Author Topic: ELCA Considering New Procedures for Congregations Considering Leaving the ELCA  (Read 30580 times)

Scott6

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One more point.  Synods have circulated documents that describe the process for leaving as set out in the ELCA constitution and the model constitution for congregations.  Here is an example.  None such document that I've seen makes clear that a congregation's documents govern and that the standard process therefore does not apply to congregations that have not adopted it.  On the contrary, the documents simply assume that the usual practice applies to all.

Yeah, there does seem to be some very, very questionable opinions being given in that document on this topic:

An ELCA congregation must look to the ELCA Constitution provision 9.62 for the process to be followed when the congregation seeks to leave this church body. No matter what a particular congregation's constitution may say or not say about withdrawal from membership, the ELCA Constitution 9.62 speaks to all such discernment about bringing to an end of congregational membership in the ELCA.

This claim seems untenable to me.  There is a reason why congregations have constitutions and that denominations have something invested in making sure that they say what they want them to say -- because it is those congregational documents, along with others such as their articles of incorporation, that govern how congregations conduct their business, including denominational affiliation or disaffiliation.

gausmann

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Wouldn't it be simpler for the ELCA simply to announce that any congregation seeking to leave the ELCA will have ten percent of its membership drawn and quartered. What a blessing it is to be out of this mess! Seriously, this shows the dangers of having a hybrid polity where one grapples between a congregational, presbytery, and episcopal polity with distinctions between them often being too obscure for the average person to understand. My question is how many Bishops will relish and have time for this elaborate new proposal should it come into place, faced with declining budgets, smaller staffs, etc. at what point does all this just become silly and overly time consuming? In any case the correct way to descirbe this is not changes to the procedure for congregations seeking to leave the ELCA, but actions to deter congregations form leaving the ELCA.

Cathy Ammlung

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Thanks to Richard Mathiesen, here is what he observed, and how he interprets same, from the meeting at which these changes in procedure were proposed.

"Many of you may be aware from the November CORE newsletter of constitutional changes proposed by the ELCA Church Council, which make it more difficult for a congregation to leave the ELCA.

"I attended the four-hour meeting of the ELCA Church Council's Legal and Constitutional Review Committee on November 12, at which the proposed changes to the Termination Process were fully discussed. I also attended the meetings of the ELCA Church Council itself on November 13 and 14, where there was further discussion. (I was identified as an observer connected with Lutheran CORE.)

"The article in the CORE Newsletter is basically accurate in what it says about the proposed constitutional changes.

"The real question, in my opinion, is whether the changes are reasonable or not. I believe that many of the changes are quite reasonable. However, there is at least one which raises major problems for me (#2, that the synod bishop is given authority to determine how the consultation will be conducted).

"In addition, there was more going on behind the scenes. Here is what I wrote elsewhere:

"The Termination Process is the process specified in the model congregational constitution by which a congregation can leave the ELCA. The Termination Process in the Model Congregational Constitution was substantially revised. These proposed revisions will be submitted to the 2011 CWA.  I have enclosed a copy of the Old Version and the New Version so you can compare them. (See
below) There is still a possibility of further revisions before the CWA, although the New Version is what is being sent to Voting Members of the 2011 CWA.


"The big surprise to me was something you won't see in the New Version attached. The original proposal made by the Churchwide Office to the Legal and Constitutional Review Committee of the ELCA Church Council eliminated the distinction between former ALC and former LCA congregations! All LCA congregations would have been treated as former ALC congregations. In other words, the original proposal would have removed the power of synods to require synod approval of former LCA congregations who wish to leave the ELCA. I can supply the wording of the original proposal if you wish to receive it. The Legal and Constitutional Review Committee decided to not make that change, so it is not included in the New Version. However, the issue is still alive. The Conference of Bishops will consider it and Secretary Swartling and General Counsel Phil Harris appear to favor it.

