By Ian Dingwall
Published: May 2007
"This saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task" (I Timothy 3:1). To hear more from St. Paul on this subject read further in chapter 3.
I use the above text as a starting point for this article which I write as a letter to the Candidates whose names will be considered in the selecting of our next bishop: as well, to those Synod delegates who, on behalf of the whole diocese, will vote on June 2 at the Electoral Synod.
You will doubtless be the recipients of all sorts of advice during the next several weeks and I am sure that much of it will be helpful to you. Note first, however, that aspiring to office of bishop is a noble task. Therefore, please do not demean the office or yourself by being overly modest or hesitant in presenting your name for consideration. I have heard a number of candidates over the years offer the following sentiment:
"I really don't wish to be elected; I am just letting my name stand as requested."
Perhaps that is an honourable stance but persons who allow their names to be on the ballot are, in fact, willingly aspiring to the task without any kind of coercion and should do so openly with no apologies.
So here you are with your name on a ballot. What might you be thinking about?
To begin with, I would assume that you are thinking of yourself. Do I really wish to be absorbed by the complexity of Episcopal leadership at this time in the church's life?
Do I really have the credentials to work with? What will it do to me and my family?
Will I be transformed by the process and become simply an ecclesiastical robot?
Or will I be able to maintain my own personality and just be who I am--warts and all.
It seems to me that you would wish to search your heart about this matter and have clear answers for yourself to all these questions. If you would care to proceed further, I'll give a couple of other points to ponder.
In today's Church there is a strong need for leadership to have a very heightened quality of being open and real. All of us, to some degree, hide inside self-made masks. We do this for obvious reasons--e.g. from a desire to protect ourselves or, perhaps, to attempt to be other than we are, thinking that others will like us better when properly (or improperly) masked. And clergy are not immune from that. So we often "dress up" in all sorts of different ways to project a persona that is not real. And in fact that is a distortion that hinders rather than helps to foster good, creative relationships.
Think for yourself and be willing to step up to the plate and lead the flock with assurance. Be yourself and not some "masked" figure that is artificial and surely not "you". God will work in and through you just as you are. At the same time, be available and open to those around you and listen to them and heed carefully what they say.
Don't allow yourself the luxury of wearing a Mask – whether it is under the guise of a mitre or hidden by a colourful cope.
When the new bishop is Ordained to that order in September, we need to remember that it is not a Coronation with Pomp and Circumstance, but rather should be a Celebration of Servanthood. The most important symbol that the bishop receives is not the jeweled ring or pectoral cross but the Shepherd's Crook (crozier) which represents service rather than power. The bishop and the surrounding structure of diocesan synod are to be Servants of the diocesan family and not the other way round.
My last word is to remind you of something you already know. Whoever is elected will face a monumental task within the life of a fairly fragmented Community. The bishop's leadership role should shun the Lone Ranger approach. Instead, identify leadership people with whom to share the task. Be prepared to speak the truth, as you are able to understand it. We need strong voices today that speak of the Unconditionality of Divine Love and Grace. We need informed minds that strengthen our words. We need brave leaders who are not afraid to lead and pastor the community of faith....
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