Our parish intercedes for the diocese and this election at all of our services. There is great potential here in South Dakota but also the strong possibility of an eventual facade church, with paper congregations, empty buildings, subsidized clergy and no flesh, blood and Spirit. In short, the choice is between the diocese's missionary heritage and an eccentric club.
Here's the relevant language from the profile, with my comments in italics...
WHAT WE SEEK IN A BISHOP
We believe the following to be what we seek in our next Bishop as a person of God, of faith, and of spirituality (this is an important word among Native Americans, contrasting a transcendent message with "programs"), bringing the love of Christ to this Diocese:
- Supportive of work with youth and young adults, all of whom are the future of this Diocese. This is an honest admission that the diocese, like many other mainline bodies, is aging and dying by attrition. The key here is to have pointed questions and evidence to establish which candidates have actual experience in fostering youth ministry. Nobody is going to say, "I am opposed to youth ministry." The issue is whether or not a candidate brings any valid experience to the work beyond opinions and platitudes.
- Knowledgeable and appreciative of our bi cultural identity. There is agreement across any ideological divides that this is important. Again, the important questions are about experience. All of the candidates will "affirm" multicultural ministry - have any actually shown ability to minister in a multicultural setting?
- An advocate for social justice and reconciliation. TEC boilerplate. Let's hope this search does not veer off into, "Who's the biggest gay advocate?" That is about the least pressing social issue in South Dakota.
- A pastor, mentor and leader. Amen - but so many of our people have been without positive, effective pastors, mentors and especially leaders that they will be hard put to discern these qualities in the candidates.
- An effective communicator. It will be interesting to hear how folks respond to this challenge. It is a very real issue here, given the distances and mix of communication media and styles (no one kind of communication will reach enough people to make an impact here.) Let's hope some of the candidates have worked in a similarly challenging setting.
- Is supportive of our programs, including Mutual Ministry and Partners with God, and brings vision and vigor to these and other programs. Again, we need to find out about real, measurable experiences. All of the candidates can give verbal assent to anything. What have they done that indicates what they will do?
- A sense of humor to help with one's own emotional and physical health, as well as the health of the Diocese. Certainly something for which we can get a feel during the "walkabouts."
The heartbreaking truth is that TEC has run/is running off exactly the kind of people who meet this profile. The wonky, "Politically Correct", bureaucratic clergy caste of TEC is the worst possible match with what is needed here. Pray for us.