Julian Mann, aka Cranmer's Curate, blogs from Sheffield in the UK.
He posted Why Bishops Don't See the True Picture a few days ago. As always, he is short and to the point, and there are some good comments to read. And I think that his argument makes just as much sense on this side of the pond:
Bishops - diocesan, suffragan and assistant - tend to come to parish churches for special services. A deanery confirmation where there are candidates plus families plus supporters from several churches looks full... So the bishop feels 'encouraged' as he hops round the churches.
But rent-a-crowd belies the reality of Sunday by Sunday ministry for many of us front-line parochial clergy. We minister regularly in buildings that are too large for the congregations that meet in them. A congregation of 15 meeting in a building designed to seat 150 is sadly not unusual.
In a conflicted denomination like the Episcopal Church, it is all too easy to leap to the assumption that Bishops give cheery reports as deceptive propaganda.
But are many Bishops simply starry-eyed from always being part of the best attended, visitor-rich services? And do our own egos contribute to this because we don't want to admit that our "big service" is not representative of our actual congregational progress?
The Book of Acts is the current course reading for Morning Prayer. In it, we see the early church leaders helping one another with challenges. They prayed together, argued sometimes and ultimately worked to encourage one another, all with an eye toward carrying out God's will for the church.
The New Testament's "Pastoral Epistles" (I & II Timothy and Titus) give wonderful insight into the mentoring, heartaches, objectivity and above all the faith-content of Episcopal leadership.
We need a return to these sources - our God-given sources - and away from borrowed, worldly assumptions of position and title that do not ultimately generate the spiritual oversight that the church needs.