Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Comparing the Nominees 2: The Three to Watch

As I start this next post, I am considering Rob Eaton+'s suggestion about questions for the nominees during the walkabouts, but that is fodder for a post of its own.

Currently, I am faced with the difficult problem of differentiating between the next three. John Burwell+, Neal Michell+, and Stockton Williams+. They all appear to be theologically conservative based on their responses to the question of how to handle a rector who asks to perform a same sex blessing, and this distinguishes them from the others. All three are from outside the diocese (as is our current bishop +Henderson).

In alphabetical order:

1. John Burwell+

Things I liked:

a. His 2 minute video: He is comfortable in front of the camera and microphone which his background in broadcasting may have given him an edge.

b. A solid record of church growth. Rather than battle the ever changing links, I will give you the link to the research pages of the Episcopal church. Church attendance has more than doubled over the past 10 years, and this is a remarkable phenomenon that a wise diocese would want to study.

c. He mentions the "E" word.
"My vision would not be primarily about evangelism, outreach, pastoral care or missionary work – it would be about developing the parishes and missions within the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina so that they would be more effective at evangelism, outreach, pastoral care and missionary work."

d. He has roots in Rock Hill.

e. Audio sermons are available.

f. Windsor compliant.

Potential Downsides:

a. He is currently in the Diocese of South Carolina which might alarm "liberal" clergy and delegates. I have heard mutterings of prejudice against "that diocese," and I shall have to keep my ears alert to any questions at the walkabouts pertaining to his votes on resolutions of the diocese.

b. His video style has caused at least one liberal to whisper in my ear, "We might become Baptists."

c. I don't yet have typed sermons which I can review much quicker than the audios.

2. Neal Michell+

Things I liked:

a. Experience with conflict resolution.

b. Willingness to study the Anglican Covenant and issues of sexuality with clergy.

c. Includes the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches amongst our ecumenical partners.

d. Has served his time as Canon of the Ordinary.

e. Has been nominated before.

f. Windsor compliant.

Potential Downsides:

a. A sermon library for review. I found a "Recent Sermons" page from St. Luke's in Dallas that had some older sermons, but has not been updated for 2 years, and I could not get the sermons to pop up.

b. Since he is serving as Canon of the Ordinary, he does not have a current "growth and development" curve to study.

c. I need to know how the diocese under his leadership will respond to innovations in the resolutions of the General Convention of the Episcopal church.

d. Proposes to let the clergy review with their congregations the discussions of sexuality and the Anglican Covenant. Certain parishes will not get a fair discussion, and certain clergy may not be up to the task.

e. Has to become better known.

3. Stockton Williams:

What I liked:

a. Sense of humor. This is apparent in his video.

b. His faith story struck me as the most intimate.

c. In his faith story, he uses the "J" word.

d. "High energy." Sounds eager to spread the Good News.

e. Helped "found the Communion Partner Rectors."

f. Has been in a bishop search process before.

g. Windsor compliant, supports the Anaheim Statement (which +Henderson signed)

Potential Downsides:

a. Parish growth chart through 2008 needs explaining.

b. Sense of humor may come off as less than "Your Grace" like.

c. I hear he is better in person, and many will not get a personal look at him.

d. Who ever heard of Kerrville, Texas? (This from someone who lives in Rock Hill, SC)

e. I don't have a good sermon library to review.

I am finding myself looking closer at their potential to turn around a diocese that appears to be in decline. I have expressed earlier that we in Upper South Carolina cannot continue on with business as usual and hope to spread the Good News of Christ crucified and resurrected to the unchurched. It is from these three that I am looking for leadership into a new way of "being church."

Unfortunately, many in Upper South Carolina are blissfully uninformed of the state of the church. They have been fed the "All is Well" line for way too long. How will these people react to an "outsider" who might shake things up, who might bring in conservative clergy, and who might not do things the way we are used to doing?

In my previous post, I mentioned some things that interest me: church growth, and winning souls for Christ. This is where I have to use a hot-button term, "evangelism." When I say the word evangelism, I mean to keep it simple: spreading the Gospel message. This should be a simple task, yet our own failed "Decade of Evangelism" in this diocese is sufficient evidence that we are doing it wrong, if we are doing it at all. Of course, the blissfully uniformed pewsitters might be perfectly content with punching the clock each Sunday, and might become alarmed by changes in what they perceive to be "their church." Indeed, I myself have a penchant for a "high church" style, and will be the first to complain about tambourines and guitars, but Evangelism "done right" should lead to the other two things, winning souls, and growth.

These three men give me hope. Now to choose between them...


  1. Marie Blocher2:15 PM

    Re: Neal Michell
    You might want to look at a book he wrote:
    "How to Hit the Ground Running: A Quick-Start Guide for Congregations with New Leadership"

    or his website

  2. I've read the book. Awesome! This guy could teach Lord Kitchener a thing or two about extricating the cavalry from the valley of death.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. These candidates are perfect for the traditionalist. One who is in their 80's, loves rite one, sings from the 1940 hymnal, and grows nostalgic during those rare services when only boys are acolytes. Yea. This is what will grow the Episcopal church.

  5. Oh Lonnie, wake up,

    You should check out Stockton Williams' church the next time you are in Kerrville. They have a contemporary service, female acolytes and more!

  6. Just so long as his female acolytes are following scripture...Timothy 2:9 "Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. "

  7. Would you have acolytes to do otherwise?

  8. I suppose a burka would go great with one who remained quiet and submissive.

  9. That would be perfect for the Islamo-Episcopal service.