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FORUM

Q.What advice do you have to give the new presiding bishop?

A. Listen to voices unlike your own

By George McGonigle
I will not presume to advise the presiding bishop unless asked. I have assisted in that office and am painfully aware of the amount of unsolicited advice the P.B. gets every day. What follows are views and hopes, not advice.
The Episcopal Church is in a different place than it was 12 years ago, when we elected the 24th presiding bishop. The host culture is even more secularized. Respect for institutional life has waned even further. Fragmentation of our Lord's Body, driven by a seemingly excessive fixation upon social, political and economic issues, continues lessening the church's spiritual energy for its mission of reconciliation.
So it seems to me, the new P.B. has a very different set of leadership tasks than his recent predecessors. Today it will not serve the church well for its bishops to take non-negotiable stands, however prophetic and courageous, on issues about which the church is substantially divided. If the P.B. is to lead the whole church in all its diversity, he will want to avoid contributing to division.
Instead, the new P.B.-elect (and I believe he may already be heading this way) will want to be a servant leader. He can begin by listening to a broad cross-section -- not just to those closest to him. He can pro-actively seek out those of differing viewpoints to inform his own ministry. He can help us all to see differing views as honorable expressions of people of good will. He will want to find ways toward commonality upon which the reconciling mission of God's church can stand united, letting points of difference remain but not letting them become immobilizing.
Another aspect of the P.B.'s ministry I hope for is building partnerships between those with missionary vision and those who have the resources to make vision reality. The P.B., Executive Council and the staff supporting them have been challenged to "reinvent" their ministries within the realities of local (i.e., diocesan and congregational) initiative. Dioceses and congregations believe they are the front-line missionaries and expect those who may have a broader vision and challenge to come to them and serve with them, not just send them a bill.
The time for assigning blame is over because those with resources believe themselves guiltless in deciding they know how to be good stewards of the assets under their care. So building accountability into all missionary partnerships is vital. Well intended but vague reporting to General Convention will not do. Local partners expect an arrangement where each cares for all and all care for each. In other words, the watchword is mutuality -- not judgment. |
George McGonigle of Austin, Texas, served as president of the House of Deputies' president's Council of Advice.

A. Speak out, support the least of these

By Nell Gibson
When Bishop Frank Griswold is installed as the 25th presiding bishop, all Episcopalians under his jurisdiction will expect him to speak out on every issue imaginable. We will expect it in great part because we long for a voice of reason and hope in these troubled times. We desperately seek a voice which will add a counterpoint to the voices of hate and indifference rising up from the secular and religious worlds, a voice willing to confront those who would turn back the hands of time and erase recent gains made through affirmative action and equal opportunity.
The new presiding bishop will stand in one of the most visable bully pulpits in the nation. For many, whether he chooses to address the burning issues of the day will be as important as which issues he chooses to address. Should he choose to keep silent on such issues, his silence could be used as fuel for much of the growing distrust of the institutional church.
Among African-Americans, such distrust is born out of a sense of powerlessness to effect sustained and meaningful change. This sense of powerlessness has been illustrated most recently in the passage of California's Proposition 209 and of a group of New York City police officers' brutalization of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. At these times we look to the church for a clear prophetic voice. For healing and wholeness within the church, it is vitally important for the presiding bishop to communicate support and respect for all its members.
During the last triennium the Episcopal Church committed itself to combating racism and began its work with the publication of "A National Dialogue on Anti-Racism." While such a dialogue is a beginning, any serious commitment to combat racism must move beyond dialogue and toward action. People in positions of leadership like the presiding bishop must be willing to stand with and speak on behalf of the brutalized and marginalized members of the church and society.
In recent times the Episcopal Church has had little if any overt hostility toward women, people of color, gays or lesbians. In fact, the last administration sought to be a church in which there were no outcasts. But even in the best of times it is important for the top decision-maker to consider the opinions of traditionally disenfranchised people who serve at the highest levels of the church. Such consideration often works to eliminate feelings of alienation, which, if left unchecked, can reduce the effectiveness of healthy relations between the races and produce a net result of distrust within the institution. |
Nell Braxton Gibson serves as associate general secretary for inclusiveness and justice with the National Council of Churches of Christ.

