem of wisdom, from Engineering Tips:

I would like to offer a suggestion that in your dealings with your co-workers, colleagues, fellow industry professionals, bosses, underlings, secretaries and the general public, put on your happy face and be polite.  Your rewards may be few or none for doing the right thing, but YOU WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN FOR BEING A JERK.

Is This the Parting Point Between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion?

Drew asked me an interesting question regarding this in response to a previous post:

Do you think that at any point in the foreseeable future, the ABC or the rest of the Anglican Communion will sever its ties with the ECUSA in favor of one of its rivals?

The short answer is this: I think it’s finally moved into the realm of the plausible, where it wasn’t before.

What I see here is two people–Rowan Williams and Katharine Jefferts-Schori–who are both in “no win” and “no lose” situations at the same time.

Let’s start with Rowan Cantuar++.  I’ve always found it hard to believe that the author of “The Body’s Grace” and the chief prelate of the state church of a country as committed to the elevation of the LGBT community as the UK is would actually cut The Episcopal Church loose.  However, the Africans–and by them I’m thinking of the big provinces of Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and others–have forced the issue.  What they have told Williams in word and deed (esp. with GAFCON) is that, if the Church of England goes with TEC, there will be a new “Anglican Communion” and CoE won’t be a part of it, let alone at its centre.  And the Africans have the numbers in their favour.  Williams’ response is to go along with this in as plodding manner as he can get away with (and he’s a master at this,) hoping that TEC will back down on its continued ordination of openly LGBT bishops, but yet prepared for the worst if it doesn’t.

Jefferts-Schori, for her part, cannot do this.  She and her church, for a variety of reasons, are in an irreversible movement towards not only the complete admission of LGBT people into the life of the church, but also their control of same.  In her idea, she has no alternative (and the recent House of Bishops confrontation with Canon Kearon underscores this) but to move in this direction.  The downside is that one of their legal defences is that TEC is the “official” constituent of the AC in the US, but I don’t think that’s a big of an issue in court as it is outside except for a few cases.  Her hope is that the CoE won’t cut its ties with TEC; that’s why she’s shoring up the relationships she has in the mother church (and that shoring up is what led to “Mitregate.”)

One thing that everyone seems to forget is that membership in the AC is a multi-legged stool, but it’s not clear (to me at least) whether the stool needs all of its legs to stand or just one.  It’s possible that Williams could get TEC booted from the ACC and the Primates Meeting and keep TEC in full communion with the CoE, at which point TEC could still claim that it’s part of the AC (that’s a stretch, but then again…)  And then there’s the issue of CoE recognising the ACNA…

What we have here is two organisations playing a game of ecclesiastical chicken.   The best result is that both will swerve, in which case no one wins.  The worst result is that neither does, in which no one wins.  That’s why I’ve always said that North American Anglicans need to be about their mission and let the Communion politics take care of themselves.

My Thoughts on the 2010 Church of God General Assembly Agenda

Now that I’ve published this, it’s time to move on and consider what’s in front of our church at its 2010 General Assembly in Orlando next month.  The agenda is online and can be found here.

This review is not intended to be comprehensive.  It is informed by more than a quarter of a century in the church, more than half of which found me working in the International Offices.

With that in mind, here goes:

Women in Ministry (Item 3): This should have been done a long time ago.  I elucidated my position on this subject here, much to the shock of some at our Seminary.  My only concern with this is that the whole issue of authority hasn’t been thought out very carefully.  My observations of this are here (in general) and here (in particular, relating to women in ministry.)

Pastoral Review System (Item 4): This is a sore subject with lay people, who find it strange that our ministers are unfavourable to periodic pastoral review when Administrative Bishops are subject to same and ministers bristle at the thought of eliminating an elective office or a quadrennial General Assembly.  As my father would say, “I’ve got a no-fit going here.”  (I thought of using my usual expression, “cognitive dissonance moment,” but I wanted to be clear on this subject.)  No substantive action is contemplated here, but there needs to be some.

Quadrennial General Assembly (Item 5): See previous item.  The General Assembly is an enormously expensive enterprise.  A more sensible solution would be a triennium like the Episcopalians use, but I pray that God smites us with a curse if we adopt some of the really stupid resolutions they have at their GC’s.

Elected Positions (Item 6): Personally I think the following would make for a better (or at least more consistent) elected officials mix:

  1. Three (3) Person Executive Committee.
  2. Council of Eighteen (18) with at least half of the members lay people.  (That’s right, lay people.)
  3. State Administrative Bishops (elected, obviously, at the state/regional level.)  If it worked for a Doctor of the Church like Ambrose, it should work for us.