"Why would the ELCA want to remove the requirement of synod approval for former LCA congregations? The main reason, as far as I could tell, was that it really bothers the ELCA that the constitution contains references to ALC and LCA today, 22 years after the merger. They want to get rid of those references. The ELCA also recognizes that no synod can stop a congregation from leaving, anyway. A congregation can simply cut its benevolence to zero, join the NALC or LCMC, and sit tight and wait for the ELCA to kick it out. So the provision really doesn't do much good.

"The discussion of the Termination Process was introduced by Phil Harris, the General Counsel, approximately as follows: In considering the Termination Process, we should focus on the right of congregation members to be fully informed. We should not focus on attempts by the synod or the churchwide office to keep a congregation from leaving the ELCA. The congregational
constitution should be about what is best for the members. [That's a summary of what Phil Harris said.]

"The main concern of the churchwide office seemed to be about the fact that a congregation could take its first vote without informing the synod. Harris and Swartling believe this is not fair to the congregation members. In some cases, they believe, the congregation's leadership does not present accurate information. Therefore, the members do not have full and complete
information when they take their first vote. By adding a notification to the synod, their intention is that the members will have a better chance of hearing both sides of the issue.

"Another main concern of the churchwide office was that there was no time limit on informing the synod of the results of the final vote. The Old Version had a requirement that the results of the first vote must be sent to the synod within 10 days, but there was no similar requirement for sending the results of the second vote. Apparently some congregations had taken a long time before sending the final results of their second vote to the synod. There was also a concern about ambiguous wording. The Old Version
stated that as soon as the second vote passed, the relationship was terminated, while there are cases (ELCA missions starts or the former LCA congregations) where that was not accurate.

"My understanding is these new Termination Provisions, if passed by the 2011 CWA, will take effect immediately after the end of the CWA.

"Anyway, if you have any questions, please let me know!

Dick Mathisen"

Shown below is the actual text of the Old Version of the model congregational constitution and the New Version.


OLD VERSION

9.62. A congregation may terminate its relationship with this church by the following procedure:

a. A resolution indicating desire to terminate its relationship must be adopted at a legally called and conducted special meeting of the
congregation by a two-thirds majority of the voting members present.

b. The secretary of the congregation shall submit a copy of the resolution to the synodical bishop and shall mail a copy of the resolution to voting members of the congregation. This notice shall be submitted within 10 days after the resolution has been adopted.

c. The bishop of the synod shall consult with the congregation during a period of at least 90 days.

d. If the congregation, after consultation, still desires to terminate its relationship, such action may be taken at a legally called and conducted special meeting by a two-thirds majority of the voting members present, at which meeting the synodical bishop or an authorized representative shall be present. Notice of the meeting shall be mailed to all voting members at least 10 days in advance of the meeting.

e. A certified copy of the resolution to terminate its relationship shall be sent to the synodical bishop, at which time the relationship between the congregation and this church shall be terminated.

f. Notice of termination shall be forwarded by the synodical bishop to the secretary of this church and published in the periodical of this church.

g. Congregations which had been members of the Lutheran Church in America shall be required, in addition to the foregoing provisions in 9.62., to receive synodical approval before terminating their membership in this church.

h. Congregations that are established by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America shall be required, in addition to the foregoing provisions in 9.62., to receive synodical approval before terminating their membership in this church.


NEW VERSION

A congregation may terminate its relationship with this church by the following procedure:

a. A resolution indicating the intent to terminate its relationship must be adopted at a legally called and conducted special meeting of the congregation by a two-thirds majority of the voting members present. Such meeting may be held no sooner than 30 days after written notice of the meeting to the bishop of the synod, during which time the congregation shall consult with the bishop and the bishopís designees, if any. The times and manner of the consultation shall be determined by the bishop in consultation with the congregation council. Unless he or she is a voting member of the congregation, the bishop, and the bishopís designee if any, shall have voice but not vote at the meeting.

b. The secretary of the congregation shall submit a copy of the resolution to the bishop, attesting that the special meeting was legally called and conducted and certifying the outcome of the vote, and shall mail a copy of the resolution to voting members of the congregation. This notice shall be submitted within 10 days after the resolution has been adopted.

