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Idol Thoughts

So ... I just went through the entire archives of the ADF-Leadership list looking at the Brushwood Idol controversy.

Here are my thoughts:

- The Nemeton at Brushwood certainly was billed as an ADF National Nemeton or at the very least the Nemeton in use at the Annual Meeting. This may have been inaccurate but the evidence (the asking for donations for it's improvement on the website and just the way we have referred to it over the years) leaves little doubt to most of us that this is the case. I certainly, and I was not alone, thought of it as such.
- The argument of "why didn't you speak up sooner" is easily the most offensive response in regards to this thread. Many of us HAVE spoken up sooner on all kinds of issues. We were ignored and marginalized. Also, it is kind of hard to speak up about something you have no clue about. Had I been asked if what I thought about an idol representing the GK with an erect phallus I would have expressed my feelings that this was inappropriate.
- About the same number of people were speaking up for and against the inclusion of the idols into the space. To somehow coach this as only a couple people causing trouble is disingenuous and disrespectful.
- ADF clergy are supposed to be trained on how to approach conflict ... in my opinion they need a refresher course or to seriously examine the course they are currently using.
- Despite the complaints leveled against one another and the (now) common tone of discussion that it was "hate filled" and/or ridiculous I actually saw absolutely ZERO examples of hate language and what, was for the most part, pretty respectful exchange of ideas. I did see a one or two people whose feelings were hurt by their concerns being dismissed.
- I do not believe the dismissal of concerns were intentional but it did (and does) happen. When an issue or concern is brought up that is in disagreement of people in leadership it is almost always dismissed by redirection. The argument looks like this "If you don't like "X* in ADF you should be more involved" or "If you want something different in ADF you should give more money" or "you can't make everyone happy" or "This isn't at all important, we have better things to think about" or "that's how Isaac did it, it's his fault" or (and this one really gets to me) "I/My Partner/Other Person is really sick right now and have no time for your petty concerns". Sorry folks, all of us have health issues and other things to deal with. I hate to break it to you but you are not special. As much as I love a lot of you and send you my wishes for your recovery it does NOT make my or anyone else's concerns invalid.

I honestly don't care about the idol. The old idol(s) never worked for me and the new ones don't work for me either. Even still I have been involved in some pretty powerful rituals in the space. I won't (and never have) give offerings to the idols or address them when I do ritual there. I do have the ability to direct my minds eye elsewhere. And I certainly will NEVER subjugate myself to any being by kneeling before them. However, I understand that for some people that this is not the case. I especially understand the concern that by using an idol so inexcusably male that it seems to point that all GKs are male and a continuation of the idea that we are not a Pan-IE organization.

The issue, for me, is NOT about the idols themselves. It is about the way we handle concerns/issues in ADF. Simply put, it seems to me, that if you are not in the inner circle (and by inner circle I mean, hate to say it, Clergy or who they chose to include) your concerns will never be validated. I have even been told (just a couple days ago) that by expressing my concerns I an invalidating the "hard work" of our clergy. This is exactly what I and others have brought up as concerns as to the nature of Clergy in ADF over the years. We are led by them in every conceivable way with absolutely NO ability to check or balance their influence.

In the end I guess I have to make a choice. Stick with the organization as it is or move on because I simply do not see it changing. For the record, and I have to say this because every time some one brings up whether ADF is the right fit for them it is said, I DO NOT WANT to leave ADF. I love the organization and many people in it. I think we are failing our membership and our goals. I believe in the vision and scope of ADF but I do not see that we are living up to either. What we have is a very small cadre of people making all the decisions and running the organization as they see fit and basically ignoring and writing off anyone who brings up concerns.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 16th, 2012 07:24 pm (UTC)
Jun. 16th, 2012 08:44 pm (UTC)
I was going to respond to this, but since I'm Clergy and already have too much say in the org, fuck it. Let the early heart attack I suffer from trying to read all of those posts and the ones to come be the check and balance against me.
Jun. 17th, 2012 02:16 am (UTC)
I suspect you are trying to bring a levity to this Rob but this comment is EXACTLY what I mean. I (and others) have expressed concerns with the power clergy yields in ADF. When we do we are accused of "hating" clergy or "blaming" clergy or trying to "derail" clergy.

I am not attacking you or any other clergy or ADF member. I am expressing my concerns about the specific situation and ADF as a whole. To coach it the way you have is unfair to me and unfair to everything I just posted. It dismisses everything I said, while ironically validating everything I just said, by coaching it in terms as a personal attack. It isn't.