A. To the church: Express your love

By Patti Browning
When I was asked what advice I would give to the new presiding bishop, at first I thought I would have lots of advice. Surely the experience of these years would make me a font of information. However, I found I really couldn't warm to that topic.
After these 12 years, I have learned there is no simple word one can offer, no standard formula and little conventional wisdom. Every day is different, every person is unique and no two challenges are the same. The best I might come up with for the next presiding bishop and his spouse would be to say: trust and be faithful. But from knowing and loving Frank and Phoebe, I am aware that they are truly grounded in the Lord, and to trust and be faithful is already natural to their way of being.
Instead, the question got me thinking about what kind of advice I might give to the members of the church. Being the presiding bishop is not about one person. It is about a community of faithful people who are working together to carry out the gospel imperatives. It is about a community of faithful people who love one another, as Christ loved us. Our church has many leaders and each must work to be faithful: to God and to one another.
Together, the community of the baptized are the leaders of the church. We receive our direction from the baptismal covenant. When you read the baptismal service, you see that it all rests on love. Love is that habit of the heart, without which, as Paul says, all the rest comes to nothing.
My advice then, is to love one another. Only a community filled with love can carry out the imperatives of the gospel in this broken and pain-filled world. Only a community filled with love can banish the hate that afflicts nations, communities, families, even churches. Love one another, and most especially love Frank and Phoebe Griswold so they may carry out in joy the ministry to which the church has called them.
This ministry is not without its very difficult hours, as Ed and I know well. However, the love of people around the church has made it not only possible for us; it has made it a great joy. My own heart is full of love and thanksgiving for all of you. |
Patti Browning, wife of Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning, has practiced a ministry of caring over the past 12 years in some of the most troubled places on Earth.

A. Be God's leader grounded in gospels

By John Lane
You are becoming the leader of a wonderful church. God's people are excited about the possibilities for mission. They like the liturgies in which they participate. The sermons I hear today are, on average, much better than they were a generation ago. Parish communities and individual parishioners are involved in enough different and effective social ministries to provide Episcopal Life with a new feature story every month for the next hundred years. Smaller churches are finding wonderful and creative ways to engage in ministry, no longer feeling like second-class citizens.
I hope that as presiding bishop you will provide leadership to the church, pushing and pulling us to do the things that Christians are called to do by the gospel of Jesus Christ. You would be wise to concentrate your attention on the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I propose that we all spend some time treating the other books of the Bible as commentaries on the four Gospels, and pay more attention to what Jesus said and did.
Jesus said little about sex and nothing about homosexuality. He talked instead about the kingdom of God, love, forgiving one another, courage in the face of adversity, humility, service to the needy, compassion, the guidance of the Spirit, prayer, community, the dangers of self-righteousness and the like. We would do well to follow his example. If we did, we might discover that we agree about more things than we thought.
Recently, the archbishop of Canterbury said, "The church is not in the business of keeping a church organization going, but in bearing witness to Jesus Christ." I wouldn't spend an undue amount of time worrying about the future of the church, its financial ups-and-downs or whether God is strong enough to survive -- even in the midst of our greatest silliness or sinfulness.
To quote the Jewish council member Gamaliel on the ministry and preaching of the apostles, "If this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" (Acts 5:38-39). Whatever you do as presiding bishop, God will find a way to prevail. Say your prayers, listen to God, and follow your best instincts. And remember, every one of your congregations will be praying for you by name. |
The Rev. John D. Lane of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia serves on Executive Council.

A. Readers respond:

The Episcopal Church, in the creeds, professes to be a catholic church. The definition is a church universal. Everybody abides by the rules made in convention, all bishops, clergy and lay people. Those who do not should be reprimanded. If they do not come into line they should be excommunicated by you.
You yourself should live by the rules whether you agree with them or not.

Anthony G. Woodson
Farmville, N.C.

If I were the new presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of America I would pray for strength to keep the devil out of the driver's seat!
You can do better with honey than vinegar. Speak softly to God and man.

Arlene Handy
Adrian, Mich.

Help us reclaim our sense of being a missionary church. Forthrightly and candidly address the way the dioceses of the Episcopal Church support the budget of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.
By not fully supporting the mission of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, some dioceses seem to be saying their local and regional mission is more important than our national and global mission.