c. The bishop of the synod and the congregation shall continue in consultation, as specified in a. above, during a period of at least 90 days after receipt by the synod of the notice as specified in b. above.

d. If the congregation, after such consultation, still seeks to terminate its relationship, such action may be taken at a legally called and conducted special meeting by a two-thirds majority of the voting members present. Notice of the meeting shall be mailed to all voting members and to the bishop at least 10 days in advance of the meeting. Unless he or she is voting member of the congregation, the bishop, and the bishopís designee if any, shall have voice but not vote at the meeting.

e. A copy of the resolution, attesting that the special meeting was legally called and conducted and certifying the outcome of the vote, shall be sent to the bishop within 10 days after the resolution has been adopted, at which time the relationship between the congregation and this church shall be terminated subject to paragraphs g. and h. below. Unless this notification to the bishop also certifies that the congregation has voted by a two-thirds vote to affiliate with another Lutheran denomination, the congregation will
be conclusively presumed to be an independent or non-Lutheran church.

f. Notice of termination shall be forwarded by the bishop to the secretary of this church, who shall report the termination to the Churchwide Assembly.

g. Congregations seeking to terminate their relationship with this church which fail or refuse to comply with each of the foregoing provisions in 9.62., shall be required to receive Synod Council approval before terminating their membership in this church.

h. Congregations which had been members of the Lutheran Church in America shall be required, in addition to the foregoing provisions in 9.62., to receive synodical approval before terminating their membership in this church.

i. Congregations established by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America shall be required, in addition to complying with the foregoing provisions in 9.62., to satisfy all financial obligations to this church and receive Synod Council approval before terminating their membership in this church.

j. If a congregation fails to achieve the required two-thirds vote of voting members present at the congregationís first meeting as specified in a. above, another special meeting to consider termination of relationship with this church may be called no sooner than six months after that first meeting. If a congregation fails to achieve the required two-thirds vote of voting members present at the congregationís second meeting as specified in d. above, another attempt to consider termination of relationship with this church must follow all requirements of 9.62 and may begin no sooner than six months after that second meeting.

9.71. Subject to the provisions of 9.52., the following shall govern the ownership of property by congregations of this church: . . .


d. Title to the property of a congregation that has acted to terminate its relationship with this church by the provisions of 9.62. and has acted by a two-thirds vote to relate to another Lutheran church body shall continue to reside in the congregation.

e. Title to the property of a congregation that has acted to terminate its relationship with this church by the provisions of 9.62. and has acted by a two-thirds vote to become independent or to relate to a non-Lutheran church body shall continue to reside in the congregation only with the consent of the Synod Council. The Synod Council, after consultation with the congregation by an established synodical process, may give approval to the request to become independent or to relate to a non-Lutheran church body, in which case title shall remain with the majority of the congregation. If the Synod Council fails to give such approval, title shall remain with those members who desire to continue as a congregation of this church.

Chuck Sampson

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Thanks to Richard Mathiesen, here is what he observed, and how he interprets same, from the meeting at which these changes in procedure were proposed.

"Many of you may be aware from the November CORE newsletter of constitutional changes proposed by the ELCA Church Council, which make it more difficult for a congregation to leave the ELCA.

"I attended the four-hour meeting of the ELCA Church Council's Legal and Constitutional Review Committee on November 12, at which the proposed changes to the Termination Process were fully discussed. I also attended the meetings of the ELCA Church Council itself on November 13 and 14, where there was further discussion. (I was identified as an observer connected with Lutheran CORE.)

"The article in the CORE Newsletter is basically accurate in what it says about the proposed constitutional changes.

"The real question, in my opinion, is whether the changes are reasonable or not. I believe that many of the changes are quite reasonable. However, there is at least one which raises major problems for me (#2, that the synod bishop is given authority to determine how the consultation will be conducted).[/i]

Thank you very much for posting this.    I have received two phone calls this week from ELCA pastors asking about any such revisions and will forward this information to them.


