Of the four candidates, he’s the one who has been given props for “Sense of Humor,” which was an element of our Diocesan profile!
I like his response to questions about Mutual Ministry, because he uses one of my favorite Biblical approaches. Dunn’s thinking on leadership and ministry is “grounded in St. Paul’s image in I Corinthians of the Church as the Body of Jesus Christ, Jesus being the head and all of us as connected and related to each other in him… having every spiritual gift and blessing (needed) to carry on the ministry that God desires and expects from their community.”
He presents an interesting and refreshing take on the Church and social issues: “The Church has traditionally addressed issues by passing proclamations and resolutions… They may give our consciences a bath, but generally end up on a shelf… there are three levels of approach to social concerns and moral choices… First, the local community is the place most in touch with its own needs and issues… Second, the wider community can contribute… Third and ultimately, Christian responsibility is in the mind and heart of the individual Christian…free to say, “I choose to do something about it… The world can be changed, especially when all three (local congregation, wider community of faith, and personal responsibility) come together.”
There are many.
Some of Dunn’s answers seem breezy and superficial. In his three priorities, he leads off with, “I have a commitment to youth and young adult ministry” – but then invokes a list of hypothetical ideas, vaguely about the Bishop interacting with youth during annual church visits. Yes, the profile calls for youth emphasis, but this answer seems tailored to meet the profile rather than tell us much about candidate Dunn.
Dunn presents very little for in-depth consideration. It is impossible to find Dunn's sermons, newsletters or much else. There is a lack of detail in his answers and a lack of public communication that raises a big red flag, especially when our Diocesan profile lists “Communication” as a highly desired quality in the next Bishop.
A worrisome implication arises from the way Dunn explains one of his other priorities, “unity.” He conspicuously omits traditional Episcopalians or “conservatives” from his list of groups deserving inclusion. Meanwhile, one of the national church’s most militant lesbian activists operates from Dunn's parish and his assisting priest supports that agenda as well as advocating for abortion. A red flag: might his light, cheery presentation cover for a more aggressive “agenda”? He serves closely with the staff of a diocese (Colorado) which has not handled conflict well, losing many people and spending large amounts on lawsuits, "church trials" and other unhealthy approaches to disagreement.
He's also advocating "Churches Uniting," which represents just one end of the church spectrum. This raises concerns about his ability to build unity within this Diocese.
In the last few weeks, the Episcopal Church has released a substantial self-analysis, with strong statistical and survey evidence showing the amount of conflict and membership loss accelerated by gay/lesbian activism in the church. Because of Dunn's South Dakota family origins, one worry is that people's votes will be uninformed by research of the facts and based on name recognition. There are many well intentioned lay people who look back to the church's better days, and the appeal of a family name from a happier time can't be denied. But to elect a candidate based on his old family ties and then discover him carrying a factional agenda would be a setback for this Diocese, which is already suffering all the problems documented in the State of the Church report.
The biggest worry with Dunn is the Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) of his Denver parish. It was more than 300 in 2002, but has fallen to about 180 since then. That is a terrible decline, and a big red flag. Our Diocesan profile speaks of bringing people back into our churches, and for whatever reason the opposite has happened where Dunn currently serves.
Can Dunn, like the first Missionary Bishop of South Dakota, represent the true middle way of apostolic faith and apostolic order, or is he among the clergy who have redefined the middle way as something extreme?
“But the Episcopal Church has its distinct calling and we must have a right self-confidence. We should give liberty to all and should have no hesitation in claiming it for ourselves. Influences from the ultra-Protestant world, which in some quarters in Japan have perhaps overborne us in the past, should be resisted and we should boldly, though generously, hold aloft apostolic faith and apostolic order, bearing the double witness against extremes on both sides of us which has been historically our calling.” (quoted in Howe’s biography of Hare)