Wednesday, April 15, 2009

SD Bishop Candidate John Tarrant

Good stuff:

As I have confessed in earlier posts, I have a certain measure of positive bias for this candidate. He has been respectful and responsive to me over the last few years, when many clergy and leaders in the diocese were engaged in shunning and gossip. So I am thankful for him.

His parish has grown in Sunday attendance, stewardship, lay and community ministries.

I’ve heard him preach a couple of times – he’s refreshingly joyful and humble in preaching from the Biblical texts.

He articulates three priorities that are realistic to the role of bishop and responsive to diocesan reality here:

1) Deployment of lay and ordained leaders – “the bishop should play a key role in affirmation and support of leaders.”

2) Reconciliation – “Bridging the gaps between different groups within the Diocese (Native American/White congregations, parishes/missions, liberals/conservatives, west river/east river, affluent/poor, etc.) should be a priority.”

3) Reaching out to the poor, the vulnerable, the hopeless, the disenfranchised.

He is capable of stating and staying with a vision, a strong plus for anyone called to lead a geographically scattered and diverse organization like this diocese. Tarrant frequently explains his positions and priorities in terms of “The Kingdom of God.” His statements are salted with that image, for example “The overriding challenge is to use Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God as the plumb line to measure all of our ministry as a Diocese,” and “We cannot fully live the Kingdom vision without each other.” The recent national State of the Church report confessed that Episcopalians are in conflict and have no common spiritual language, so Tarrant’s ability to develop such language here could be a plus.

Tarrant has done some great work developing ministry that joins his White, city congregation with Reservation congregations. He’s done this with great energy (“I drove 550 miles on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day officiating at five different Churches”) and great humility (“I know I have much to learn and have grown to depend on the wise council of those in the Niobrara field who have much they can teach.”)

He has a welcome understanding of the potential and the limits of Mutual Ministry – “The overriding goal is to help all in the faith community to more fully live their baptismal vows and build the Kingdom of God. It should not be seen as the ‘cheap’ (money saving) way of doing ministry, but rather a way of equipping those who have gifts to exercise their ministry.”

His reflections on leadership are refreshingly grounded in Jesus, as revealed in Mark 10:42-45 and John 15:15. He believes that the leader must serve the people, set a godly example, and maintain an open relationship with those who share the work – he quotes Jesus’ elevation of the disciples from “servants” to “friends.”

I really, really liked his statement of time and energy priorities: “I know that there are time restraints on a bishop, but choices need to be made based on what is most helpful to enhancing the health and mission of the Diocese. The care and nurture of the leadership of our congregations I believe to be the key.”

Question Marks

How will he go about “reconciliation”? He says, “Listening, listening, and more listening…hearing people’s stories and telling our own, putting faces to the pain and the joy will go a long way toward understanding.” For many veterans of the church conflicts, "listening" brings worries of
a pre-planned outcome. In the national church, it usually means the advance of an agenda, with the built in assumption that one “side” is right.

On the other hand, Tarrant has modeled respectful listening when I have shared my thoughts and frustrations with him and has tried to establish common ground.

The other question is how Tarrant will function in the conflicts of the National Church. The conflict over the gay/lesbian agenda, as the National Church itself now admits, has damaged congregational ministry all around the denomination. Since Tarrant says, “We cannot fully live the Kingdom vision without each other,” I would like him to articulate his view of the positive, needed contribution of Biblically traditional Episcopalians to the denomination. Can we serve in diocesan leadership? Can clergy from places like Trinity Seminary or Nashotah House be called to the diocese? How will Diocesan organizations respond to concerned clergy and congregations? Some specifics are needed to put flesh and blood on his generally good intentions.

Can he make a place for some of the same Biblical authority exercised by Bishop Hare in the early days of the diocese?

Within a few years the divergence between the law for Christians and the laws of South Dakota became more and more apparent. On Bishop Hare's return from Japan and China in 1892, he wrote to his daughter-in-law:

. . . "The rain, the deaths and, worse than all, the scandalous divorce mill which is running at Sioux Falls, with revelations of the silliness and wickedness of men and women, have made my return home a very gloomy one. I despise people who trifle with marriage relations so intensely that the moral nausea produces nausea of the stomach. I have a continual bad taste in my mouth. One of the family, after cultivating our church in Sioux Falls and playing the role of an injured woman, has turned a disgusting somersault. She was accompanied by her adviser, so called, by name, whom she married at once upon her divorce, and it turns out…
She gave $1,000 to put memorial windows…in the cathedral. They are here, but I won't have them…the flaming placards of a low circus. (from Howe's biography of Hare)


Anonymous said...

Interesting that your commentary on Dunn is the only one yet to receive substantive discussion. Many are reading this site, however, so maybe they are reflecting upon what they've read.

Anyhoo, I'd like to raise a couple of points.

In Rev. Tarrant's "bio", he states the following, "I had served parishes in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut until moving to South Dakota . . . "

That statement is vague, to say the least.

Which parishes?


For how long?

How long would he intend to "stay" as Bishop of South Dakota?

It's unclear what kind of track record Rev. Tarrant has for sticking around.

To be fair, one can know from digging just a bit that Rev. Tarrant served at St. Paul's Episcopal church in idyllic Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

THIS is from that church's website: ""The tenures of the last three rectors at St. Paul’s were quite long and held by “people of distinction.” John Tarrant was, during his nine years, an active Rotarian. He maintained active involvement in the community through pastoral care and civic activities. He served on the Board of Directors of Construct, an agency that promotes affordable housing for all. Committed to the environment, he enthusiastically put policy into practice by offering “Bishop’s Blend” fair trade coffee for sale through the church. """"END QUOTE

Okay, so 9 years is not bad. (I doubt that SD wants to go through THIS again in 9 years, tho.) Why couldn't he just say that?

Where he was minister in CT remains a mystery.

In addition, by googling Rev. Tarrant, I chanced upon a rather remarkable story. There is a book by Daniel Taylor called "Before Their Time: Lessons in Living from Those Born too Soon" that mentions Rev. Tarrant extensively.

I would encourage anyone to go to, where you can read sections of the book dealing with how Rev. Tarrant reached out to a couple who were parents to 2 very ill premature babies. His ministry to this family, his wife's involvement, and his parishioners involvement are extraordinary. This man was truly doing God's work and motivating others to do the same. (and no, folks, I have never been a member of Rev. Tarrant's congretations)

Sometimes I think we all tend to emphasize things about ourselves that are perhaps not our most outstanding points and to minimize others that are REALLY exceptional!!! (Tarrant is not the only candidate to do so!)

Perhaps he was afraid of alienating South Dakotans by placing too much emphasis on his ministry in Massachusetts and Connecticut?

But all of this adds up to a clearer picture of the man. He is what he is today because of those ministries. His life didn't start 5 years ago.

Mary Stokes Waller said...

As a member of that,"idyllic" parish in Stockbridge, Ma. and the daughter of a former Bishop of Ma.I can assure all of you nay sayers that the Rev. Tarrant has what it takes for the job as the Bishop of S.D.I can also tell you that he is what he is today because of his faith in GOD, not because of his parishes in two small New England towns. You have a gem amongst holy men.You have a winner!! Mary Stokes Waller

TLF+ said...

Hi, Mary, thanks for visiting! This is a fairly old post from the very front end of the process. Many hard questions were asked of all the candidates.

If you haven't seen the election numbers, you will be pleased to see how much consensus emerged for Fr. John. The convention was unusually calm, peaceful and even joyful, and he was easily elected in only two ballots. It took most of us longer to drive out there than to vote!

You can see the ballot counts at the Diocesan website:

Anonymous said...