Welcome back, everyone! I appreciate y'all taking the time to keep coming back to read my opinions and answers to the questions of ADF's membership. Today's post is a bit longer than yesterday's; I am grateful for your additional investment of time and consideration.
Before I get to today's batch of questions, I'd like to share a bit of some conversations I had on Facebook yesterday. I was asked about comments that I'd made regarding ADF when the Bonewits child-rape story came to our attention, as well as recent opinions I've shared on ADF's overall organizational health. There was concern expressed at my "lack of vision and hope for ADF in the long term." How can I stand for the membership when I, "... have so little regard for the organization that you are both part of?" It's believed that I, "... would rather not see (ADF) succeed (or at least won't shed a tear if it fails)." It was pointed out that I believe the changes are not happening quickly enough, and how confusing it can be that I'm, "...clergy of an organization that you feel this way about." I was asked if I'd be able to, "... put aside your personal agenda to work within the organization, and work with people you don't agree with? Or is your position as truth-teller better served at the margins of the organization?"
This was my reply:
"Thanks for your well thought out reply, (name redacted). I can certainly see how my words and view of ADF's unchecked future can be concerning. I'll do my best to unpack this a bit more in hopes to bring ease, and to share a bit more of my perspective.
I'm approaching my role in standing for members differently than, perhaps, others have in the past. ADF deserves to be fixed, and at the same time, members deserve to not walk into a building that's structurally unsound. I have regard for both the organization AND the membership. In my working with our grove's folk here in CO, we have constructed a, what we consider to be, realistic perspective of engaging people from the place of a healthy, inclusive, diverse church... and it's from that place that my care for the folk and ADF arise.
Sometimes, for example, people keep the dying from passing on because of their own attachments and agendas and feelings... when the best thing for the person dying would be to pass into the Ancestor's realm. I'm not saying that ADF has one foot in the grave and another on the banana peel, but there are things that need to change, and not because I hold any ill will to individuals or the organization, but because I actually care about the human beings that invest their time, talents, and treasure to this organization.
I DO want ADF to succeed, and I've already shed my tears for it. Not because I'll miss it when it's gone, but because I'm not in a position to help it live, transformed and healthy, into the future. Gods be good, it'll outlast us all, in a relevant, healthy, modern state-of-being.
You asked how I could be a clergy member in ADF if I feel how I do. I stay because I model for my folk what I hope ADF could be. I stay and serve because I believe in the vision of accessible, relevant, modern polytheism, AND I believe that those practices can heal the world, as individuals and collectively. I stay because many of those close to me are in this organization. In the future, if you're left wondering things about my perspectives and opinions, my email is always accessible, and I respond well to FB/text/phone/etc. Please contact me that we may talk.
To clarify, I'm not giving up on ADF. In fact, by running for election, I'm trying to step closer so I can get hands-on. Like you, I want people to feel they have a home. I think we're differing on what makes a home safe for guests and family.
My agenda IS the people of ADF. Not the grey mass of "the folk", but the individual faces of congregants, researchers, hobbyists, dyed-in-the-wool druids... the people.
Ultimately, it's up to the members of ADF if they want me "truth-telling" on the margins, or in the middle of things fighting for them... because at the end of the day, people comprise the whole of my agenda. The people will decide if they want me to serve in this role or not. I honor their decisions.
(name redacted), I pray that my taking the time to address your worries and concerns has done good by you (and any that may be feeling similarly). Please know that I'm capable of complex emotions, and can be angry with a situation, and still be invested in the framework that holds the situation, as well as compassionate toward the people impacted by those situations.
I don't want to see ADF fail, AND I don't want to see it going on like it has been. Gods be good, I can help."
Some follow-up questions were asked, and it was amicably agreed that those questions could be added to the list that I'm working through on the blog.
Reading all the candidates answers, asking them about their opinions, expressing fears and doubts about their ideas and viewpoints... these actions show that you care. You want the best for ADF, and you want Our Druidry to matter, not only now, but in the future. Thank you for your engagement in the process. I'd like to assure y'all that even though I say things that are charged and dark, those opinions, and my sharing them as best I can in type-written media, arise out of my engagement with, love for, and desire to help the religious order that has blessed me with so much. I am grateful for the space you've granted me to share my thoughts, opinions, and struggles.
