Tuesday, March 31, 2009

UPDATED: More bits & pieces on the South Dakota bishop nominees

John Tarrant

His church's Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) is up since his arrival in 2005, reversing several years of decline and going against the trend of decline in the Diocese and the Episcopal Church nationally.

Parish financial giving has rebounded dramatically on his watch.

Widely regarded as a decent and honest man - "what you see is what you get."

He's developed constructive ministry partnership between his city parish and Reservation Missions.

Question Marks
John came here from Massachusetts less than 5 years ago. He does not have family connections here in SD, and that is a two edged sword here. "Outsiders" are not easily trusted (this is true of the White small town culture, the Native emphasis on clan and the Episcopal Church's web of family ties in this small diocese) So his status might work against him with some. On the other hand, there is recognition that the diocese is in the grip of strong decline trends and a fresh perspective might be welcomed.

With the profile calling for improved communication in the diocese, it is a bit of a concern that his parish has no web site or on-line newsletter that I can find.

John Floberg

He's managed to maintain sincere, traditional faith while working closely and constructively with the national church, serving on several national Episcopal bodies (including Native American Ministries). This would be a plus for South Dakota, which relies on the national church for operating funds and must balance mid-American sensibilities with a very different national church leadership perspective.

He has a strong commitment to Reservation ministry, staying in that challenging field over the years with some good results, as evidenced at Standing Rock Mission's site.

He has served positively with Bishop Smith of ND, despite having backed a different candidate when Smith was elected.

Question Marks
Hard to find data on the impact of his ministry. As a Reservation missioner, statistics are elusive and he does not have a parish by which to measure ASA. North Dakota as a whole is a small and declining diocese. This creates concern about his ability to reverse the decline in South Dakota.

Doug Dunn

Leads a "program sized" parish, giving him experience with multiple staff and managing a variety of ministries.

Experience in supporting other congregations in rural areas of Colorado.

Born in Sioux Falls. Some here still remember his family and say that they were involved and effective in youth ministry, a pressing demand of the diocese today. Has sponsored youth mission trips to SD.

Question Marks
His parish (St. Luke's, Denver) suffered a terrible decline in ASA from 2002 (just over 300 people per Sunday) thru 2007 (down to around 180 per Sunday). With SD struggling to reverse membership and ASA decline, this creates a concern.

Peter Stebinger

Long, stable term as Rector (Christ Church, Bethany, CT).

His parish is in the minority of Episcopal Churches which have not been declining - in fact, his church had modest growth over the last 10 years, despite steady decline in the rest of the Diocese of Connecticut.

He's organized mission trips to SD.

Question Marks
He ran unsuccessfully for Bishop of North Dakota in 2004. On the one hand, it suggests his interest in this region, on the other, people who run for bishop more than once in a short span of time raise red flags about calling and motivation.

There is a strange South Dakota connection for this candidate. His daughter, Kate, was put through the ordination process here in South Dakota. Late in the process (which did not sit well with some) it was revealed that she is a lesbian. Then, despite the desperate need for clergy here, she went back to the Northeast to serve. Like I say, "question marks." There are connections that are not being placed on the table, at least at this point. The diocesan profile calls for better communications between bishop and people, so perceptions of back-room dealing can be damaging.

The Diocese will be putting up more detailed information, including personal statements by the candidates, in the near future. This should fill in some of the blanks and answer some of the questions. The Diocesan web page is in my Useful Links to the right, and they have a Bishop Election tab on their homepage. Check in there from time to time.
Please keep us in your prayers as we approach the election on May 9th.


Anonymous said...

I think it is despicable that you are bringing a candidate's daughter into this. Who do you think you are? What do you think that Jesus would do in such a situation? I hope and pray that you are able to live with yourself and the pain you could cause this man. What if the shoe were on the other foot? Dirty politics have no place in the church. I am simply appalled at the way this is going.

TLF+ said...

Anonymous, chill. Jesus asked hard questions all the time.

I have asked a fair question, given the diocesan profile's call for a bishop who communicates openly and consistently. Why was an out-of-stater put through the ordination process here, why did she promptly take a position in another diocese, and why is her dad now a candidate for Bishop? Absolutely fair questions and hopefully there are simple answers.

Fr. Stebinger has good points - they are posted here as well. But this strange ordination process, like Fr. Dunn's declining parish, Fr. Floberg's stats or lack thereof, and Fr. Tarrant's acceptance or lack thereof are all relevant. You'll notice that I've posted far more positives than questions about all four candidates.

IMO, the process is going well. We have good candidates, and open discussion should be welcome... unless there is some hidden agenda.

I don't have one. The profile is clear - we need "people back in our churches", outreach to younger people, open and honest communications and bi-cultural ministry. I'm trying to stimulate discussion of the candidates based on these criteria, and that will require hard questions. I didn't say anything derogatory about his daughter, but the process was unusual to say the least and this gets stranger when he shows up as a nominee for bishop.

Really, you should be appalled at the declines in diocesan vitality and ministry, the difficulty of finding and retaining clergy, and any other of factors that challenge all of us here in SD.

If Fr. Stebinger's published words and his presentations at the walk-abouts prove him the best candidate in light of the profile, I will vote for him. But not without seeking information.

Anonymous said...

Rev. Stebinger's daughter is an adult . .. and her sexuality is a moot point! Not knowing the whole story, I wonder if she felt welcome?!

In any case, he is on the list, which is giving the final candidates some diversity.(diversity that was there in the impressive final roster of North Dakota's bishop search, but not apparent here.)

I think that the committees were very, very diligent, taking time to do a very thorough background check. I think we need to have faith in THAT, while reading with a discerning heart and mind.

Anonymous said...

You make some good points on each candidate. However, I'd like to add that I'm concerned about Rev. Tarrant. Lots of folks look at him as a Robertson puppet. I don't want more of the same bulls#$%! It's good to look very carefully at all the candidates. We shudda did that with the last guy, oy, look where he got us!

Anonymous said...

Tim Fountain -- nice work here. And it looks like you've smoked out one person into revealing that Stebinger is supposed to give "the final candidates some diversity" [sic] which sort of lets us all know where Stebinger stands -- on the radical left very end of the scale.

But didn't you know? You're not supposed to know some things -- much less share them abroad. And you're supposed to "trust," Tim, completely and wholly "trust" the committee, and not ask any questions or point anything out publicly.

If you could do that, it'd be great.

Anonymous said...

Smoked out? I'm in the same position you are - - finding out who these candidates are and what they represent. I look forward to reading everyone's answers.

What I meant by diversity that is that he is from the East Coast - - in other bishop searches, you have a wider diversity of places they are from. And types of ministry. Women, even, but that's a moot point.

Is Stebinger radical? I dunno, but if you google him, you'll see he runs, so maybe he's in good shape . . .mens sana corpore sano,as they say. THAT would be a radical change.

TLF+ said...

"mens sana corpore sano" would be most welcome - all around the church these days!

Midwestnorwegian said...

Sorry anonymous #1. I have to disagree. This would not be a proper forum for TLF to "out" the daughter, but if she is already open about it...then whats the problem? It is bound to come up at some point by someone in the diocese...so why not flesh it out now and get it out of the way. I have no problems with a candidate in this situation, unless his Biblical teachings have changed as a result of it. If so, then let's make it known.

midwestnorwegian said...

PS: Diversity SCHMIVERSITY. I'm so sick of that idiotic catch-all phrase I could scream. I could give a rat's ass about the "diversity" of the slate. What matters is their belief in the "Faith Once Delivered".

Anonymous said...

As for Rev. Tarrant, this letter to the editor of the Capital Journal responding to a column by George Will seems like an important document http://www.capjournal.com/articles/2008/11/06/opinions/columnist/doc49113dfc3ee86401970390.prt

TLF+ said...

Anonymous: Thanks, that is a very good link.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it takes a while for things to "sink in" (at least for me). In looking at the website and stuff for Standing Rock, it hit me that Father Floberg is pretty approachable. I.E., his CELL phone number is right there on the website.

Well, now, I realize that he's on the road a lot, but I think that letting everyone know his cell is a sign of approachability, of a willingness for communication. (Wife's phone info up there as well, with others in his "team".)

I think that this tidbit is definitely a "conversation starter" when it comes to asking him questions about how he envisions his role as bishop. Will he do the same? I also think you'd agree that an approachable bishop would be pretty welcome, to say the least.

Anonymous said...

In addition, this article in the Bismarck Tribune from 2007 will help give a sense of Father Floberg's ministry:


I think that this quote is important:"New ministries coming to Standing Rock will take at least three years to earn the people's trust, Floberg says.

"They're always expecting you to go away," he said. """"" end quote

Good conversation starter in terms of how he would work to gain trust (re-gain trust in the Bishop's role) in S.D.

If you see my other comment at the end of the "youth ministry" blogpost, you'll see his wife, deacon Sloane Floberg, is saying the same - it takes 3 years. They have learned this from their experience, which is of considerable value.

The Archer of the Forest said...

I too was struck by Tarrant's church's lacking a website. That was a big question mark for me for someone who would be SD's leader in the 21st Century. For anyone under 35, if you don't have a website, you don't exist. Of course, not that I am one to talk...my church's website currently is a mess that I am hoping to tackle after Holy Week.

I was also struck in the Candidates for Bishop booklet the Diocese sent out that Floberg gave a what I can only describe as odd response to the "Describe a challenge or conflict that occurred during your minsitry and you helped to overcome or resolve it" question.

They all seem to be touting the "Mutual/Total ministry" thing in the booklet as well. I don't know what to make of that. I have mixed feelings about mutual ministry. That often seems to me to be a last resort before turning the lights off in a parish. Maybe I am wrong on that, but that's my impression of the system.

Anyway, just my initial thoughts..I am sure I will have more.

jane4re Denver said...
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