Do you know what happens in an organization like ours when power is so one sided? Every little thing becomes a huge thing because the folk do not feel like their opinions count or their voices heard. It creates an "us against them" structure. It is exactly what happened this time and last time and will continue happening.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 17th, 2012 09:33 pm (UTC)
I don't get the Tower of Bable reference at all. Sorry.

Also, in that case maybe we need a conflict resolution course somewhere in there.
Jun. 18th, 2012 02:57 pm (UTC)
There is a portion of the CTP that touches on "Counseling for Non-professionals" which I have not yet begun. As a pre-lim student for the CTP I think adding a section on "Conflict Resolution" to the "N-P Counseling" is logical and feasible.

That said, I don't think conflict resolution is the sole responsibility of Clergy alone. I'm not sticking my nose into this controversy but generally speaking we all could use a refresher in how to properly handle complaints without stepping on toes or cutting our noses off to spite the face. Jamie I do believe you've presented everything calmly and clearly.

At the risk of invoking the wrath of Missy (hail the bard!) I think the Members Advocate would be a very credible voice to speak out on how conflicts can and should be handled within ADF. That's the angel on my shoulder speaking, the devil on the other side is saying, "If people haven't learned how to do that by now what the hell makes you think you could teach them..."

Anyhow, hugs and love to you Jamie, I miss that smiling face!!
Jun. 19th, 2012 10:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I think it is obvious I disagree with how some things were handled but at the same time I hope I don't come across as a raving lunatic.

I am just upset that every time a controversary arises that it gets written off and trouble making.

I agree Missy, as Missy, would be a great voice to help us to learn about how to handle conflicts. I am not sure that it is her role as Member's Advocate (which is basically an Ombudsman) but because she is a smart lady many of whom ADF trust.
Jun. 19th, 2012 10:16 pm (UTC)
and I miss you too!!
Jun. 17th, 2012 01:50 am (UTC)
Despite the complaints leveled against one another and the (now) common tone of discussion that it was "hate filled" and/or ridiculous I actually saw absolutely ZERO examples of hate language and what, was for the most part, pretty respectful exchange of ideas.

Oh I know! I totally did not understand why people were told to stop discussing it. It's like every time people DON'T agree with something that the inner circle comes up with, the thread is shut down and people are told to take it off-list. And I have to ask why. We're adults, we're leadership. I think by NOT letting us all hash it out amongst ourselves, it is extremely disrespectful. In essence, they were saying, "OK kids, that's enough, break it up." As if we, the leadership of the organization, are still not trusted and respected enough to come up with an eventual resolution on our own. I'll admit I'm STILL rather irked over that, and I didn't even participate in it!:)

And I'm with you regarding the old idols and the new ones. Whatever. I haven't been to Brushwood in a few years anyway, and I never really cared that much about the idols when I did go, and I still don't care. Not to my taste, but they were a gift, and very nice of those who brought them and those who created/gave them. But yeah, the way the conflict resolution was handled.... whoa. Before that I'd only been mildly amused. After that, I got irritated.

Jun. 17th, 2012 02:25 am (UTC)
and now I have been told, privately, that to say the thread shouldn't have been moderated is an insult to Drum. Which is ridiculous because I have a great deal of respect for that man.

Here's the thing. I can disagree with people I respect and not lose respect for them. I disagree with the thread being moderated and I think, whatever the formal complaints that were filed were, are baseless and petty.
Jun. 17th, 2012 03:29 am (UTC)
I know. Rod and I just discussed it, and he explained to me why the thread needed to be moderated (and he was one of the people who had to be moderated, too!). But personally I still don't agree 100% that it needed to be moderated, even though it has been explained to me nicely again.

BUT yes, I too have a great deal of respect for Drum, and I appreciate all he does for ADF. And I understand it was a judgement call on his part. But disagreeing with a decision is not an insult, IMO. I still can't believe that a thread was shut down on Leadership. That's like the Speaker of the House going into Congress and saying, "OK guys, that's enough disagreeing. Y'all can't debate this topic anymore. People's feelings are getting hurt." (I don't know, I slept through government class, I certainly hope that doesn't actually happen in real life!).

I still think the topic would have eventually run its course or gotten resolved on its own. Just my opinion. And that is probably why I'm not a list mod. I guess it would be a bloodbath out there if I were in charge:)
Jun. 17th, 2012 05:58 pm (UTC)
The moderation was basically a way to shut down Cei, who was in full blown rabid dog rant mode. Anything anyone said provoked a comment from Cei that was becoming inappropriate and lacking in a useful dialog.

Sure the Brushwood Nemeton was billed as the National Nemeton, and Stone Creed Grove did a lot to build it, thus you have the Earth Mother and Manannan as Gatekeeper. In my practice the Earth Mother is not that major of a focus, and our Grove has our River Goddess as our Earth Mother. While my Grove has Manannan as the Gatekeeper, I never understood the importance granted to Him in the Brushwood Nemeton.

