My mother is a wise woman. It helped her survive having three children under the age of five. Four years later along came my little brother and she had four of us with which to contend.
When a bigger child was bullying a smaller one, she put a stop to it. There was no tolerance of bullying. When one of us misbehaved, we suffered consequences.
In this, my mother was relying on many of the same principles she had relied on when she was a nursing supervisor of entire floors of large metropolitan hospitals -- one of the most important of which was that she did not tolerate or reward bad behavior.
After all, that’s one of the basic tenets of child rearing – and good leadership in general. You reward good behavior while making clear the consequences of bad behavior. And then you follow through. If the bad behavior continues, you deal with it quickly by meting out the consequences. And you tend to the needs of the child who is behaving, or in the case of adults, the employee who is doing his or her job well.
If you always lavish attention on the one who is misbehaving, well, guess what? He or she will continue or escalate the misbehavior because it’s getting the desire result – attention.
This is a lesson that, until recently, seems to have escaped many of the leaders of The Episcopal Church, and still is escaping the leadership of the Anglican Communion.
There is hope, however, that things are about to change, at least in TEC. Virginia Bishop Peter Lee said in his recent letter:
"Recently, attorneys for the dissidents sent a letter threatening action against me and any other diocesan officials who 'set foot on' or 'trespass' on Episcopal Church property. By contrast, your leadership has not moved to change locks or freeze assets. Rather, once again, we have moved to accommodate these dissidents at the expense of our faithful people." [emphasis added.]
He then went on to outline how he and the diocese are moving to secure the property for the “faithful people.”
Just so did Bonnie Anderson, the president of the House of Deputies, move quickly to point out the misunderstanding of TEC’s polity revealed in the deeply flawed report of the Panel of Reference. Her letter was a straightforward response that should be easily understood. How different this is from the relative silence from 815 that greeted the even more flawed Windsor Report.
So, what’s made the difference?
We have a presiding bishop and a president of the House of Deputies who understand the same thing my mother did.
You don’t reward bad behavior, and you don’t appease bullies.