Action at St. Mark's...

Well, for those following the goings on at St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle, the home of my discernment process and ongoing drama, the Dean, Robert Taylor, officially resigned yesterday. (For those who haven't been tracking, there's been a rocky relationship between Robert and the community for about a year to a year and a half, focusing around money, the Dean's leadership style, several staff firings last year, and conflicting visions of what the community should be about.) I just reviewed all of the material on the website about the separation, and I'm coming away from the whole experience with mixed--though not intense--emotions.

My basic feeling as a parishioner is that this stage has probably ended as gracefully as it could have. I'm a little disappointed that the Dean didn't have a go at the first recommendation of the Donovan Report (that is, the recommendation to take some time away from the community and see if things can be worked out), but I respect the decision that was made. I also have to admit that I'm generally happy to be part of church hierarchy in this particular situation, because the guidance of Bishops has contributed significantly to this being worked out in a way that wasn't (apparently?) horribly ugly. On the other side of things of course, a lot of the problems had to do with the way we structure our hierarchy, and the power given to the vestry and the Dean. From reading the material, and from experiencing the situation, my feeling is that there has been a level of disconnect between the congregation and the leadership, which is to some degree fostered by our church structure. It's a question whether structural/cultural issues will be addressed now that Robert has resigned. It's a savvy congregation, so I hope so, but we Episcopalians aren't particularly flexible when it comes to changing our structures. Color me conflicted.

I'm also sad to see Robert go, especially on a generally bad note. He's a person who I have deep respect for on a lot of levels. He has flaws, and as the Donovan report points out, those flaws ultimately contributed to this hubbub, but he's also a religious genius on a lot of levels and has lived a life worthy of a positive wikipedia entry. My uneducated feeling is that the problem has been as much about vestry and the community's structure as it has been Robert, but he'll be the one who has to face the most negative consequences on this one.

All in all, I think think that the report material does a good job of diffusing the sense of the dramatic in the situation. In minister resignations, everyone loves when there is gross moral misconduct, sex, murder, etc., but in this case that hasn't happened. There have been a lot of people who have understandably left the community, but my feeling is that the congregation is on relatively solid ground. This one probably won't light up the blogosphere too much, except maybe with those who recognize the significance of Robert's leadership in the gay religious community. Consequently, despite the significance of what's happened in this, my parish church, I'm not that inspired to write a long blog on this. It's been a long time coming, it's been handled well, and I just spent the weekend with 60 teenagers.

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