Restructuring of International Offices (Item 7): I think this would have a happier ending for everyone if my Item 6 suggestion (esp. the second point) had been in place before it started.  War is too important to be left to generals; God’s work is too important to be left to our ministers.

International Executive Council (Item 13): See my comment on Item 6.  I’d also mandate that the make-up of the IEC reflect the actual ethnic mix we have in our denomination.

General Overseer (Item 15): This would end one of the more interesting traditions we have in the Church of God, and some explanation (esp. for my Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox readers) is in order.

“And I saw the dead, high and low, standing before the throne; and books were opened. Then another book was opened, the Book of Life; and the dead were judged, according to their actions, by what was written in the books.” (Revelation 20:12)  This is, in effect, the theory behind how we make appointments at the General Assembly.  After our Executive Committee and Council are elected, they meet in conclave while the General Council/Assembly is still in session, and determine all of the “General Assembly appointments”: state and regional Administrative Bishops, missionaries, chaplains, boards, International Office appointees (like myself), and others.  We have a commissioning service at the end, where we who are elected or appointed are commissioned.  Only problem is, our appointments aren’t officially announced until after the service, when we rush to the exits and get a little booklet (it’s online now, too).  At that point “books were opened,” and we see, as one Presiding Bishop put it, “God’s will for our life.”

This delightfully suspenseful if somewhat unprofessional system is to be abolished under this resolution.  The appointments are to be made by the EC and IEC after the Assembly at the leadership meeting.  Although this on paper makes more sense, there are two issues surrounding it that need to be considered.

The first is that it takes yet another week off of the “musical chairs” that we have in August while appointees and elected officials move around (frequently physically) and get situated.  This is especially significant for those with school age children.  It also adds more dead time in the life of our church around the time of the Assembly, and there’s enough of that.

Second, it would add more time for our church’s version of the “smoke filled rooms” to cloud our appointment process, and that time would be after everyone else had gone home.  There’s enough of that already, too.

Affiliate Churches (Item 17): I have to admit that this is the worst item on the agenda.  I think the idea of this is to attract large Charismatic churches with multimillion dollar facilities whose title would not have to pass to the central church (a problem that North American Episcopalians and Anglicans are well aware of.)  But this ignores some very important realities.

To begin with, denominations primarily exist to serve (that’s right, people, we’re supposed to serve) small and medium size churches.  Large churches don’t need a denomination.  And not all churches are called to be large churches, current theory notwithstanding.

More than that, it’s unfair to those who have worked within our system for years to sit and watch others waltz into it, receiving the benefits of affiliation without the price.  If local church ownership of property is so great, we should extend it to everyone (and I think there are very cogent reasons to do this) or at least divest the property to the state and regional levels (as the Roman Catholics do on a diocesan basis.)

Finally, it would over time turn our church into what Sun Yat-Sen would call a “sheet of loose sand.”  The North American Anglicans are wrestling with the problem re the “mission partner” churches on a much larger scale, and I think it undermines the integrity of the enterprise.  (Had they started out being a loose association, it would have been different, but their objective was to receive recognition from Canterbury, so…)

Now that I’ve ripped through the Agenda, let me bloviate on a few choice topics:

Church Planting Initiative

A good deal has been made of this; it has been one of the objectives of the Missional Revolt.  From what I’ve seen, my conclusion is simple: I think that church planting at US$50,000 and up a crack, whether it’s underwritten by the denomination or a local church, is economically unsustainable in a church where the median AGI of the membership probably isn’t that high.  Put another way, we’ll run out of money before we’ll run out of mission.  In a world of house churches and cell groups, using a “World Missions” type of model is probably a good way of marrying the career track of our ministers with our need to plant new churches (and I agree we need to plant new churches.) Obviously if you’re planting the likes of a Worth Avenue Church of God (and that would reflect more “out of the box” missional thinking than I’ve seen in our church) you’d need these kinds of resources; however, I don’t think it should be regarded as the norm.  This would be a good place to employ the services of our lay people, especially if the plant is out of an existing local church, but we are afraid of such an enterprise.

I would urge our ministers to take a look at Roland Allen’s excellent book Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? for an insightful look at this subject.

