Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Recent Unpleasantness

A long time ago in a small religious institution far, far, away....
A Tragedy in Four Acts

Dramatis Personae
LRC – the Liberal Religious Church
WCD - The Western Coast District of the LRC
NANCI - Chairman of the LRC National Board
SUE-ANN - former president of the WCD Board
GALINDA - Director for Congregational Control, LRC
ALICE - the District Executive of the WCD
WCD Board – the volunteer board of the Western Coast District of the LRC
LRMA - the Liberal Religious Ministers Association
JOHN CLEESE - special cameo appearance

Act I (The Bad Beginning)

Scene 1: (A Moderator Immoderate)
WCD 2010 District Assembly, a meeting on Regionalization

NANCI:  presents standard LRC talking points about why the current districts are too complicated.
ATTENDEE:  But the regions are weird.  How can we have a single region for everything west of the Mississippi?  How would we travel to district events?
NANCI:  That's not an official map.  There is no official plan.
ATTENDEE:  Your talking points are very general.  What specifics will this address?  How will it work?
NANCI:  Look at this complicated organization chart.  This is what we have to deal with.
ATTENDEE:  That's just a chart of the LRC.  The districts are just a little corner on it.  That diagram is not an argument.  It's deliberate obfuscation.
NANCI (haranguing):  The current system is too complicated.  You're all just standing in the way.
ATTENDEE (a person of age, member of the LRC for 30 years)(plaintive): But what's broken about our district?
NANCI:  You're just being selfish!
   (pause - all are taken aback)
SUE-ANN (appeasing):   We were at the meeting of the Board Presidents, and we, like, just had this epiphany - why do we need Districts?
WCD BOARD MEMBERS:  Huh?  We've all been talking at our board meetings about how we were not in favor of regionalization, you included!
   (Exeunt NANCI, SUE-ANN, most of the attendees)
Some of THE WCD BOARD:  What's up with Sue-Ann? She's been telling us that she was presenting our views against regionalization. Should one of us run for board president?
SEVERAL:  It's not really what I want to do, but we need someone to represent our views to the LRC.  I guess I could run.
ALL:  OK, one of us will have to take it on.

Scene 2 (I'll take my marbles and go home)
Some days after District Assembly
SUE-ANN:  If I can't be president, I'll resign from the Board.
ALL:  Sue-Ann, you don't have to leave the Board!
SUE-ANN:  No, I'm quitting, but not until after General Assembly.
Scene 3 (After General Assembly)
SUE-ANN:  Messenger, send this to Alice, the WCD Board, and the LRC.  I have heard from anonymous sources that Alice has been defaming me.  She has to stop or I will sue her.
Scene 4 (WCD Board Meeting)
Moderator:  Next item of business, we have this letter from Sue-Ann. 
Member 1:  That's just a parting shot from Sue-Ann.  Nothing will come of it.
Member 2:  I wonder...
(Fade to dark, then curtain comes down)
Act II (The LRC Strikes Back)
Scene 1 (There's a new sheriff in town)
LRC High Command
GALINDA (alone, in her office):  The WCD Board members are puppets of Alice.  She's been putting them up to this opposition to regionalization.  And there was that business with the Dead Elm congregation.  But now I have this letter from Sue-Ann.  I can use that to start an investigation.  Harold was too easy on them - I can get this done right.  I'll show them what a Texas girl with a degree from Harvard University can do.  I'll get the ministers to do the work - I'll just ask them for things they don't like about her.  The group dynamics will be great - once you get it started, everyone just piles on.

