Bishop’s Address of 2001


Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

About the vision of doubling our active members:
Several churches are clearly growing in attendance and/or funding – a fewer are in sharp decline – many appear static. Growth is easy to see in some: St. Andrew’s, Darien; Christ Church, Cordele; Trinity Church, Cochran; and St. Mark’s, Brunswick. We do not yet have the statistics for the year 2000 for most of our congregations. The Parochial Report forms were late coming from New York. In addition last year the figures asked for were changed so we are going to have to get each congregation to do some research to have a true benchmark for the figures that are now being asked on the form.

The Rt. Rev. Henry I. Louttit, Jr.

However, we do have other evidence of growth. I attached to this address a statistical report, which will be distributed to you that includes a corrected report printed in the Church In Georgia about the major capital and physical improvements of congregations in the Diocese of Georgia known to me in the year 2000. I ask you to note in addition the tremendous growth in the number of congregations pledging their full asking. I ask you to note also the growth of pledge and plate income to our congregations.

Now about small congregations:
Seven years ago I expressed my concern about how stable congregations with 30 or so people in church each Sunday, (some of which have outstanding ministries for Jesus Christ in their communities that would not be duplicated by any other congregation in that town if they were not there), how these congregations could be provided with a priest for the Eucharist at a financial level that they could support. (For those who have not driven around our diocese it is important to recognize that many of our small congregations are 50 – 60 miles apart.) I still believe that it is possible to have healthy congregations of a model other than the suburban parish which is the success story of the Episcopal Church but it requires over 150 people and a budget over $100,000 to be comfortably healthy. After six years I am still struggling with this.

One of our smaller congregations has caught the vision of a community that provides full ministry through the ministry of each member and out of which through the discernment and support of the congregation people with the requisite gifts are ordained as deacons and priests. We have not yet been able to present for ordination a priest or deacon out of and for Trinity Church, Cochran. Still it is fascinating to note that since the last resident priest departed, a little over a year ago, (attendance was then at an all time high). In the last year attendance is up 33% without an assigned priest! I believe that growth will continue. I am clear that the people of Trinity understand what it takes for a Christian community to be healthy and understand what it means for each member to use the gifts God has given them for the good not only for the community within the congregation, but in reaching out in Christ’s name into His world. Trinity Church, Cochran has shown amazing imagination, commitment, and a willingness to risk and try new ways of being the church in order for the church that is so valuable in their own lives to be healthy in their community.

We have some 24 other churches with attendance between 15 – 43 on Sunday. I currently think, at least as an intermediate step, we are going to have to develop teams of non-stipendiary priests serving in an area under supervision of one seminary trained mission dean in each of three areas in the diocese. In each area the local congregations would have some say about who serves them, and nobody has the same priest forever. This of course would require some diocesan funding for the mission deans. One area would be the area west and south of Augusta. A second area would include the area west of Dublin to Albany, and the third area would be in the southwest deanery and the lower I-75 corridor.

The very few missions that we have on the coast are fairly attractive for retired priests to serve. Each congregation is unique and thus we believe that in many cases unique solutions will be developed for each mission or group of missions. Already Holy Spirit, Dawson and St. Francis, Camilla have grown their budgets to the point that between them they can pay for a fulltime priest and are served by Freeman Cross. When Fr. Cross retires or moves I suspect that they will want to go forward to call together another priest to serve the two congregations. In order to do this a congregation has to have the ability to provide at least half of the package, something in the neighborhood of $30,000 towards a half time priest and has to be close enough to a congregation that has also the desire for a half time priest that they can share. Distances do not make this easy. I am still convinced that in all but a handful of our congregations we can grow if our people are willing to pay the price of welcoming and incorporating new people into their part of the body of Christ. God has certainly surprised me a number of times in my ministry and I hope that He will surprise me again, but I fear that we have at least five congregations who have consciously or unconsciously decided to die. They don’t know or think that there is any possibility for growth – that means they don’t know any friends who are interested in joining their church. Unfortunately, congregations that are all of one age or of very similar cultural backgrounds have a more difficult time in reaching out to people that are not the same as them and there comes a point when age reduces the energy available for growing the congregation.

