Thursday, March 26, 2009

South Dakota Bishop Slate to be Finalized this Weekend - Possible Questions for Candidates

Please pray for the Nominating and Standing Committees of the Diocese. They will meet this weekend to review final background checks and the slate of candidates should be released early next week.

I have been talking with folks around the diocese. There is a real desire to see things get healthier here. This cuts across ideological lines to some extent.

From those discussions, I put together a list of questions and concerns that has been well received. I post it here as a resource:

A Few Possible Questions and Concerns for Our Bishop Candidates
Fr. Tim Fountain, working from our Diocesan Profile & input from other clergy and lay people in the diocese.

In what specific ways can a bishop have an impact on a diocese?

With what group in the church are you least comfortable, and how do you share ministry and be a pastor with those folks?

How will you care for clergy and spouses here if you are called to be our bishop?

Do you have experience in helping with congregational disputes? What do you see as important in resolving disputes between clergy and congregations?

The bishop is called to “take counsel” with the clergy of the diocese. How do you see yourself doing this?

Give an example of a time when you paid a price for keeping your word.

What do you see as the possibilities and also the limits of “Mutual Ministry”?

What do you see as key sources and foundations of Anglican belief and practice, and how would you apply these as bishop?

How do you hope to spend your time? What will be your calendar priorities as a bishop?

How do you inspire people?

How do you challenge people toward goals?

What makes you laugh?

What makes you cry?

Give us an example of a bi-cultural ministry success you’ve had.

Give us an example of a bi-cultural ministry failure you’ve experienced.

Tell us how you have brought young people into your church.

What can a bishop do to foster growth in local congregations?

Along with these questions, it is important to check the claims of the candidates. You can look up Episcopal Church statistics for their home diocese and recent congregations by going to:
The Congregational Development Site

(Use the drop-downs for diocese and congregation.)

A few other pointers:

Be careful of claims of growing “membership”. That figure is too easy to inflate with people who are not actually part of parish life (people who get married and never come back, for example). Always prefer the part of the chart showing “Average Sunday Attendance”.

If you look at the charts, do not be surprised to see the financial giving at all of the churches going up. This is going on all over the church, as the shrinking membership gives more and more just to keep the doors open. All candidates will look like great stewardship leaders – but make sure that their Sunday attendance is growing along with the dollars.

For candidates from within our diocese, we need to find a gracious way to ask, “How are you going to be a change from the current trends of decline?” As one priest wisely pointed out, we don’t want our decision to be a mere reaction to the current bishop. But we need to be aware that electing a diocesan “insider” could go against the diocesan profile, which calls for growth. The current insiders have not been able to achieve growth – in fact, they’ve had the opposite result.

Watch out for vague answers. Everybody is in favor of “inclusion.” Everybody wants “youth in church.” Ask questions that require specific answers that can be verified. We are going to hear a lot of shorthand and jargon – it is our responsibility to tease out real information.

PRAY A LOT. Many people I talk to (and I talk to myself, too) are saying, “We love our church. What can we do to help it get well?” This election is an opportunity to help the church, if we seek God’s guidance and work diligently and responsibly. God bless us all.

This is not an exhaustive or perfect list, just a place to start.

No comments: