Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why Care about the Bishop Election?

The laity and clergy of the EDUSC recently completed a survey to help guide the search for a new Bishop. The results have not yet been released, and once the results are published my question is, "Will people care?"

The survey questions raised a few eyebrows. I took notes and will post the questions today:

Parish Name:
Your age: 16-20 21-35 36-50 51-65 65+

Gender: Male Female Refused

Marital Status: Single, Married, Partnered, Widowed, Divorced, Refused

Racial/Ethnic group with which you most strongly identify: Caucasian, Black or African-American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian, Native American, or Alaska Native, Two or more races, Refused

Do you have any children living in your household? Yes, No, Refused

If you have children living in your household, how many do you have?
Age Range Number
Under 12
12 - 18
Over 18

How long have you been an Episcopalian? Less than 1 year, 1-5 years, 5-10 years, 10-20 years, More than 20 years, Refused

How long have you been at your present parish? Less than 1 year, 1-5 years, 5-10 years, 10-20 years, More than 20 years, Refused

Have you ever been a member of another denomination? Yes, No, Refused

Of what other denomination(s) have you been a member?
Roman Catholic
Church of Christ
Seventh Day Adventist

I attend Services: Regularly, Occasionally, Rarely, Refused

If clergy, are you:

If laity, check any on which you have participated:
ECW (Episcopal Church Women)
DOK (Daughters of the King)
Altar Guild
Diocesan delegate
Other parish ministries
Diocesan Executive Committee
Other diocesan ministries
Diocesan commissions/committees

Please give us your opinion, as a parishioner in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, on the following statements. For each item, indicate whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, have no opinion, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree.

1. Our diocese should encourage and support domestic and foreign outreach programs.
2. We are effective at evangelizing and bringing the un-churched to God.
3. Within our diocese, we effectively identify locations for new missions and congregations.
4. In these troubled times, the Church (both at the diocesan level and at the national level) should do all in its power to ease the financial demands on congregations.
5. Our diocese is of one mind in matters of theology, faith, tradition, liturgy, music, etc.
6. The range of available worship styles / liturgies, including music, offered in my parish is satisfactory.
7. The variety of worship traditions in this diocese should be consistent with the Book of Common Prayer.
8. Our parish youth programs offer opportunities for learning, for participating in the life of the parish and for meeting other youth in our diocese.
9. Currently, many of our parish teenagers are participating in non-Episcopalian- sponsored youth programs.
10. Our bishop should be an advocate for the well-being of clergy, particularly with regard to their need for adequate compensation and benefits.
11. We effectively support and retain ordained clergy.
12. We effectively recruit, train, ordain and assign deacons within the diocese.
13. The diocese would benefit from having a bishop who has an understanding of the cultural dynamics of South Carolina.
14. It is important for the Episcopal Church to remain in the Anglican Communion.
15. Our current Bishop and the diocese, in convention, have affirmed that we are a Windsor Diocese. In that light, I believe our next bishop should be supportive of the Windsor Report and the ongoing Windsor process.
16. I support the blessing of civil unions (as opposed to marriage) between gay and lesbian persons in the Episcopal Church.
17. I support the ordination of partnered gay and lesbian persons in the Episcopal Church.
18. I believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary for salvation.
19. Divisiveness in the wider Church is beginning to cause problems in our diocese.
20. I believe the current problems within our denomination should be resolved by reasonable negotiation between and among the various constituencies.
21. I support the marriage of gay and lesbian persons in the Episcopal Church.
22. All persons should be welcome to receive Holy Communion regardless of whether or not they have been baptized.
23. Gender is not an issue for me in the context of ordination to the priesthood.
24. Being divorced and remarried should be a consideration in the selection of our next bishop.
25. I believe the Nicene Creed is a sufficient statement of Christian faith.
26. I accept the theology and doctrine found in An Outline of Faith: The Catechism (Book of Common Prayer, pp. 845-862).
27. Our next bishop should always stand on Christian principles, even if he stands alone.
28. Our diocese needs leadership that is willing to consider carrying out its ministry in a more cost effective manner.
29. I feel parishes should have greater control over the acquisition / disposition of their properties.
30. I would like our next bishop to be a strong preacher / orator, fully committed to evangelism and outreach to the unchurched.
31. Our next bishop should understand and support traditional liturgies as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.
32. It would be desirable for the next bishop to make a tangible effort to bring the Gospel to the issue of race relations in South Carolina.
33. Diocesan communications keep me adequately informed as an Episcopalian.
34. Our next bishop needs to commit time, talent and treasure to re-energize the diocesan commitment to the mission in Cange, Haiti, and other outreach missions of our diocese.
35. Our diocese welcomes those of all races and different national origins.
36. Maintaining unity and focus on mission within our diocese is important.