James_Gale

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Some of the changes do resolve ambiguities.  Others add what might be regarded as helpful additional details.  And if this had all been proposed, say, 20 years ago, one could read it without any suspicion regarding motives.  However, in the current environment, motives will be questioned.  The church council doesn't trust congregational leaders to provide truthful information.  Unhappy congregations don't trust their synods to refrain from unjustifiable power grabs.  And the church council's solution?  Add a new, highly legalistic process to govern how congregations leave the ELCA.

I think that this is a big mistake from the ELCA's perspective.  A very big mistake.  It will foster distrust, further poisoning an already close-to-toxic environment.

Looking at the substance, the new proposal has problems.  Among those --

The church council wants to add a new consultation period before the first vote.  Why?  Is the reason to ensure that a congregation has the benefit of the synod's best and strongest statements and arguments before deciding whether to leave?  If so, that purpose is already served by the existing consultation period, which takes place after the first vote and before any second vote.  In other words, the current process ensures that a congregation won't vote to leave without the benefit of whatever the bishop and his or her colleagues have to say.  So what new purpose is served by the new consultation period?  None, really, other than to add more complexity to the process of considering whether to leave the ELCA.  In other words, it makes the process more difficult.  That's about it.

Richard Mathison stated his concern for the provision that arguably gives the bishop the power to decide what form any consultation will take.  The bishop could arguably decide, for example, that he or she (and any number of "designees") would deliver the sermon each Sunday during the discernment process.  The bishop and any number of "designees" are given voice at the congregational meetings at which a congregation votes on whether to leave.  In other words, these provisions would arguably give the bishop power to be very heavy-handed.  And the congregation would have no choice but to go along.  That would hardly be effective consultation.  The rules should require that all sides agree on what is and what is not appropriate, including regarding the rights of bishops at congregational meetings.

The new sub-section (g) is at first glance perplexing.  It states that "congregations seeking to terminate their relationship with this church which fail or refuse to comply with each of the foregoing provisions in 9.62., shall be required to receive Synod Council approval before terminating their membership in this church."  What does that mean?  Is this an acknowledgement that not all congregations are obligated under their congregational governing documents to follow the general rules?  After all, if the ELCA could impose a new rule on all congregations, there would be no need for this sub-section.  All congregations would be required to comply.  Period.  On the other hand, if the ELCA can't impose a process on congregations, this new sub-section could only apply to those congregations adding it to their congregational constitutions.  In other words, the sub-section would apply only to congregations that have added all the new rules to their congregational governing documents.  As to them, the sub-section would be redundant.  So what purpose does this serve?  

In the short term, I think that the answer is "none."  But this sub-section has the potential to be a very dangerous trojan horse.  Once a congregation has added it, that congregation would never be permitted to delete it.  And going forward, the ELCA could amend Section 9.62, thereby unilaterally imposing new limitations on the ability to leave the ELCA.  These new limitations could even put a congregation's property at risk.  Congregations therefore should understand that if they add this sub-section to their constitutions, the ELCA will gain enormous new power over them -- power that congregations will be legally unable to resist.  The ultimate power regarding whether a congregation leaves will pass from congregations to the ELCA and its synods.  

In short, while some parts of the proposal might be helpful, it is on balance, a turkey.  And not one for which to give thanks.  Indeed, sub-section (g) is downright toxic. 
« Last Edit: November 24, 2010, 02:41:33 PM by James_Gale »

Charles_Austin

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And of course, we should all thank ptmccain for starting this discussion with his pronouncement that the proposed changes are "draconian." (I suppose we ought to be surprised and grateful that he didn't call them "liberal clap trap.)
And great big hugs, too, for all the members of the LCMS who have opinions on what it takes for a congregation to leave the ELCA.  ::) ::) ::)

Now I think I will compile my various opinions on the LCMS koinonia process, the second-class pastors reaching ordination through goofy means, and ACELICK or whatever other special interest group is trying to purge that denomination of the many errors that are nearing the schismatic point.
Then I'm going to write the Canadian parliament with my suggestions for their new national anthem.

My advice: Let those of us in the ELCA who want to discuss the suggested changes find a place where we can do so without hostile meddling, and boycott this thread.