Scene 2 (She's a witch!)
WCD LRMA Retreat
(The curtain rises on a dimly lit stage with gauze in front.  45 ministers are on stage, some in front and most behind in a chorus.  We cannot make out their features.)
VOICE 1:  I have a request from Galinda asking for all the bad things that you have to say about Alice.
VOICE 2:  She made a comment a few years ago that I thought was disrespectful of ministers.  I've never gotten over it.
VOICE 3:  She questioned whether I should vote on a grant making committee that gave money to my church.  How dare she question the integrity of a minister!
VOICE 4:  She expressed a different opinion from me in front of MY congregation.
JOHN CLEESE:  She turned me into a newt!
ALL:  You don't look like a newt!
CLEESE:  I got better.
ALL:  Right.  We'll leave that bit out.
CHORUS:  We like her, and she has helped us.  But your stories are compelling and we feel your pain, so we will stand in solidarity with our fellow ministers.
   (They vote)
VOICE 1:  So the vote is 40 to 0, with 5 abstaining.  We will send a letter to the WCD that we do not trust her and she should be fired. Two of us will hand-deliver the message to Alice.
   (exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with the letter.)
VOICE 2:  And remember the code of omerta - no one can speak of the contents of these proceedings.
VOICE 3:  Omerta is such an ugly word.  What about covenant?
   (Ministers disappear off stage.  As they leave, a new minister appears)
MINISTER:  What about compassion?
VOICE 1:  You weren't here.  We have voted.  'Twere well it were done quickly.
(Stage to black)
Act III (What a mess!)
Scene 1
 (WCD Board Meeting)
PRESIDENT:  We have a letter from the ministers telling us to fire Alice.
BOARD:  For what!?
PRESIDENT:  They don't say.  They just say they don't trust her, and want us to fire her.
BOARD:  We can't just fire her for without a reason.  We have to talk to them, to find out what has made them so upset.  We can arrange a special meeting and see how many will come in on a single day, and then we can talk to the rest later.

Scene 2 (The dog that didn't bark in the night)
(Board meets with some Ministers one by one)
BOARD:  What is your experience with Alice?
EACH MINISTER:  (Tells their story)
   (at the end of one interview)
MEMBER: Is there no way to reconcile?  Doesn't our Liberversalist heritage does hold up salvation for all?
MINISTER: Only in the afterlife. And we don't believe in that any more.
   (Exeunt ministers)
ALL: That was really weird.  There was nothing there that rose to the level of firing Alice.
BOARD (various, speaking)
  -  A lot of that was tragic misunderstandings and differences in communication styles.
  -  Some of it was petty issues from years ago.  A minister is supposed to be more grown up.
  -  A few items were upsetting - we need to hear Alice's side of the story.
  -  Harold came out a year ago to deal with some of that.  It was supposed to be settled.
  -  Some of those were issues left over from before the time Alice was hired.  And some of it just wasn't true.
  -  And to think I used to respect that minister....
MEMBER:  There was a minister on the the board with us for the whole eight years that Alice has been working for the WCD.  Why didn't they ever say anything?

Scene 3 (John Rawls rolls over in his grave)
BOARD MEMBER:  If Alice had been a minister, the LRMA rules allow her to hear the complaints, face her accusers, and defend herself.
MINISTER:  But she's not a minister.
BOARD MEMBER:  But that's a double standard!
MINISTER:  I don't understand your point - she's not a minister.

Scene 4
(Email and phone)
GALINDA: We'll define an 8 week plan for Alice to fix the issues. (aside) And THEN we'll fire her.
WCD BOARD:  No, we need a process to talk to the ministers and understand the complaints.
WCD BOARD sends a letter to LRC asking for the LRC to respect their timetable and process for finding truth by talking to the ministers, and also sends a copy of this letter to LRMA.

Act IV (Off with her head!)

Scene 1
(Email and phone)
GALINDA:  This has gone on long enough.
WCD BOARD:  But you never even started the plan!
GALINDA:  Enough is enough.
WCD BOARD sends a letter to the LRC trustees appealing for the WCD process to be respected
WCD BOARD sends a letter to the LRMA congregational ministers asking for the ministers to stop the LRC.
GALINDA:  Alice, sign this letter of resignation or you will be fired on 1/31.
ALICE:  Signs letter.
WCD BOARD:  Sends out message announcing Alice's unilateral termination by the LRC.

Scene 2
(In a living room, two people with laptops)
BOARD MEMBER:  What are you working on?
SPOUSE:  Oh nothing, just my blog.
BOARD MEMBER:  That's nice, dear.

(With apologies to Monty Python, Shakespeare, and The Anti-Racism Trainings by David Reich)


  1. Oh. My. God.

    This is HILARIOUS!!!