Now, on to today's batch of questions:
Volunteer recruitment and burnout are big problems. Do you have any plans to address either of those issues?
So much of Our Druidry is practiced across hundreds (or thousands) of miles, and while that is one of our strengths because we are capable of connecting on an international scale, I believe it's also a great challenge because it's difficult to check-in to make sure folks' experiences are being heard. It could be argued that not being heard leads to burnout, but I'd like to add that being heard but not LISTENED TO could till the soil in which burnout is grown. Hearing, and acting on folks' behalf is what, in my opinion, the job of MA is all about.
So, if elected, what can I do? I can encourage regional druids to keep in direct touch with their area leaders, and connect the MA to those who need to be heard, or who need advocacy. I can advocate for policies and procedures that support sharing the load of organizational responsibility. I can share personal stories of individual suffering with the Mother Grove, and be a mouthpiece for those negatively affected by the organizationally-generated situations that would cause burnout or decrease volunteer retention.
How do you plan to cultivate membership and volunteers?
Are we talking about the "prepare and use" cultivation, or the "acquire and develop" kind? In either case, from the position of Members' Advocate, I can work toward what I've offered in the above question. I believe offering people an organization that embodies care, concern, inclusivity, diversity, and multiculturalism is the best way to serve our members and volunteers.
Like I wrote in 2016 when running for Vice ArchDruid,
"Part of our religious experience as polytheists is that we accept that a lot of truths are existing together at the same time, and that in and of itself is paradox. There’s the truth of our laws/customs; there’s the truth of leadership; the truth of the initiated; the ordained; and ultimately… the individual. To call something “ours” means that we all have a stake, and each stake is valuable.I think that ADF has tremendous opportunity for growth in considering the truths and experiences of the folk as much as we consider the truth and experience in the lore, and our existing structures. Ultimately, a church without folk is meaningless. There is little that a church can do unless there are individuals available to participate in those things. A piece of what we do at Mountain Ancestors is actively examine our smaller communities and try to gain understanding in the unique experiences and needs, both of those in our local communities and in our larger global community."
What special skills would you bring to the position?
It'd be swell if I were a lawyer, psychotherapist, or the like... but I'm just a priest of a small polytheist church in Colorado. I've been lucky enough to have gone to Naropa University and graduated with a degree in Religious Studies. While there, I had classes and training in ethics, peer leadership, non-violent action, religion in human experience, spiritual models of social action, and multiculturalism. I also bring my experience in human rights, just-society, and mental health training.
How will you contribute to building a culture of consent in ADF?
Individually, I can contribute by naming the real problems that come with rape-culture. I can help to re-examine masculinity and re-imagine how consent-culture masculinity appears in ADF. I can encourage (insist) that leadership become media-literate on rape-culture, as well as encourage our organizational global-awareness of rape-culture. I can point us back to our histories (and gods forbid, the lore) so we can examine how rape-culture has been around for as long as rape. I can encourage, as it would benefit our membership and ultimately our religion, that leaders embrace how intersectionality is working not only in ADF, but in the world-at-large. I can be an advocate for those wanting to share their stories.
Lately, ADF has been rocked by several 'scandals' for lack of a better word, and frankly, the MG has floundered. From appointing people to making statements without complete information, these sorts of things are damaging to the organization. If elected, how would you go about navigating the issues facing the organization around bringing more transparency to processes while still responding to crisis in a timely manner?
Great question. Seriously.
For the sake of fairness, even through my own feelings of anger and frustration as the "scandals" came to light, the Mother Grove did their best with what they thought they had. In other words, if you cant see that there's a hammer at the bottom of your toolbag, you'll keep using the back-end of your screwdriver to drive nails.
We have SO many talented individuals in ADF, from lawyers, Ph.D.s, scientists, LOADS of tech-folx, professional educators and administrators... and I believe they're not being utilized and shown appreciation for what they bring to the table. If we have the human resources of, for example, professional educators, why haven't we BEGGED them for their help in creating more accessible, modern solutions for our study programs? Or to help create grading rubrics? Or a MYRIAD of other things that I don't know about... wait for it... because I'm NOT a professional educator.