From the following list, please select what you consider to be the five (5) most important issues / opportunities in this diocese:

Programs for children and youth
Programs for college students and young adults
Evangelism and outreach with sensitivity to our changing demographics
Programs that minister to multiple generations
Planting new missions / congregations
Expansion of the role of convocations
Administration and financial management
Improving communications within the diocese
Ordination of celibate and/or partnered gays/lesbians (either for or against)
Same-sex marriages or blessings of same sex unions (either for or against)
Declining membership
Declining Average Sunday Attendance (ASA)
Effective representation to the National Church and Anglican Communion
Commitment to the Windsor Process
Recruiting, training, developing, ordaining and retaining clergy
Confirmation and annual church visits
Other: please specify

From the following list, please select what you consider to be the five (5) most important strengths / characteristics of a new bishop:

Deeply spiritual and prayerful
Commitment to the traditional creeds of the Christian Church (e.g. Nicene Creed)
Flexible / open minded
Possesses sound judgment and wisdom
Relates to youth
Consensus builder
Dynamic preacher
Able administrator / fiscally responsible
Possesses and exhibits humility
Sense of humor
Strong theological background
Embraces technology
Strong marriage (if married)
Commitment to Anglican Communion
Strong leader in the House of Bishops
Other: please specify

In my opinion the only eyebrows that were raised were the eyebrows of folks who don't want to know that the person in the next pew might have a different opinion on same sex "marriages" or that there might be divisive issues such as "ordination of celibate and/or partnered gays/lesbians (either for or against)."

Is asking the question divisive?

When we ask ourselves as a diocese, "What kind of Bishop do we want?" we should also investigate the various Bishop types and their legacies. On one end of the spectrum would be the former Bishop of Newark, John Spong. The author of "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism," "Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile," and "A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith Is Dying and How a New Faith Is Being Born," has left quite a legacy in his former diocese as evidenced below.

Wannbe Anglican directed me to this fine example of the "inclusive" Episcopal church of the Redeemer in Morristown NJ. For those of you who don't want to go there, here is a taste of what the future might hold if you do not choose your Bishop well.

1. Both the Episcopal Prayer Book and an Inclusive Language Eucharist are celebrated each Sunday.

2. All people, regardless of their tradition or age, are invited to receive communion.
No formal church instruction is required to receive communion.
Grape juice is consecrated in consideration of those people who do not wish to receive wine.

3. One of the three Sunday lessons is taken from either a secular source or from the sacred writings of a tradition other than Christianity.

4. Collects in the inclusive language service are taken primarily from Janet Morley’s All Desires Known and often end with the wording “through Jesus, our Christ.”

5. Rather than the Nicene Creed, the inclusive language service often includes a musical setting of the very first Christian creed, “Jesus is Lord,” as a meaningful way of expressing our belief.

6. The celebrant always receives communion last to model servant leadership and to discount images of hierarchy.

7. Female imagery and references to God are used in conjunction with male imagery and references.

8. Lay and ordained people from various religious traditions are invited to preach in the Redeemer pulpit. In addition, members of the parish on a regular basis tell stories that illustrate God’s liberation within their lives. They speak as women, African-Americans, people in recovery, Holocaust survivors, gays and lesbians, and people living with AIDS.

9. Redeemer intentionally uses the traditional form of The Lord’s Prayer, but begins with the words, “Our Mother, our Father.” People often join hands during this prayer.

10. Redeemer performs sacramental marriage for both same-sex and opposite sex couples. These events are duly recorded in the official parish registry, which the bishop examines. The vestry resolution regarding same-sex weddings reads as follows:

“We, the vestry of the Church of the Redeemer, support the inherently sacred nature of the covenant and commitment two people make to one another to enter into a life-long relationship, regardless of the gender makeup of the couple. Therefore, we the vestry, recognize the commitment of any two people in a life-long relationship, be they of the same or opposite sex, to be a Sacramental Marriage.” – adopted at May 10, 1999 Vestry Meeting

11. Leaders and members of Redeemer may come from traditions other than Christian and Episcopalian.

12. A Worship Committee reviews and revises the contemporary liturgies, ever striving to make them speak more clearly to Redeemer’s mission and vision.

13. The Blessing of the Animals Service takes place as part of a Sunday morning Eucharist in the Creation season. Animals in attendance at the service each receive a blessing. An Animal Memorial Garden has been created on the parish grounds.

14. Healing Prayer, including the Laying On of Hands, is available in the side chapel during the Eucharist.

Do any of these look familiar to you?

We have that animal service as a separate "Thang" on a Sunday afternoon closest to the Feast of St. Francis.

We have a healing service on Wednesday.

#7 has on occasion been uttered.

Three down, eleven to go!

But there is more if you can stomach it...