Internationalisation or Multiculturalisation

One major lacuna in our reallocation of resources is any effort to further the internationalisation or multiculturalisation of our church at all levels of its life.  A church drawn from all peoples was one of the promises of the first Pentecost and certainly the second, but our current set-up suggests a “hub-and-spoke” structure.  This will not do for a long list of reasons.  It will limit our church’s appeal.  Full Gospel Christianity is naturally multicultural, which is, for me, one of its big appeals.  We need not spoil it.

Role of the Laity

I saw a few references to the laity in the Agenda and related documents, especially to putting lay people on more boards in our church on a national and international level.  We will see if this is actualised; I tend to be a sceptic.  As it stands now, the role of the laity in our church as it is currently implemented has no support in the New Testament.  That needs to be fixed.

The Direct Road to Jefferts Schori vs. Williams Started When She Was Elected: A Prediction from 2006

While researching something else, this, from a post I made in the wake of TEC’s GC 2006:

There is no question that most of the Anglican Communion will not stomach the election of a woman Presiding Bishop, especially one that supports homosexuals the way she does. There is also no question that the Episcopal church has put Rowan Williams and the Church of England in a tight place, since they are in the middle of their own debate over women bishops along with all of the other controversies the Communion is convulsed with. The 2006 General Convention is a watershed for the Episcopal church, one that has been coming for at least four decades but which has arrived in a way that no one can miss. (Personally, I’m surprised it took this long. But that’s just me.)

The Episcopalians could have fudged on many of the issues in front of it. They’re good at that. But the GLBT people and other radicals smelled total victory, and they could not resist having it all. (They’ll screw up the 2008 election for the Democrats if they do the same thing at the Democrat National Convention they just did at this gathering.)

But now they must face up to the consequences of that bold move.

When liberals operate in our society, they generally do so incrementally, and they generally try to assure themselves that they have the covering of the legal system and/or bureaucracy when they make their move. In this way they can force their opponents to submit to the law or at least dissuade them through high legal fees.

They also prefer to appropriate to themselves existing institutions rather than creating new ones to displace the old. The classic example of this is gay marriage, where they are attempting to redefine marriage rather than abolishing it. Their attempt to force the Boy Scouts to allow homosexual scout masters rather than to start a new scouting organisation (or eliminate scouting altogether) is of a similar ilk.

Up until now they have been reasonably successful in both in the Episcopal church, albeit at the loss of a large portion of the membership. But now they are faced with forces and institutions beyond their control, specifically the “Global South” provinces which have no use for either North American sexual adventurism or economic elitism (don’t count out the power of the rage that causes.) Their attempt to roll the Global South has hit the wall at every turn. They are coming to realise, even in their arrogance and pride, that there are some things they cannot do and many people they cannot win over, crush or ignore.

This may explain why the institution known by its acronym of ECUSA is wanting to go simply by “The Episcopal Church.” Hard as it is on the Boomer leadership of the church, they have to swallow the fact that they cannot “have it all” in this case. They must choose between being something they cannot stomach and breaking away from people who cannot stomach them. Being forced to choose the latter will mean that the Episcopal church will henceforth represent a “spirituality” that is consciously other than Anglicanism, something they have been doing for a long time but until recently have not had to admit.

What we may end up with then is a communion of one (or two, if the Canadians decide to throw their lot in with their American counterparts.) The liberals would then have to convince the rest of us that their church, with its superannuated demographics and a belief structure little different from the neopagans around them, is a place one would want to invest time, money and family into. For a group of people who have risen on the backs of others and sold themselves through a combination of deception and coercion, this is a tall order. The Episcopal church may have “crossed the Rubicon” with this General Convention, but we doubt seriously that Katharine Jefferts Schori—or anyone else they could have elected—is the Julius Caesar that the left is going to need to win the victory.

An Aggie Explains John 10:11-16

Where we read the following:

I am the Good Shepherd; and I know my sheep, and my sheep know me– Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep besides, which do not belong to this fold; I must lead them also, and they will listen to my voice; and they shall become one flock under ‘one Shepherd.’  (John 10:14-16)

This, from our war in Afghanistan:

The night I arrived, (Lt. Col. Guy) Jones was conducting his weekly “key-leader engagement meeting” in an office on the second floor of the District Center. Jones, who majored in nuclear engineering at Texas A&M, had a lot of theories, and one — just politically incorrect enough to flourish in a remote place like Arghandab — had to do with the role of key leaders in Afghanistan. “Compare the Afghan people to sheep,” Jones said to me in one of our long conversations. “You know if you just suddenly jump at sheep, they’ll fall over and have a heart attack? When they’re scared, they’ll just huddle with the shepherd. As soon as they hear the sound of his voice, they’ll calm down.” The Taliban were trying to terrorize people into fearing that their shepherds couldn’t protect them.