Also given that other groups, including Wiccans use the ritual space too, I tend to be more lenient about it. As I don't use the Brushwood Nemeton for High Day rites it really doesn't matter what the statues are. The cement ones do look better than the wooden ones and will be more durable. While I'm not crazy about the erect phallus, at the end of the day I don't have to have my High Day rituals there so I don't care.

Really there was little planning on the part of the majority of the clergy about the statues.

And finally I feel that ADF clergy needs to be seen in the proper perspective. In terms of leading rituals, they are not needed (although having specially trained people is very nice). They are needed to do hospital and prison visits, and to do weddings/funerals. They also lend a credence to the organization as a whole to the outside world.
Jun. 17th, 2012 09:28 pm (UTC)
I disagree. Cei asked questions that no one was answering. When they attempted to change the topic he continually brought it back to his original questions.

Once again, I really don't care about the idols either. My concern is in the way we make decisions and the way we react when people disagree with said decisions.

I don't disagree with you about the role of clergy but that IS NOT what their current activities are. They are the ones making every spiritual decision about ADF as a whole. Yes, we can chose to ignore those decisions at our hearth but not in our Groves. Including the COoR. Their own documents list their number one activity as To formulate and articulate the theology and liturgy of ADF and to act as spiritual advisers to its membership."

Also the leader of ADF, the Archdruid, is automatically the leader of the Clergy Council. I have always had issues with this. The spiritual leader and the executive of an organization such as ours should not be, imo, vested in the same person.

On the Mother Grove the only seats not held by clergy are the treasurer (who is "hired" not elected -- I know it is a volunteer position but it is still hired in the the sense that the MG chooses who it will be, requires and application process etc.), the Member's Advocate (who does not have a vote) and the chiefs of the Senior Druids and Regional Druids which have a separate election process. This is not the "fault" of the mother grove, we elected them, but it does create an incredible power lean in the direction of Clergy.
Jun. 17th, 2012 09:30 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, the ADF Precepter is Clergy as well. I love Crystal, I think she is made of awesome, but when Raven retired I was told flat out that that only Clergy would be considered for the office.
Jun. 18th, 2012 02:47 am (UTC)
I have begun to suggest that our Priests should be less involved in administrative positions. Mostly, I am concerned that we have Priests who do not produce; administrative jobs just do not benefit from "Rev." designations.</p>

I would love to require our Senior Priests to either "max out" on positions at a very low number (like one), or to just be prevented from running for admin positions altogether.

I would do the same for Consecrated Priests, but there would be less will for that, I expect.

Jun. 19th, 2012 10:22 pm (UTC)
I think some of our clergy make excellent admins. I know there are some who serve as RDs who do great work and that sit on the board as well. It would be tragic to me that they not be allowed to do this work but at the same time I do wish for a greater non-Clergy voice on the MG.

This is not because I do not trust clergy, btw. It is because our organization is mostly non-Clergy. I think it is important to have minds and voices in the decision making process that are not privy to what happens within the Clergy Council. I think it would reduce the numbers of misunderstandings and make the entire process appear more open, inclusive, and balanced.
Jun. 18th, 2012 12:19 pm (UTC)
why would clergy NOT lead a church? Is this baggage left over from other religious experience? Is this the standard "you are not the boss of me and you are doing it wrong" or is their a reason that any religion should not be "ran" by it's trained clergy....Jamie I'm not sure I agree that the best clergy might not be the best admin but I'm not sure what the complaint here is? Please explain to me? It sounds like you don't want organized CHURCH but a local coven that does it's own thing. Or that somehow a large membership should have equal voting on every decision. I'm not trying to be dismissive but I am very confused. I mean it's pretty clear in Isaac's documents that this would be the way ADF would develop and that clergy would lead...
Jun. 19th, 2012 10:04 pm (UTC)
Your misunderstanding me, the clergy SHOULD lead the church. They should lead the church spirituality. I have no issues with the Clergy Council as is now and the reported roles (with the exception of one thing, which I will mention below). My concern is that there should be a division of responsibilities and we should assure that there are positions within our Board of Directors that are reserved for non-Clergy, perhaps a majority.

The reasons I have for this is because we tend to be an organization that is very protestant in our structure. That is we are an organization where we have a "Priesthood of all Believers" we do not need clergy for intercession with the Gods. As such I believe it is a mistake to have our spiritual and administrative leader vested in the same person. The "Priesthood of all Believers" should also have a voice (a major voice) in the direction of the church.

