Tomorrow we begin the walkabout process in the Bishop Suffragan election. I’ve been asked by some folks to post the questions and answers that are on the Diocesan website here on my blog. Delighted to do so!
1. How have you been persuaded that God has called you to the office of bishop, serving specifically in the region of East Texas?
When the conversation began about electing a bishop suffragan, I first dismissed the idea. How likely was our diocese to elect two women bishops to serve at the same time? But almost as quickly as I dismissed this as my call, people began to approach me about being a candidate. As I listened, prayed, and discerned, I heard many say that my experiences in ministry, lay and ordained, as well as my unique gifts were needed in the Church, particularly in that portion in East Texas.
Having served on the Commission on Ministry for eighteen years, and the Committee for the Diaconate five, I have read the spiritual autobiographies of over a hundred persons seeking Holy Orders; I know the clergy of our diocese very well. My membership on the team which established the Iona School for Ministry has given me insight into the unique needs of smaller and more isolated parishes. My pastoral gifts and spiritual practices have led me to be sought out for counsel by countless clergy and lay persons.
What I love most about parish ministry– forming long-term relationships, encouraging adults and children to grow in their knowledge and love of Christ and then to share that love in all parts of their life, particularly in their most daily of moments–is what I bring to Episcopal leadership. I could happily continue in parish ministry, but to do and to be all that God has called me, I offer myself to the Church as bishop.
2. How will you support our Bishops Diocesan and Suffragan? How will you support and enhance the work already being done in the diocese?
Throughout my ordained ministry, I have understood my call as a balance between parish ministry and ministry to the diocese. As twice dean of the San Jacinto Convocation under three diocesan bishops, I have been a bridge between the clergy
and people and diocesan leadership. As chair of the Committee for the Diaconate and the Commission on Ministry, I have served under the direction of Bishops Diocesan and Suffragan following their vision for raising up ordained leadership. I have helped prepare ordained and lay leaders for ministry through teaching at Curate Camp, The Wardens and Vestry Conference, the Iona School for Ministry, Clergy Conference, and many retreats and quiet days. It is natural for me to do this essential task of being a bridge between the diocese and local mission and ministry.
I would continue as I have always done to support the people of God and the mission of the diocese through faithful prayer; discerning, casting, and empowering the vision that God has given our diocese through the work of the people and particularly our Diocesan Bishop. To this I add my own unique ministry style and pastoral skills to reach all those we serve, especially those who might feel disenfranchised, less important, and less powerful. As a person of great hope, I will join with the people of our diocese as we discover new ways in our uniquely Episcopal voice to be the presence of Christ in a world in which he is largely unknown.
3. What do you see as the role of small congregations and, acknowledging that they are in varying stages of health, how will you engage them?
When I was a child, I served every summer in Vacation Bible School in my grandmother’s small, rural church. Being in her church taught me the wonderful ministry that happens through places seen by some as having less importance.
Twenty years later, I joined a handful of persons in Bob and Linda’s Sandwich Shop for St. Cuthbert’s very first worship service. My family was foundational in helping St. Cuthbert grow from mission to parish status.
I was called as rector to St. Mary’s when they were struggling with debt and division. Together we discovered our distinctive mission and ministry and have become a place which has raised up youth, men, and women to serve in leadership in the Church. We also serve as a teaching parish for those at the beginning of their service in ordained ministry.
These, and other experiences, lead me to ask: What is a small congregation? Honestly, I don’t believe that there are any small congregations (or small ministry) in God’s eyes. Every person and every church has a unique call to serve God. God, consistently throughout Scripture, chooses what others might overlook to use for God’s glory.
How I engage one person or one group is the same: having prayed, I enter the situation listening and together we discover what God has in store. Adding to that, as bishop, I will take time before a visitation to know each church’s particular story; I will be a prepared presence.
4. Survey responses and the experience of past bishops in East Texas stress the need for the bishop in this region to have a personal relationship with the laity and clergy. As a chief priest and pastor, specifically how will you encourage, nourish, and support all baptized people in their gifts and ministries?
I have a particular passion to journey with others as we grow together into the persons that God has created us to be. This begins with my own relationship with God and is informed and proceeds from my Rule of Life of prayer, study, service to others, and Sabbath.
As bishop, I will pray daily for the clergy and people of the churches of our diocese, particularly for those I am called to serve. When we pray, we discover surprising solutions to situations–even ones that at first appear hopeless. I have found that the more I pray for people the more I love them. As a praying bishop, I will love God’s people by being fully present with them. When bishops speak, people are expectant. Teaching and preaching our baptismal covenant is an essential way to cast the vision of God’s kingdom working through us. I will use each teachable and preachable moment to do this.
All of us in the church are called to be the presence of Christ in the world. One of the roles of the church is to create a safe place to practice living out that call in community, anytime we gather, from coffee hour to worship. As bishop, I will remind us that what we do when we are gathered as the Church, does indeed come to full fruition when it forms how we live as the presence of Christ in the world: our lives, outside the church walls.
5. As a bishop suffragan, how will you guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church?
I am a person of great hope that God is doing better things than we can desire or pray for through Jesus Christ our Lord. I live a Benedictine vow of stability, that having made a commitment to a community, I stay in relationship with that community working through times of conflict and challenge to a place of healing and growth.
As bishop, with prayer and humility, I would gather with my brother and sister bishops. Grounding all that I do in prayer, I will be in relationship with others within the larger Episcopal Church as we prayerfully discern together that artful struggle of what is best for the parish, the diocese, the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion. I will engage in conversation, listening and speaking, during those opportunities that God gives us to be together. I will, with God’s help, obey and uphold the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.
My experience in the parish is that when we act from a place of mission and ministry, rooted in prayer and Holy Scripture, we are open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to work through church issues. I believe that the best way to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church is by being focused on the mission and ministry of Christʼs Body, the Church. This is our purpose. On that we can all agree, and from that focus, we will grow.
6. Please describe for us how you (as an individual) communicate with people of varying backgrounds.
In my life before ordination, I was a special education teacher and an educational diagnostician. My ministry in the world was to figure out how to educate those who had great difficulty learning by traditional methods. This experience of having to be carefully observant and to find creative ways to communicate was the best preparation I could have for serving the neighbors God gives us.
God has given me many opportunities to communicate with a variety of God’s people–from prisoners on death row, to severely disabled infants and their families, to trying to help build a community of Spanish-speaking worshippers with only a semester of high school Spanish, to a mission trip in rural Ukraine where I gave children’s sermons. At times I’ve had challenges and missteps in communication, but I know that God has taught me better how to show the love of Christ through each encounter.
I take seriously the Benedictine practice to treat all as Christ. Every encounter with another is a precious gift and is to be honored and respected. This can be a challenge when the person doesn’t act very Christ-like or doesn’t seem to be a particularly precious gift. The truth is, however, that what most folks want is for someone to listen (listen, not talk) to them. People want someone to hear and value their story. When I remember to do this, the door cracks open for us to have true conversation.
7. What would you like to tell the people of the Diocese of Texas that has not been covered above?
When I was a child, I read a book about a missionary, and at that moment knew that I was called to serve God in that way. I am a missionary for Christ Jesus–inspiring people to read and love Holy Scripture; looking for new ways to proclaim the Gospel to a world that is often prejudiced or misinformed against Christianity; holding a theology of generosity and abundance, believing that God can truly provide everything we need; and being the prayerful presence of Christ. Give me another hundred words, and I’ll tell you how I love to have fun.