We need to be Courageous enough to ask for help from experts in a field that we're not experts in, even though we may be "experts" in a field we're in together.
Long ago, someone somewhere in ADF probably said something that got interpreted as only-ADF-stuff-matters. It doesn't matter that someone has an advanced degree from a reputable institution in are in fields that would HELP Our Druidry grow and thrive. Why? Because if we're transparent about WHY the folks in charge (or thought-leaders, or social-influencers) are in those positions, we'd end up, like my mom (of blessed memory) used to say, "showin' ya ass to the world." Transparency is scary, AND it's got to happen to stay relevant in today's greater religious world.
If elected, I can only be the advocate for greater transparency, as I'm only on the MG as an advisor and non-voting member. Facing that direction, I don't have a lot of power... but facing the people, I can be the point of the spear, their collective power behind me. I can, as their advocate, be transparent about the lack of transparency. I can advocate for change by assembling our people to join their voices and "vote with their feet".
Now, regarding timely crisis responses: at some point, in times of crisis, we have to have people who are empowered by the group (not just the few) to speak on our behalf, who have the skills, language, efficiency, clarity, and sincerity to act quickly. We have people who possess those talents among our number. Without doubt. Why hasn't leadership tapped them for their help? If I get to serve as your advocate, I'll discover an answer, and commit to letting the people know. From there, you can choose what you'd like to do.
In response to the recent allegations against Isaac Bonewits, the ADF Mother Grove unanimously voted to provide (and fund) training for our Mother Grove, Regional Druids, and Clergy in the Consent Culture Course from Cherry Hill Seminary. I don't think the candidates' bios are the necessary venue to debate the merit of those accusations--I think the candidates should feel free to take a stance if they are called to, but that it is not something I would be looking for in their bios. However, I was incredibly proud to see the Mother Grove approve this class. I think it was a wise and proactive step to ensure that, moving forward as a religious organization, our leadership is equipped with the knowledge and skills to better identify, process, and even prevent coercion and abuse in our communities. I would like to see our candidates briefly discuss their responses to this course, specifically regarding how it may inform their leadership decisions.
Another great question. Thank you.
I took the course in 2016 with Rev. Michael Dangler, Rev, Jan Avende, and Victoria Selnes. Going in, I was working toward acquiring, "some deeper insight and guidance on modeling/structuring consent culture in a church/ritual setting, as well as how it informs our liturgy/ministry" (all quotes in this section are my own from the class unless otherwise noted). From week one, what I came away with was an understanding of the "Machiavellian-nature of the intersection of rape and culture" as well as "how insidious it is, and how ingrained we are culturally to unconsciously (or consciously) participate in it." I defined consent culture as "a social/political/religious/etc. group who build, foster, support, empower, and enforce collective processes that function to recognize individual agency and personal-rights."
In 2016, this is what I had to say about my experiences in the class:
"(Many) of our local group here in Colorado have been speaking the consent culture language from our days at Naropa University, and that's influenced how we as a church operate and make decisions, as well as how the social-norms of our church work. There's a small handful of local grove-folk and national ADF members that are down with the consent-culture model, but as an organization, we've got work to do."
Leadership-wise, consent is NOT consensus. To me, consensus-based decisions require everyone to say yes. Consent-based decisions require no one to say no. In the first model, groups try to arrive at the most palatable option(s) for the entire group. Consensus can cause an idea/proposal to become watered-down as each member of the team adds to or subtracts from the idea before they will support it. This, in my opinion, is how ADF has been making decisions. Consent-based process says that each team member must assess an idea based solely on the risk posed to the team or the larger organization. Only if a proposal or idea is found to be “unsafe” may a team member object. To be transparent, there's a lot more that goes along with this process, and I look forward to moving to deploy this model on a leadership level if I am elected.
Thank you for sticking it out to the end of today's post. I appreciate your time. Truly.
Please come back tomorrow for Part 3!
Blessings, one and all.