Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Getting to Know the Nominees II: Neal Michell+

Introduction: I am approaching my exploration of the candidates first by looking at each separately based on what I can turn up using simple web searches, and then moving on to the Faith stories, management styles, the responses to the question on SSBs (all were submitted prior to GenCon 2009 and the passage of DO56-the resolution that said that bishops, "particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church." ), and finally I shall look at their stated possible first steps to be taken if elected. I shall proceed in alphabetical order, and at this stage I am not ranking the nominees.

Second up is Neal Michell.

Learn more about the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas.

He runs a web site, Missional Church Net so go sniff around there.

A search led to his answers to questions from an earlier bishop suffragan search for Texas.

Also we find a couple of books, one, "How to Hit the Ground Running." in which he writes,
“Our call to be good stewards of our facilities goes beyond material issues of preservation and safety. To be a good steward of ones’ church facilities is to be a good evangelist, because if we are to draw the unchurched into the fellowship of the church, we must give attention to the role that the condition of our facilities plays in terms of drawing them in or turning them away…..if the church cannot be trusted to take care of its physical facilities, how can they be entrusted with the care of people’s souls?”

and "Beyond Business as Usual: Vestry Leadership Development."

Let's take a look at his answers to the search committee:

Part A - Faith Story:

From Texas, first a lawyer, went to Sewanee for seminary, then a priest, a father, and learned about congregational development during the course of his ministries. I think +Dorsey Henderson was a lawyer once upon a time.

Part B - Discuss your management style including conflict resolution:

At this point I shall quote some of his response:
"My management style is based on the biblical model of a community of disciples. That is the model that Jesus used to form disciples. He formed them as a community before he sent them out to do ministry. Corollaries to this 'community of disciples' model are the values of being a learning community, visional, historically aware, accountable, and celebration."

He made a couple of good points,
"Change that is tied to the vision of the diocese and will more readily be accepted. Change not rooted in the vision becomes simply one person’s idea and is up for majority vote. (Read Chapter 5 in How to Hit the Ground Running.)

All are held accountable, for attendance, for prayer, for healthy relationships and active involvement. Without accountability, those who are actively involved will eventually lose interest; and those who are not fully involved will end up simply 'voicing their opinions' in the group rather than working collaboratively together."

He notes his work as Canon to the Ordinary which put him in the thick of things controversial (note he was sent to be interim rector to two parishes whose rectors departed T.E.C.).

Part C - How would you counsel a rector who was asked to bless a same gender relationship and how would you lead us beyond our divisions?

Again, I will quote most of his response:
"First, I would counsel the priest that the Church does not authorize the blessing of same sex unions. We are part of a larger family, not just of The Episcopal Church but of the Anglican Communion and a part of the larger Church catholic. As an Episcopal diocese we are committed to the apostolic faith and to apostolic order. Our commitment to apostolic faith means that we are not really free on our own to do such things as the blessing of same sex unions. Those are not the norms of the Anglican Communion, nor are they permitted among the churches of our ecumenical partners, namely the Roman Catholic churches and the Orthodox churches. Our commitment to apostolic order requires that we not move forward on such things without the theological and the biblical exegetical work done by us in cooperation with our ecumenical partners. That is what the General Convention in 1992 committed to, and we are not free to innovate in such areas on our own."

I think he had a good case there until he added that last bit about GC 1992 because we now understand what GC 2009 "moved on" to permit.

He continues,
"Second I would counsel the priest to find a way to pray for this couple and in such a way that they feel loved by the priest and the surrounding community. This may take a lot of time and pastoral care. Just because the church cannot bless the union doesn’t mean that the priest cannot provide pastoral care for these two individuals.
"Third, I would ask this priest not to make this a public issue for the sake of the diocese. I would say that we as a diocese have so many more missional concerns that an issue such as this would sidetrack the diocese and create unhealthy division in the diocese. We need time as a diocese to get focused on mission. So, for the sake of the body of Christ in this place I am asking this priest not to make this an issue which will divide the congregation and the diocese."

In law, I think that is called a "gag" order.
"Fourth, I would lead us forward by focusing us on the vision of the diocese. I would hold a series of clergy days where clergy begin sharing their faith stories, how they came to faith in Christ, how they felt called to ordained ministry, what were their hopes and dreams at the beginning of their ordained ministry, what their hopes and dreams are now, what are the resurrection stories in their lives, and pray for each other. Then, I would call these same groups to study the Anglican Covenant, and then, I would have these same groups begin to study the whole sexuality issue: first by bringing in theologians to inform us and to lead us in conversation. I would then encourage the clergy to repeat this process in their own churches."

The Anglican Covenant...hmmm...

I have to reiterate my last post where I referenced our profile as a diocese:
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

48 % Strongly Agree
20 % Somewhat Agree
26 % No Opinion
4 % Somewhat Disagree
2 % Strongly Disagree

16. I support the blessing of civil unions (as
opposed to marriage) between gay and lesbian
persons in the Episcopal Church.

26 % Strongly Agree
19 % Somewhat Agree
8 % No Opinion
10 % Somewhat Disagree
37 % Strongly Disagree

21. I support the marriage of gay and lesbian
persons in the Episcopal Church.

17 % Strongly Agree
11 % Somewhat Agree
7 % No Opinion
12 % Somewhat Disagree
53 % Strongly Disagree

Part D - Some of the first steps I would take to get started.
A couple of things he wrote caught my eye:
"I would meet with the clergy in groups of eight to ten, to get to know them individually, what their hopes and dreams are, what they need for the diocese to do for them, what gifts they have that they can offer the diocese, and what changes they would make if they were bishop. I would ask them the names of key lay leaders in the diocese that I should meet with in the first year. Then I would meet with the most common names that were given me."

Too bad Pewster is not a common name. What about those group meetings in order to get to know the clergy individually? Interesting method.
"Overall I would want to determine whether the diocese is functioning as a pastoral or a program-sized diocese."
I have heard about the various sizes of churches, and I will have to learn more on how that scales up to the level of diocese.

"Finally, I would want to meet with the governor of South Carolina and whatever other major elected officials that people in the diocese have relationships with."

Uh, you might want to hold off on that last one. "Bad company ruins good morals." (1 Corinthians 15:33)

Again, does he fit our profile? How about Q 30 I asked you to consider in the last post?

30. I would like our next bishop to be a strong
preacher / orator, fully committed to evangelism
and outreach to the unchurched.

46 % Strongly Agree
39 % Somewhat Agree
9 % No Opinion
6 % Somewhat Disagree


  1. Anonymous4:07 PM

    If elected, I doubt Neal Michell+ can get enough consents because of his conservative views.

  2. Tom Browning2:57 PM

    A commentator on Episcopal Café's coverage of last week's diocese of Dallas convention states that "The Diocese of Dallas no longer has any links to the national church". Is this hyperbole or is there some truth there, do you know?

  3. That was a comment submitted to what appears to be a very slanted piece. Hyperbole.