Challenges and Opportunities

As promised last week, I’ll spend this week and next answering the two questions I hear most often from folks in ECMN and the wider Church.

The first is: “What has your experience of being a Bishop been like?”

My reflection on this question is based solely on my experience serving as the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. Where I’ve served makes my reflections different than those of someone who has served somewhere else. We are a large, geographically and institutionally complex place. As such, after lots of reflection and conversations with my support team, here is my response, framed in three challenges and three opportunities.

Challenges:

The ministry is endless.

What I have consistently shared with folks is that there are no days off, just hours. Crises of all sorts, pastoral emergencies, and situations that demand immediate action are the norm, not the exception. Likewise, there is one Bishop and many different constituents and stakeholders who would like the attention and/or the attendance of the Bishop. Because of this, I quickly learned that there is always someone who is disappointed, there is always someone who wants or needs the bishop at the same time that six or ten others do.

The ministry is filled with projections, both positive and negative.

By projections, I mean things like, “Let’s ask the Bishop, because certainly they will be able to [fill in the blank].” Inversely, “I can’t believe the Bishop did [again, fill in the blank].” In one projection, the bishop is a superhero and in the other, a villain. And honestly, in many cases, the bishop has a small or non-existent role in either scenario.

The ministry is emotionally draining.

Often, the bishop is engaged with humanity at its most raw, vulnerable, and reactive. In those cases, people are more likely to make unhealthy and inappropriate choices. Those choices always have an impact on multiple individuals and communities. Walking with those who have made poor choices, and with those impacted those choices, is heavy emotional lifting.

Opportunities:

The ministry is resource-rich.

ECMN, and Minnesota, is filled with high-capacity, high-functioning, bright, articulate people. We are blessed to have a number of first-rate facilities: ECMN Offices, ECMN Retreat Center, Episcopal House of Prayer, Episcopal Homes, Breck, Shattuck-St. Mary’s, and some incredibly beautiful churches. We are extremely fortunate to be financially solid, debt free, and in a very generous philanthropic culture.

The ministry is high impact.

ECMN is engaged in communities at every level, across Minnesota and beyond. We have unimaginable access to change-makers and policy-setters. We have a voice and real influence on the direction the world takes, both near and far.

The ministry is deeply missional.

ECMN, and Minnesota more broadly, is open to innovation and exploration. There is a real willingness to ask, “What is God up to, and why?” It is a collaborative, inclusive culture, a culture in which there is a strong desire for people to use their gifts with others, to partner in bringing forth the dream of the Beloved Community.

The bottom line, amidst the challenges and the opportunities, is that serving as the Bishop is unequivocally a blessing and a privilege beyond measure. The beloved children of God amongst whom I have served are incredibly faithful, passionate human beings. My greatest hope for Bishop-elect Loya, which I shared with him last week, is that when he reaches where I am in my tenure, he will feel the same blessings that I do: transformative affection from, and love for, a wonderful Beloved Community.

Next week I’ll answer the second question folks are asking me – stayed tuned!


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