On the other hand, we have started three congregations in the last three years. The first St. Stephen’s, Lee County, has been without a permanent priest for a number of months. Fr. Ron Davidson who has been the Rector of Trinity Church, Statesboro during whose leadership a wonderful new church and parish hall has been constructed, will begin his ministry there in Lent. The people of St. Stephen’s are extremely excited. This Bishop learned a lot by the mistakes that we made in Lee County. The biggest one was that we were never able to get a space big enough in which to grow. That was partially remedied a year ago when we were able to buy seven acres between the middle and elementary schools and across from the high school. This is a site that anybody with children, and most of Lee County is young families, will see regularly. On the property there is a very nice ranch house, which has been adapted for office and parish house space, and enclosing the carport has made a temporary worship space. Unfortunately, the worship space is still not adequate for real growth, but with the energy of Fr. Davidson and two Sunday morning worship services and an intention to grow I believe we can provide adequate worship space in the near future. To date St. Stephen’s has had 11 adult baptisms, 14 infant/children baptisms, and has confirmed 48.

Our second start is Holy Comforter in Columbia County with priest Cynthia Taylor. It is prospering using a public building on Sunday evenings, which is the only time that it is available to them. They had 160 people at their Christmas midnight service and have presented one adult for baptism, five/child/infant baptisms, and 10 people for confirmation. Most interestingly we have had a number of people who grew up as Episcopalians but have not been in church since they went off to college some years ago who have become active there and have reaffirmed their faith in this part of the family. It’s particular interesting in light of the fact that there are a number of other good Episcopal churches in the Augusta area. Why it is easier for people to become active if they have been away from the church for a while in a “new start” is unknown to me, but it is clearly a fact.

The newest congregation at the time of this address is not yet officially holding services but some 60 people worshipped and gathered in the house on the eight acres that we have obtained next to the new Kingsland High School in Camden County on a Sunday in early January. They hope to have a formal opening with over a 100 people present in the next couple of months. I think every sign is that we will have such a congregation with Pastor Frank Logue as the “church starter.” The wonderful news about King of Peace, Kingsland is that it has become a real source of pride and encouragement to Christ Church, St. Mary’s, our historic congregation in the downtown of the old village. In response to the excitement of King of Peace, Christ Church has doubled the size of their parish hall by adding 1/3 more to the building and are seriously studying ways to provide much larger seating in their historic setting for worship. In this particular case there is a clear difference in the communities that the congregations are seeking to serve. Christ Church has for a small parish the best music program that this Bishop has ever experienced. It has deeply committed people and it serves well people who have been fed and grown in the Episcopal Church. King of Peace, on the other hand, is intentionally reaching out to people who have no church and no church background and thus is concerned about upholding the central parts of the Christian faith as we have inherited them in the Episcopal Church. But it is designing it’s worship and life to make it easier for people who have no experience with our church to take part and be a part and grow in the faith in the church. To date King of Peace has had one adult baptism, five infant/children baptisms, confirmed three and received one.

The Bishop’s continued attempts to turn some congregations around that have been small for a long time or have been shrinking have not been very successful. Vestries often insist that they and the members want growth, but they do not show the energy necessary to welcome and be welcoming to newcomers. Still if you look around the diocese you can see the incredible excitement at St. Andrew’s, Darien who’s attendance has been somewhat like a skyrocket in the last 2-½ years. Where as 18 – 30 might not have been a bad number in church on my early visits. This December the choir had 18 members in it and the congregation was packed and there were nine adult confirmands. The vestry is concerned about building an adequate parish house not only so everybody can get in for a parish dinner, but also a building that would allow them to serve better the people of McIntosh County where little public space exists.

Growth does happen in congregations that have been around a long time and even in some congregations that have been in a slide. So “alleluia” is much more often on my lips than those feelings of cold around my heart when I look out at a congregation of people who really love their church, all of who have hair like mine and some of whom are showing frailty. They too, love their church and they to want it to be there in the future. But often they haven’t yet opened themselves enough to the love of God so that they have confidence to make the change necessary to welcome newcomers and yet not destroy what is central in their experience with God.

What will we leave our children?:
We have tried to encourage congregations to use “planned giving” (wills, etc.) to build for the future. A few of our congregations have worked hard to build endowments to support future ministry. All Saints’, Tybee; St. Peter’s, Skidaway; St. Paul’s, Albany has made wonderful starts. St. John’s, Savannah is planning towards such a campaign.

Now about the diocesan community of 71 churches as encourager of ministry: Convocations
I was concerned when elected Bishop to use people’s time who gives it for the service of the church in ways that it will be profitable for them and for the church. I was well aware that many meetings did not produce much and that people often went away with no sense of accomplishment. I was determined to try to make meetings valuable to the participants or to do away with them. Six years later we have fewer diocesan commissions, 11 as opposed to 22. I hope that does not mean that we have stopped being concerned with a number of areas of ministry that the committees or commissions reflected, but that we recognize that most ministries has to originate in local places meaning in one parish or group of parishes close enough to work together. I felt this Fall that we made a giant step forward with the design of convocation council meetings by local folk to make each convocation meeting more valuable to the people that are asked to attend and hopefully draw other people who wish to be inspired, encouraged, and to exchange ideas about ministry in their respective congregations and areas. The Albany Convocation Meeting was “electric” for many of the people attending. That is a first in my 37 years of experience!

About diocesan communication:
One great difference in our diocese and many others is that we have no natural lines of communications. In other dioceses people see follow church people from other parishes while they are at play or at work. All gatherings of people in our diocese have to be intentional. If you lived in the Diocese of Mississippi for pleasure, work, and education you would be frequently in Jackson and you would often run into people from other parishes. We just don’t have that kind of natural center in our diocese. Thus, we have to work particularly hard on introducing people to people from other congregations and we have to give ourselves some time to meet and know people from other congregations. We have in the neighborhood of 14,000 Episcopalians in our area and together we have the ability to do all kinds of things. Individually in groups of 30 we may seem up against impossible odds.

About diocese community and websites:
You will hear later a bit about our attempts to learn how to use websites, email, and chat lines for communication and we are very thankful for the Church In Georgia and hope to use it and the mails more effectively in our diocesan life.

Diocesan community: Convention
We have been trying to develop the Diocesan Convention as an annual rally not just as the legislative business any organization the size of our diocese has to have, but as a time when leaders in various areas of ministry in the parishes come together both for encouragement and to gather in God’s presence for His inspiration. We have also tried to make it a place where there can be an exchange of ideas, an experience of other ways of doing things through seminars and training. Thus, this year we have a number of workshops on Saturday morning, to which we hope a number of people will come who are not delegates as well as we hope many of you the delegates will feel called to attend one of the workshops. We hope that we can develop this much more fully in the future and that people who are interested in particular areas of ministry and wish to gather for mutual support, consultation, and encouragement will help us produce those workshops for next year and the year after.

Diocesan community: Big church worship
I personally believe that “revivals” in Protestant Churches serve the same need as “cathedral services” in the Catholic tradition. Almost everybody is sometimes encouraged by worship in a large group. Thus, I hope that our diocesan Eucharist on Saturday is an opportunity for large church worship with an outstanding preacher and special music for many people in the diocese other than just the delegates to convention. Certainly everybody is invited.

About world mission:
I have been quite pleased by the number of congregations that have developed support for ministries in other parts of the world. Our diocese has had a special relationship with the Diocese of Belize. The time for a new companion diocese has come, but we want to keep our friendship with Belize and our Dental Ministry there “Project Smile” continues. Our offering Saturday will go to Belize to help it recover from Hurricane Keith. The Diocesan Commission on a companion diocese is recommending that we enter into a relationship with the Diocese of the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is a member of the convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States and is our fastest growing diocese. Its organization and planning provides many possibilities for short-term mission and ministry trips for both our youth and our adults.

Several parishes have been supportive of Bishop Daniel Bul, the Bishop of Renk in the Episcopal Church of war-torn Sudan. Through Episcopal World Missions, St. Thomas’, Thomasville, supports missionaries in Honduras and Madagascar. To my surprise, members of our diocese, mostly from Christ Church, St. Simons Island and Christ Church, Savannah, make us among the largest supporters of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s world ministry (The Church of England supports the Archbishop as their primate, but does not fund his ministry beyond England in our far flung world church.) The support of his ministry is through a membership in the Compass Rose Society. See the stories in Anglican World that your parish receives and I hope posts. Henry Louttit and Fr. Jerry Crook want to develop support for Bishop Merino and his Diocese of Colombia, a diocese that is in a country that is a battleground between drug lords funded by American addicts and a government funded for this war by our government. Because of the trouble in parts of Colombia our government discourages travel to any part of Colombia to put more pressure on their government to pursue more enthusiastically the war against the drug lords. People suffer as the country is isolated and the war goes on.

Several others in the diocese are intrigued to try to befriend the Diocese of Navajoland. It is a culture within our own country yet requires patience because the Navajo sense of time and the western sense of time are very different. Yet these people are our brothers and sisters in Christ and have a beautiful faith. I hope that you would like to help in one of these efforts or others and I hope somebody from your congregation will participate Saturday in the workshop “The World is my Parish” (the title is a statement from our Georgia Saint, John Wesley. He knew what we are just discovering that our faith only grows as we help others in other places grow.) Congregations that are growing in the Diocese of Georgia are those who are giving of their money and love for the ministry of Christ in other parts of the world. I am enlarging our scope by changing the name of our Commission on our companion diocese to the “World Mission Commission.”

I hope your parish will take part in the world mission of the Anglican Communion.

In the 1960’s and early 70’s our diocese was blessed with a very great and brave Bishop Albert Rhett Stuart who led us in a struggle with the injustice of racism. Out of that struggle we in the Episcopal Church and the culture in which we live have moved in many ways to overcome the worst parts of the injustice of racism. Today, we have seven congregations that were historically African-American and about 55 that were historically white and one successful congregation that merged a historically black a historically white congregation to intentionally form a 50 – 50 congregation. Today only seven of our congregations do not have members of at least two racial groups active in their congregations. The General Convention has charged all of us to work to overcome the continuing racism and prejudice in our culture and affecting our church. As far as we have come since 1963 in the Diocese of Georgia, we still are short of God’s will. Our Anti-Racism Committee has been participating in a number of anti-racism workshops out of which we are developing a local program that we believe is non-threatening and yet will help us move forward in recognizing and neutralizing our own unconscious prejudices. I hope that every parish will have someone representing them in the “Attitude Adjustment 2001” workshop to help lead your parish towards working for the reduction of prejudice in your church and community.

We have been blessed with the leadership of Pastor Sonia Sullivan with our young people in developing the most active diocesan youth ministry in the Episcopal Church. Pastor Sullivan has also grown Good Shepherd, Swainsboro from 6 to 60+ on Sundays where she is the Vicar. It has become obvious that she needs some relief. Thus, we will be undergoing a transition of leadership this spring. Pastor John West will become Vicar of St. Elizabeth’s, Richmond Hill in April and then work with Pastor Sullivan in a time of transition this spring and summer to become the Diocesan Youth Director. We know that Sonia is not going to loose her commitment to support our youth, but she will turn her energy fully to building the Church of The Good Shepherd. This is a decision that the people of Good Shepherd have been praying for and are very excited about and which we as a diocese will financially support for three years. We do thank Sonia for six wonderful years. We are expecting great things in Swainsboro, where the congregation has purchased an adjacent property and the duplex house on the property will be used for Community Outreach. We know that our youth ministry will continue strong. Our gifted Sonia has developed a workshop to assist you in building your congregational youth ministry and I hope your parish will be represented here Saturday morning.

Relief ministries:
One of the Episcopal Church’s most wonderful ministries has been our relief effort after human and natural disasters worldwide. It was historically called the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief. Ask some of our brothers and sisters from St. Francis, Camilla about our work. We were the first agency, the first aid, to arrive in Camilla after the tornadoes! Under a new name so that we get public recognition as church “The Episcopal Fund for Relief and Development” this very important ministry continues. Dr. Francis van Gigch, a communicant of St. Peter’s, Savannah, is our diocesan coordinator and he is trying to develop a communication coordinator for every congregation so that we can get information around quickly and can keep congregations aware of the tremendous care that the Episcopal Church gives from them to those in immediate need. He needs you help. I hope that every congregation will be represented in “What in the world is the Episcopal Church doing?” workshop Saturday.

College ministry:
We have struggled for several years to decide how to provide ministry to our college students. We have 23 institutions/colleges in our diocese but most of our own young people who go to college go to college outside of the borders of the diocese. Last summer we had a meeting asking people from each parish near a college to send some folk to think about how we might reach out from the congregation to the college. Out of this meeting there has been some beginnings of presence on some of our campuses. But on many campuses there is no evidence of any interest by the Episcopal Church in the students, staff, or faculty. We still have a long way to go. Since most congregations only have a college student or two the continuing connection and the follow up of our own college students is hit and miss. We began last year to try and build a diocesan mailing list for college students and we were pleased to get some 40 names. This year we have 180 names on the college list! We have been trying to make contact about every six weeks. Many of you know that last June we had a weekend for college students who might be interested in a vocation to ordained ministry. We thought four would be a good turnout and some 13 wonderful young committed adults arrived for that weekend. Another first for me as Bishop was that I confirmed four students from Georgia Southern on my visit to Trinity, Statesboro this fall. These are the first students who have found the church while in college that I have confirmed since becoming Bishop. Their families were there from out of town and appeared very pleased. Who knows – perhaps the parents will try your parish. Are you prepared to receive them?

Diocesan community: Leadership training
St. Paul’s frames his discussion of spiritual gifts with their purpose spelled out in I Corinthians; Chapter 12:31, 14:1&12. Those three verses read: Strive for the greater gifts and I will show you a still more excellent way … Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts … Strive to excel in them for the building up of the church.

Your Bishop remains convicted that God does not provide a church to fill the religious needs of “religious type people” – he calls you and me to be the church to share His love with his whole creation! Archbishop William Temple said years ago: “The church is the only organization on earth that exists for those who do not belong to it.”

For God’s people – the church – to fulfill our ministry we have to have good leadership. Most vestry members would agree: “If you would just get us the right priest then we would be happy and grow.” However, Jesus called you the vestry members to be His church. He did not call priests to by themselves be the church! Lots of our congregations have come to see the vestry with priests as a leadership team for ministry – rather than seeing the vestry as the governing body who employs a priest – manager to keep people happy. However, all our leaders in the parish, Sunday School teachers, altar guild members, vestry persons and priests can be much better if supported with the leadership gifts of others.

Thus, the Diocesan Council and I plan that our major diocesan effort for the next two years will be leadership development for the 71 congregations which are the Diocese. We have asked the Diocese of South Carolina to share with us their leadership-training program. It was developed by them after participating in a number of leadership programs developed for business and non-profit organizations and listening and praying about what Holy Scriptures says about leadership. The result is a program based on scripture. The church cannot give up its birthright to be successful – but it can use the best insights from any source that square with our understanding of God’s will for His people.

To begin this program we have scheduled a three-day clergy conference starting at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 22, 2001 and closing at 3:00 Wednesday afternoon of the 25th. This clergy conference has been a normal expectation of all our priests, but to accommodate the needs of this program it is a half a day longer. We really need all of our priests who are the administrative pastor (Rector, Vicar, or priest in charge including retired priests who serve mission congregations) to be present and for the whole time! All assistant priests and deacons are welcome. Next fall we will schedule several conferences for vestry members and other parish leaders. These conferences will be exactly like the one the priests are going to, but will be over a weekend starting on Friday a time that is better for most lay people.

What has been accomplished in the Diocese of South Carolina? I am impressed by the fact that giving to congregations – and not all congregations would participate of course – has doubled in the Diocese of South Carolina in the last seven years. We too have had some increases as you can see from the statistical page that will be given out with this address, but it certainly hasn’t doubled in most of our congregations. Many of the congregations in the Diocese of South Carolina have also shown significant growth in members. We have some congregations showing significant growth.

The secret is having a leadership team that can enable each person to use their gifts for the good of the whole community rather than a leadership team that only allows one or two people to work at a time. For this to happen it requires that the leaders, priests, and vestry members are able to discern and empower those gifts in each congregation. I ask everybody to pray for our leadership training efforts and I hope all of you will make every attempt to participate.

Diocesan community: Audits a responsibility of stewardship
I understand that Christians want to trust each other and most vestries are aware of the tremendous amount of work that one communicant – the treasurer – puts into the service of our parish. We don’t want to hurt his or her feelings and we certainly don’t want to spend any of our money for an audit. However, we are a non-profit organization and I believe those who give to us assume that we are careful about our money. I believe that our books should be open and carefully checked each year. Unfortunately, the largest loss to our church owned insurance company involves embezzlement by treasurers. It keeps happening, and it even happens here in Georgia! It is for the protection of our treasurer and other officials from temptation to borrow funds in family emergencies that it is absolutely critical that someone exterior to the vestry carefully review the books each year. I understand the cost issues. For smaller congregations we are setting up a small group of people with financial experience in each convocation that will be willing to review your books if you so request without cost. For larger congregations I believe you need to employ a professional for review (note not necessary an audit which is much more expensive).

Diocesan conference center:
At the beginning of my seventh year as Bishop we finally have an accounting system at Honey Creek that allows us to know what each event costs the Conference Center and what these costs are. Unfortunately, we have not had a good financial year. Elder hostels have fallen in popularity across the country, but ours even more. We through changes in leadership and new competition fell behind in environmental education usage. We now know that the Conference Center is loosing money on our diocesan camping program. The Conference Center Commission has struggled with getting the accounting system in place, which cost the Discretionary Funds available to the Bishop better than $25,000. Now they are beginning a search for a permanent Conference Center Manger. Unfortunately, you need to pray very hard because we really need two people not married to each other, but we do not have the funds. This is a 24-hour, seven-day a week business! We are running a motel, a restaurant, an environmental education center, and a church conference program! We need financial skills, people skills, management skills, Christian Education expertise, public relation expertise, and a salesperson all in one. I am very thankful for the Commission and Mr. Walter Maronski our Interim Director for their love and work for Honey Creek. We have had some bad breaks financially, but we know now what needs to happen. Unfortunately, because of our uncertainty about finances we have had to turn down several interesting development possibilities. We are very thankful for a $10,000 anonymous gift, which enabled us to move and renovate a two-bedroom-house that was given by Helen and Harold Voigt of Waycross to increase our meeting room space. This house replaces the old trailers and is located west of Martha’s Cottage. Note well: Next year the diocese will have to increase our subsidy and the cost to campers of our 10-day camps substantially. Do pray for guidance as we look for a new manager.

Diocesan community: Cursillo
Cursillo is the Spanish word for “small course” the original title in Spanish translates “short course in Christianity.” It is a great opportunity for individuals interested in discovering or being refreshed in their sense of ministry as a disciple of Jesus Christ. We give three days to God and God uses this time to give us what we need to grow with Him. What each person needs is different. In my experience God has a gift for everybody that goes to Cursillo, though sometimes a few people like me are slow to recognize what gift they got until months and months afterwards. There have been places in the country where special groups have taken over Cursillo and decided that there is one gift that everybody has to have. This may be a gift involving renewal or speaking in tongues or whatever. That short-circuits what God intends to happen at Cursillo and can destroy the weekend for many. God intends Cursillo to be an opportunity for each of us to be with Him, know His love, and become a more intentional and gifted disciple. I am very thankful for Joe Clift, the Diocesan Spiritual Director and the Cursillo Commission of the Diocese for their leadership of this very important program. In the current five years schedule, 31 of our priests have or will serve as Spiritual Director’s at Cursillo. This shows the wide support and interest and range of approaches that our program includes and encourages which represents the Christian experience of our whole diocese. It’s sister organization Happening is the base of our wonderful youth program. I am also very thankful for Mr. Jody Grant of Christ Church, Augusta and the Youth Commission for their leadership of Happening.

The Diocese and the future:
With the Diocesan Council’s advice I have appointed ten persons to the Long Range Planning Committee. Their questions? “What do we want the diocese to look like when we elect a new bishop (that cannot be farther than 10 years from now – my 72nd birthday). Congregations? Diocesan Staff? Bishop’s responsibilities? Bishop or Bishops? Financial resources? How do we get there?” They will need your input and ideas. Please keep them in your prayers.

The Chair and Liaison for a Long Range Planning Committee is The Rev. James R. Bullion, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Albany.

The Bishop’s work:
In February of 1995, in my first address to this convention as Bishop, I listed six areas of ministry for a Bishop as I entered into this ministry. I am going to ask you to consider tomorrow in table discussions those six points and ask you to review them and see if any areas need to be added to that description. I am also going to ask you to consider which areas need more energy from the Bishop at this time. From 1995:

  1. First of all, I see the bishop to be the encourager, friend and prayer support for the leaders of the congregations and all the baptized members of this diocese (that’s priestly ministry).
  2. I see the bishop as our link with those in other congregations in our diocese, throughout the world church, and also back through time to the apostles (that is the bishop’s apostolic special ministry).
  3. I see the bishop as the chief administrator, planner and vision sales person for the diocese (that parallels the responsibility of the rector/administrative pastor in a local congregation).
  4. I see the bishop as having a major responsibility – and this is the area that most people in the larger church don’t know much about – as the troubleshooter, “garbage man,” and reconciler (this is the work of pastors. It’s the work that you can’t put in your diary if it goes well, and, unfortunately, if it doesn’t go well it will probably show up in the headlines of the paper).
  5. I see the bishop as the sharer of the family stories to help us be proud of each other, our relatives in Christ (this is the role of a grandmother or grandfather in a family).
  6. And finally, the bishop, like every Christian, is called to be an icon, a model of Christian service (this is a role we normally call “deacon”).

In order to fulfill these ministries among you, I have to know you. St. Augustine of Hippo said more than 1,500 years ago, “I listen that I may serve.” That’s why my visits to the congregations of the diocese are so very important. I need to know something about you and something about your life so that I may share that with your brothers and sisters in other places, as well as so I may be better able to serve you as your encourager, friend, and prayer support. I don’t know how many of you have lived in several different congregations, but if you have, you know that congregations have distinct personalities, which is separate from possible commitment to a particular theology or ideology. Just like people, each congregation is unique and that means that each person and each congregation has to be approached in a way that is appropriate to them in order to be their friend and encourager.”

I remain convicted by the Gospel that if you have experienced the love and care of God you have to share it. That sharing takes place in both caring and serving others (diaconal ministries of care) and in sharing the good news of the Gospel with those who do not know it or have not been able to hear it. (That’s historically called “evangelism”). I’m absolutely clear that the church does not exist as a club to serve the religious needs to its members, but as a community in Our Lord Jesus Christ carrying on His ministry to the world which He has created and loves.