The Redeemer Church School curriculum emphasizes our Judeo-Christian roots but also includes more contemporary liberation stories. Although Christianity is taught as our family story, other faiths are also honored. Emphasis is placed on the fact that the same God is the source of all major religions.

The liturgical year has been altered to include an eight-week Creation Season that points to the presence of God within all of creation, not just within human history.

During the Creation Season, gifts from nature—water, rock, grasses, fire, earth, branches, vegetables and fruit—are presented at the offertory. Gifts of nature remain on the altar.

A large painted banner often hangs in front of the church, advertising: “It’s a Come as You Are Party.”

Members of the parish, both gay and straight, march behind the Redeemer banner in the New York City Gay Pride Parade.

This last one is the best,

Redeemer does not designate senior or junior wardens, nor a rector’s or people’s warden.

(Don't let our vestry know about that one)

Absolute freedom corrupts absolutely!

The numbers show that this approach has not been a positive one as far as church growth goes. Here is the chart for the Diocese of Newark's growth over the past ten years, and here is the Church of the Redeemer's trends.

Does it all flow from the Bishop's crook? Or am I to accept the excuse that the Bishop is just a reflection of the Diocese?

Will people care? They should.


  1. There are times when I'm really glad we have congregational polity in the Baptist denomination. We don't have to worry about pronouncements from on high about the nature of faith. We are responsible as a congregation to each other to preserve what's true and right, postmodern trends notwithstanding.


  2. That is a strong suit of the Baptists.

    If I'm not mistaken, Orthodox churches have a combination of episcopal authority and congregational polity. A parish can raise cane to the Bishop and get rid of a priest in the unfortunate event such an action is required; and I think a diocese can request the dismissal of a wayward bishop.

    I didn't hang long enough with TEC to understand its politics, but is it similar?

  3. The Bishop of the Diocese is the power broker.

    In the Constitution of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina we read,

    SECTION 9. It shall be the special duty of the Wardens to provide whatever may be necessary for the due celebration of divine worship (as books, vestments, etc.); also for the decency and comfort of the church buildings and furniture, books for church records, and the elements of The Holy Eucharist, and to put down all disorder during public worship. ... and they may report to the Bishop any irregularities in the mode of conducting public worship, and all offenses by their Clergy, or by any other officiating in behalf of their Clergy, against Rubrics or Canons, faith or morals.

    SECTION 10. The pastoral connections shall not be dissolved except as provided for by the Canons of the General Convention.

    SECTION 11. When a Parish is vacant, it shall be the duty of the Vestry to notify the Bishop of the fact, and also to elect and invite a Rector, but not without due regard to the ascertained wishes of the congregation, and the opinion and advice of the Bishop.

    Now what would happen if a Baptist congregation were to go off the deep end like the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Morristown NJ has done? Who takes away their Baptist name?

  4. Oops, I meant "Canons" not Constitution.

  5. What we see at the Church of the Redeemer in Morristown NJ is a direct result of the liberal strategy of anti-Christian "Christian" dialogue. Talk away until every baby is killed, every altar smashed, every Christian dogma buried and every Episcopalian leaves the pews in disgust.

    The fundamental dogma of the liberal (as seen in Morristown) is:
    bow down before the god of myself.

    Right thinking Christians understand that the disingenuous call to dialogue about unchangeable truths like same sex marriage--which is only one example--is a fruitless endeavor that exposes the souls of Christians to mortal danger. There is no real dialogue from the liberals. They simply drone on and simper until they prevail. And they seek to take souls down with them. Enough. The time is ripe to choose sides, for or against timeless truths.

    We need bishops, priests and lay people who have the backbone and intestinal fortitude to stand up for Christ. We absolutely need leadership from our shepherds. The flock is under attack from within. The wolves are rampant. Their clothing may be low-grade polyester, augmented with oven mitts, but they are as dangerous as the Arians.

    How many times must we sound the alarm about the scourge of the modernists? When will we own up to the ecclesiastical disaster of the twentieth century? When will we respond to Christ's call to repair the damage? When will we stand up and be counted?

    They are sucking the life out of Christ's Church. When will we get serious about resisting them? The election of a new bishop seems an opportune time.

  6. Anonymous3:31 PM

    I could not get the links to work for the graphs. However by going just to
    I could then access charts for all dioceses and churches.

  7. Thanks, I updated tghe links, they must have changed something in the past few days.

  8. Taking away a Baptist name isn't too hard. Baptists aren't all that hung up on names. Just ask Rick Warren.

  9. Anonymous11:36 AM

    These are all reasons we left the Episcopal church. It really isn't all that Christian any more. We felt we might as well just join a Rotary Club or other service organization if that's the way the church was going.

  10. Having worked in parishes in Massachusetts before moving to Buffalo, NY, it took me some time to get used to the fact that parishes here have two Wardens and neither is designated as Sr. or Jr. and it doesn't matter!