Scott6

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The new sub-section (g) is at first glance perplexing.  It states that "congregations seeking to terminate their relationship with this church which fail or refuse to comply with each of the foregoing provisions in 9.62., shall be required to receive Synod Council approval before terminating their membership in this church."  What does that mean?  Is this an acknowledgement that not all congregations are obligated under their congregational governing documents to follow the general rules?  After all, if the ELCA could impose a new rule on all congregations, there would be no need for this sub-section.  All congregations would be required to comply.  Period.  On the other hand, if the ELCA can't impose a process on congregations, this new sub-section could only apply to those congregations adding it to their congregational constitutions.  In other words, the sub-section would apply only to congregations that have added all the new rules to their congregational governing documents.  As to them, the sub-section would be redundant.  So what purpose does this serve?  

In the short term, I think that the answer is "none."  But this sub-section has the potential to be a very dangerous trojan horse.  Once a congregation has added it, that congregation would never be permitted to delete it.  And going forward, the ELCA could amend Section 9.62, thereby unilaterally imposing new limitations on the ability to leave the ELCA.  These new limitations could even put a congregation's property at risk.  Congregations therefore should understand that if they add this sub-section to their constitutions, the ELCA will gain enormous new power over them -- power that congregations will be legally unable to resist.  The ultimate power regarding whether a congregation leaves will pass from congregations to the ELCA and its synods.  

In short, while some parts of the proposal might be helpful, it is on balance, a turkey.  And not one for which to give thanks.  Indeed, sub-section (g) is downright toxic.  

Just so I understand you, are you saying that if a congregation agrees to include subsection (g) into their constitution, they are essentially nullifying whatever process for leaving the ELCA might currently be enshrined in their constitutions if it does not conform to the latest revision of the ELCA's constitution in section 9.62?

That is, for example, if these proposals pass the next CWA and if a congregation's constitution does not include those new proposals but DOES include subsection (g), they can follow their own procedures, but at the end, they still have not officially left unless and until the synod council approves, essentially placing all ELCA congregations in the current situation of former LCA congregations if their constitution does not reflect the most recent revision of the ELCA constitution?
« Last Edit: November 24, 2010, 03:21:21 PM by Scott Yakimow »

Chuck Sampson

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And of course, we should all thank ptmccain for starting this discussion with his pronouncement that the proposed changes are "draconian." (I suppose we ought to be surprised and grateful that he didn't call them "liberal clap trap.)
And great big hugs, too, for all the members of the LCMS who have opinions on what it takes for a congregation to leave the ELCA.  ::) ::) ::)

Now I think I will compile my various opinions on the LCMS koinonia process, the second-class pastors reaching ordination through goofy means, and ACELICK or whatever other special interest group is trying to purge that denomination of the many errors that are nearing the schismatic point.
Then I'm going to write the Canadian parliament with my suggestions for their new national anthem.

My advice: Let those of us in the ELCA who want to discuss the suggested changes find a place where we can do so without hostile meddling, and boycott this thread.




Hey, Charles--I've been waiting for you or Brian to weigh in on Pastor McCain's thread on shooting . . .   ;D

Pilgrim

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Tim notes: Charles, despite your repeated protestations to the contrary, your disdain for the LCMS and those who represent it on this board is palpable nonetheless.  :P

And of course, we should all thank ptmccain for starting this discussion with his pronouncement that the proposed changes are "draconian." (I suppose we ought to be surprised and grateful that he didn't call them "liberal clap trap.)
And great big hugs, too, for all the members of the LCMS who have opinions on what it takes for a congregation to leave the ELCA.  ::) ::) ::)

Now I think I will compile my various opinions on the LCMS koinonia process, the second-class pastors reaching ordination through goofy means, and ACELICK or whatever other special interest group is trying to purge that denomination of the many errors that are nearing the schismatic point.
Then I'm going to write the Canadian parliament with my suggestions for their new national anthem.