Although I think that Lt. Col. Jones’ case has merit, and certainly explains Jesus’ words clearly, the immediate problem is that his own shepherd–Barack Obama–is acting more like this:

I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. The hired man who is not a shepherd, and who does not own the sheep, when he sees a wolf coming, leaves them and runs away; then the wolf seizes them, and scatters the flock.  He does this because he is only a hired man and does not care about the sheep.  (John 10:11-13)

For those obsessive Ivy League elitists (and Teasippers) who would sneer at the thought of Aggie wisdom, I should point out that probably the most financially successful member of my A&M class is a nuclear engineering major who ended up working for the Rockefellers.

Crossing the Rainbow Bridge: A Pentecostal Saga

Back when I was growing up, we’d descend from Palm Beach and venture to the Florida Keys for vacation, navigating waters such as shown at the right.  One of the more memorable side trips we took was a visit to a museum where artefacts from sunken Spanish galleons were on display.  The Spanish were most interested in precious metals in the New World; they systematically enslaved the Aztecs, Toltecs, Mayas, Incas and other people whom they conquered to dig gold and silver out of the mines for shipment back to Spain, in conditions one shudders to even think about.  The Straits of Florida were the main route from Mexico to the Old World, and since the reefs that parallel the Keys were there, some of those galleons never finished the voyage, depositing ship, crew and cargo on the bottom.  Some of these had been salvaged and I found the gold and silver coinage on display to be especially fascinating.

A little later in life I was introduced to another story of subaqueous gold: Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, his epic opera in four parts.  In this case it was a less inviting body of water (the Rhine River) where gold was guarded by Rhine maidens and available only to the one who would forsake love.  Sure enough, there’s always someone who will do anything for money, in this case dwarf Alberich, who got the gold and forged a ring of power.

In the meanwhile the Teutonic gods decided they needed a new home, so they contracted with the giants Fasolt and Fafner to build their new magnificent Valhalla.  Through a long ruse they managed to beat the payment for this out of Alberich, ring included.  Alberich curses his lost ring (as if that were necessary,) Wotan and the gods got clear title, and Froh, the god of spring, created a rainbow bridge for the gods to cross into their new home.  But the effort was doomed from the start by the way they were forced to pay for it.

Fast forward to the year where the left made its last attempt to defeat George W. Bush electorally.  (There’s a political angle to the “rainbow bridge” but I’ll skip it.)  My own church, which was my employer, had been engaged in a massive expansion of its central offices (with expense following,) and the process was complete.   Amidst one of the sappiest responsorial readings I had ever been a part of, the buildings, which surround an expansive prayer garden, were dedicated, and we crossed our own rainbow bridge.

There were prophets amongst us.  One of my colleagues proclaimed that Jesus had turned his back on us.  We peered out of the lobby of the building where our new office was (and is, for the moment) and saw truth in his words.  And there was the matter of payment.

The expanse of Wagner’s musical productions were only matched by the controversy they generated.  Their creator had a high view of his operas, but in his time he had detractors.  Instead of applause, there were many times when the audience was simply clasping its hands above their heads.  Such was also the case with our new Valhalla.

With life faithfully imitating art, it was time for the hero to appear.  Somewhere in my preppy education the idea that heroes didn’t come from warm climates bubbled to the top, that only cold, harsh climates could produce such.  As a South Floridian, this doesn’t sit well, and my response is here.  For once I was right.  Not so far from the sunken Spanish gold, where the animals are tame and the people run wild, a hero appeared that would doom Valhalla and many of its inhabitants.  It’s taken some time and the process has generated more heat than light, but earlier this year our reorganisation began, I announced that I was taking my leave, and we began the painful process of downsizing that has continued unabated to the present day.

Unfortunately, as was the case in the Ring, the hero’s appearance wasn’t an automatic solution to every problem.  The bottom line to our hero’s crusade was that less of the denomination’s cash flow would flow to the centre and more would remain in the field.  But, unlike mythology, there are many Valhallas out there, products of a generation whose penchant for grandiosity combined with availability of credit produced a proliferation of economically unsustainable physical plants.  (That’s what happens when the church follows the culture rather than the other way around!)

But someone needs to take a lesson from this.  It is my prayer that the gold will find its way once again to the bottom, the descendants of those who mined it (and others on the wrong side of slavery and colonialism) will take their rightful place in the church, and that I will never, ever again cross the rainbow bridge.