This is not a matter of baggage of my previous religious experience, if anything it is from very good experience in church governance with the Unitarian Universalists. I sat on both the local church Board of Directors (an organization of about 300 members and an annual budget, at the time, of about 150,000 dollars a year) and on the Ohio-Meadville District of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations Board of Directors (which one equate to our Regions in ADF, we had a role but no direct membership).

Leading most UU churches is a President (or equivalent title) who is a lay member leading the board of directors. This person is the administrative leader of the church. Most congregations of a certain size call at least one full time professional minister (sometimes more than one for larger churches). These ministers are the leader of the church in spiritual matters.

My ideal situation is that we would have an Archdruid (elected via the Clergy Council) to be the leader of the Clergy Council and spiritual leader of ADF. This person would be a non-voting member of the Mother Grove although, ideally, their voice and reason would be very important to the MG (of course). The Administrative leader of the organization would be the president or Chief of ADF (or whatever title worked for us). I would also reserve a minimum of 2 out of the three Non-Officer Director seats for Non-Clergy.

My reasoning is simple. To assure there is a balance of power within the organization between Clergy and non-Clergy. Also to assure that whatever is decided in the Clergy Council is not automatically decided at the MG level. Do I think the CC has made decisions that are for the poor of ADF? No. Do I think there exists a situation in ADF where the CC could make decisions that and therefore the MG would approve automatically (due to most of them being clergy anyways) that are not in the best interest of the majority of the oganization. Yes. I also believe that having both a Chief and Archdruid in ADF would be better for the people holding these roles. I think a spiritual leader whose main focus is spiritual matters and an administrative leader whose main focus is administrative would be better for both leaders as opposed to our current AD who is expected to be both.

The only issue I have with the CC as is, by the way, is that they and only they have responsibly in ordaining new Priests. Considering a huge part of a priests role is in serving the folk I don't understand why the folk have no role in this process. I don't know what it looks like, but, again, as an ex-UU I do have a model to draw on. As UU ministers are given "fellowship" by the UUA but are ordained by congregations themselves. To be clear I do not think clergy should be voted to be ordained or not by every member of the organization.
Jun. 21st, 2012 05:13 am (UTC)
I disagree. Cei asked questions that no one was answering. When they attempted to change the topic he continually brought it back to his original questions.

This is pretty much all I want to respond to as others have made awesome points/brought up things I saw/heard/agree and disagree with.

Cei asked questions, sure.

But Cei was also being inappropriate in jumping *every* person who made so much as a comment to the list no matter what it was. I likely could have said "I like hot dogs" and he would have started an argument about why hot dogs are terrible. There was no need for the level of downward spiral his answers took and that truly in the end was why it was moderated. We can't have a civil discourse if people are only going to attack one another, we've said this time and time again. You know that best, I think, from forum experience. That is the main reason for the moderation - not that we could not engage, but that we could not engage if we could do nothing but be unnecessarily coarse and destructive to the conversation. Cei has an overwhelming personality at times and will hone in when a cooler head and a break from playing keyboard commando would prevail.

And that's coming from me :]

Jun. 17th, 2012 05:36 pm (UTC)
just for the record no one asked me about the idols and I knew nothing about them until I got there and I know that to be the case for many people (clergy or not) so I'm not sure where I have all of this power but....
Jun. 17th, 2012 09:14 pm (UTC)
again, I am not talking about individuals. I don't know the inner workings of the Clergy Council because that is a closed group but I was told that the focus of the annual meeting ritual, the Earth Mother and Gatekeeper together as the primary sending, are based on the work done by the Clergy.

but, again, my point here is not about the idols themselves but in the way a great deal of decisions appear to be made in ADF and the way we react to disagreements.
Jun. 18th, 2012 02:36 am (UTC)
I saw the idols first at the nemeton (actually, I did not see their "fronts" until about the middle of the rite, as I was behind them). The inclusion certainly wasn't a clergy thing; I don't recall any discussions anywhere, and I guess I am pretty "inner circle."</p>

The EM and GK (identified as Manannan) were on the mound prior to the clergy doing work that enshrined them as patrons of our work. . . In fact, it is possible that the "juice" from the work we did as collective folk brought the GK & EM into that prominence within the clergy.

But there was certainly poor conflict resolution involved in the discussion. I am a bit isolated from it, mostly because I don't see myself as really caring what a grove puts in their nemeton (and despite occasionally seeing it called a "national" nemeton, I always knew that there was nothing official about the designation). And, I admit, I like the idea of Brushwood having a "Manannan of the Nemeton" who represents himself in an interesting and new way. It is like having a bit of UPG in our scholarship, something I often think we need to add.

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )