As we say goodbye to Bishop Mathes, we can rest assured that our governance is in good hands. The standing committee serves as the ecclesiastical authority so decisions that have traditionally been made by the bishop will be made by them. We will have an assisting bishop who will carry out functions reserved for bishops: confirmations, ordinations, etc. He or she will work with the staff to ensure a smooth transition time. As we say goodbye to Bishop Mathes, we can rest assured that our governance is in good hands. The standing committee serves as the ecclesiastical authority so decisions that have traditionally been made by the bishop will be made by them. We will have an assisting bishop who will carry out functions reserved for bishops: confirmations, ordinations, etc. He or she will work with the staff to ensure a smooth transition time.
The biggest pitfall in a time like this is anxiety. We have had a good, strong bishop. With him gone, some of us may grow anxious. Yet this is a time for us to be faithful, listen to the Spirit, and perhaps use the pause button before we speak.
If issues arise in your congregation, it is helpful to inform diocesan staff so we can assist you. This is a good time for congregations to engage in some sort of study about our polity, roles of bishops, priests, deacons and lay people and how we all work together as the body of Christ.
During our last transition, I served on the nominating committee and the transition committee. Our day-to-day congregational life did not change much, but the transition work itself required much patience, creativity and discerning hearts. People will have different views of what the next bishop should do or be. Opinions will not necessarily be shared so we have to listen with the ear of the heart.
When we called Bishop Mathes, our diocese was much more divided on issues of human sexuality, women’s ordination, proper liturgical practices and what it means to be the Episcopal Church. We are fortunate that Bishop Mathes has been such a unifying force over his episcopate. My sense is that this time we are coming into this process much more unified and hopeful about mission and that we will be able to concentrate on important things like being the Good News.
The key here is discernment. We have to discern where we are as individuals, as parishes, as a diocesse and as part of the larger Episcopal Church. That means consciously engaging in prayer, contemplation, holy discussion and study.
This is also a time to examine what has served us well in the past and what we can let go, or modify. It will not be business as it has been. We have to trust that God will be with us in this process and that we will experience some new things that make us uncomfortable and other things that excite and engergize us. We have to be ready for both. And we cannot be locked into what we have been. We will give our new bishop a chance to develop us into a new community. For now, let’s continue on our current path, for this is a time to till the soil. +
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