Bruce A. Rockwell
Rochester, N.Y.

As our presiding bishop, please love us! We are 2.5 million disparate folk -- sometimes hard to love, but we need it. Especially love and serve your comrade bishops: be their pastor and friend and make none feel outcast.
Inspire us with your personal, private and public devotion. Strive to include all people, groups, races and persuasions; marginalize none.
As a father, too, seek to find ways to bring our church meaningfully to our children.
Come and visit with us. You will be busy in New York; but remember our church spreads nearly round the world!

Willis H.A. Moore
Honolulu, Hawaii

Please remember that the Episcopal Church USA is part of the Anglican Communion, part of a vibrant and exciting member of the Body of Christ. Set the example for the Episcopal Church and its members to think globally, to really desire to be in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ through our common traditions and liturgies.

Scott Field
Woodbridge, Va.

Embrace the global church, for American Christians have much to learn from what God is doing among other peoples and cultures.
Travel to experience the life of our Anglican and ecumenical partners in their cities and villages, and refuse to be put off by intra-Anglican disagreements. Increase the number of Episcopal missionaries, both to share the gospel and to expose more U.S. parishes and dioceses to what God is doing among other peoples. In a suffering world, expand the church's prophetic commitment to debt cancellation, environmental renewal and human liberation as Jubilee 2000 approaches. And may God bless you in it all.

The Rev. Titus Presler
Cambridge, Mass.

Be more of a spiritual leader rather than an administrator and let the administrative staff run the office from day to day.
Commence the healing process by being visible around the country and bringing Anglican Episcopalians together.
Concentrate on finding ways and means of "growing the Anglican Episcopal Church of America." The church has lost over 1 million members over the past two decades.
Work ardently to heal the Body of Christ and to avoid any further involvement of the church in accommodating the issues such as same-sex marriages and ordinations of persons who have caused great schisms among us.

Eric E. Dawson
Burke, Va.

The root cause of many of the present-day woes in the Episcopal Church is traceable to a loss of mutual respect between clergy and laity -- one of the end results being the increase in clergy-abuse cases. Study the causes and possible solution to this horror, along with the church's actions (or lack thereof) when specific cases are known, and take positive steps to target the problem with its ensuing emotional, psychological and spiritual fallout. Relationship problems will never be eradicated as long as human beings are involved in the church; the true sin is found in not reassessing the response to them.

Nancy "Red" Guernsey
Bayport, N.Y.

Set aside the present problems of today's church and concentrate on giving the people a new sense of moral behavior which would be pleasing to God, and also concentrate on explaining the true meaning of sins against God.
Chief sources of sin: pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth. We need a new crusader to raise the banner high, a new beginning with the love of God and for God our priority.

Alice M. Hoover
Marion, Ind.

Abandon immediately the project of chasing after the "cultured despisers of religion." Focus on a missionary effort to the multitudes -- the media-saturated lost tribes of North America -- who are hunger for a direct faith experience with Christ.
Challenge churches to resist consumerism, which distorts and destroys faithfulness.
Don't sell out to special-interest groups. Challenge them, rather, to adopt an apostolic stance to their ministry -- "Bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the people and stop whining."

The Rev. Philip Lyon Rountree Jr.
Novato, Calif.

Sexuality is an issue, but not the issue. The issue is the centrality of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture, the word of God. We have strayed from our roots, our anchor, and from the church universal. Bring us back again under the lordship of Jesus.

The Rev. Joseph Keblesh Jr.
Toledo, Ohio

Do not be deterred in your intention to open to all persons in our church the opportunity for full participation in every rite and way, by those forces of opposition who would intimidate with threats to leave.
Stand firm. You've got it right. Under your leadership our church will continue to be that culturally and socially transformational agent that has so defined the Anglican Episcopal tradition.
Do not be afraid of those who seek to control you. We are with you. We stand alongside of you.

The Rev. Alan C. Miller
Lake Placid, Fla.


Forum encourages reader participation in order to promote dialogue within the church. Episcopal Life welcomes responses to this question for March:

"Does God punish us, reward us?"

Answer in 200 words or less. E-mail to episcopal.life@ecunet.org. Answers must be received by Feb.1.

Question for February: "Should we give money to panhandlers?"


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