My advice: Let those of us in the ELCA who want to discuss the suggested changes find a place where we can do so without hostile meddling, and boycott this thread.
Pr. Tim Christ, STS

gausmann

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Having recently gone through the present structure for leaving it strikes me that it was fairly reasonable given the polity of which we were a part. In Lower Susquehanna Synod they have a Bishop who treats congregations that are considering leaving fairly and graciously, after we left people did not complain about the process or seem to think any worse of the ELCA because of it. Since the process was put in the constitution more in light of discerning the connection between congregations and churchwide  than as a result of a reaction to congregations in large numbers seeking to leave, it had a certain neutrality to it. 

While I would not speak for congregations around the country of a body I am no longer a part of it seems to me that tightening the procedure at this point may only cause congregations that are tentative in their relationship to the ELCA to want to leave rapidly. One should also consider that congregations that have left often designate benevolence dollars to organizaitons that have a churchwide affiliation and may be more likely to continue that support if their parting form the ELCA has not been a bitter one.

As to pastors who are not part of the ELCA commenting on ELCA matters, it seems to me that ALPB is an independent body that has a pan-Lutheran and beyond readership. I do not comment on ELCA websites nor do I desire to, perhaps Charles you should start a facebook page of your own that could control membership to that way you could continue to write here and perhaps fine peace there.

Timotheus Verinus

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.....

My advice: Let those of us in the ELCA who want to discuss the suggested changes find a place where we can do so without hostile meddling, and boycott this thread.


I will again remind you that Chicago has no more claim to these churches than those of us who have family, children, sisters and brothers, cousins attending church in buildings 200 plus years old, who are being targeted by these musings.

ELCA is a 20 year old wet earred teenage failure of an experiment, and is reaping the results of that failure. Deluded pontification of those with the pieces in their hands is not jurisdiction.

I recommend that those of us with 200-500 years of family and over 50 years in the fellowship of those brothers and sisters tell ELCA to get out of the conversation of churches with centuries of substance, annoyed by the meddling of a twenty year old self evident implosion? What part of of this scattered reactionary process do you not understand?

My families' blood is on the bricks of that property.  The proceeds of their labor have kept the heat and lights running. The pastors have been paid from their treasury. All ELCA ever did was cash the checks they received from their charity. The three guys from New Jersey who joined last year, are not that church in that place. Period. Deal with it as congregations begin to understand they will have to take actions such as poison pills to stomp out this power grab of depair.

TV
« Last Edit: November 24, 2010, 04:53:15 PM by TVerinus »
TAALC Pastor

Charles_Austin

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Pastor Christ writes:
Tim notes: Charles, despite your repeated protestations to the contrary, your disdain for the LCMS and those who represent it on this board is palpable nonetheless.

I comment:
Ah, but there's the rub! I separate the LCMS and some of those who claim to represent it on this board. I am reliably told that ptmccain does not "represent" the LCMS at its best. I believe that. Unfortunately, ptmccain is the most vocal LCMSer here, constantly on the prowl and ready to attack.
I have little use for the "type" of LCMS he presents or for his tactics.

Glenn Ryder

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Cue the 'Star Wars' soundtrack...

Roll credits....Episode 'Summer 2011'...


...More planets seek refuge in the rebellion as the empire tries to hold onto its power through legislative manuevers..."



I wish there was some humor reading the latest attempt by the ELCA to retain it's control over congregations by amending the 'process for leaving' next churchwide assembly. All I can say is best to get out by next August!




Glenn

Charles_Austin

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Glenn Ryder writes:
All I can say is best to get out by next August!

I respond:
Yes, I agree. The sooner the better.

Brian Stoffregen

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I wish there was some humor reading the latest attempt by the ELCA to retain it's control over congregations by amending the 'process for leaving' next churchwide assembly.

I see absolutely no control over the process for leaving, but wanting to assure that the process is as fair as possible for all people involved. Robert's Rules have been defined as a process to protect the rights of the minority -- to make sure that they are adequately informed of meetings, that they know that their position will be heard, etc. I see the changes as trying to close loopholes that are in the present process.
"The church Ö had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]