Tuesday, May 5, 2009

SD Bishop election: thoughts on John Floberg's national church experience

One of John Floberg's "pluses" that is worth considering: his extensive national church leadership experience at both General Convention and national committees (especially Native American ministry).

The bishop of South Dakota must interact well with the national church. The Diocese of South Dakota operates in large part on a grant from the General Convention, as well as funds for Reservation ministry from other national entities. Floberg has worked within the bodies that make funding and policy decisions and has built up relationship credibility with key leaders.

Floberg has been able to work constructively with the Presiding Bishop and other national leaders, even though he is theologically more traditional.

Good relationship with national leaders will be very important after this summer's General Convention:
  • - GC is going to consider and probably adopt a number of actions that would explicitly authorize blessing of same sex unions. As the most recent research indicates, actions like this have been a source of "serious conflict" in many Episcopal churches and most congregations have experienced some conflict over LGBT issues. The new Bishop will need to shepherd the Diocese through the fallout from these national actions.
  • - GC is likely to authorize sweeping changes to the disciplinary canons of the church. These will make discipline more subjective, arbitrary and contentious. Floberg has shown himself able to work collegially in the overheated national church environment, even with people in profound disagreement. This might be an encouraging sign for clergy of varying perspectives. The Bishop is asked to guard both discipline and unity.
  • - GC's own materials indicate financial distress. South Dakota will need a good advocate as funding decisions become more difficult at the national level.

This is not a "final answer" or endorsement, but it is an important aspect of Floberg's ministry that isn't brought out in most "walkabout" questions. Most of us think first about our own congregations or ministries (perfectly natural). But we are part of a Diocese with significant connection to the national church, so this dimension of our life needs to come up as we elect a Bishop.


Anonymous said...

Great point. A bit may have come out about this particular strength during the Rapid City dialogue, as I recall. His experience is valuable.

While he cracked up at Dunn's "joke" about the altar guild, Father Floberg seems like a very serious person. He would strike me as being truly dedicated to God and to his people. He's capable of levity, but there's no nonsense there. He's a straight shooter, methinks.

What also struck me during the Rapid City meeting vids on Youtube was when he said he would do "anything" (hope that's the right quote) for the ministers in the diocese, if one were in crisis, etc. I thought of your post about the Good Shepherd. But most of all, I BELIEVED him. That wasn't just idle verbiage, an answer given to satisfy constituents.

What might concern me would be the fact that Father Floberg has been "on the road", as he said during the Rapid City walk-about, for 18 (hope that's right) years. 18 years is a long time.

He's going into it again, and he's not a man who will just be a desk-bound "bureaucrat" and not get involved on a personal level. That is wearing on a lot of levels - emotionally, spiritually, physically, and can be trying on a marriage.

I hope that Father Floberg has balance in his life. I would have to review his answers to see if he says anything about that.

((Dunn made a great deal about exercising at 4:30 am, and I probably wasn't the only one who wished that he would "can it".

Father Stebinger seems to have balance in his life, perhaps. He mentions exercising, doing outdoor activities, and going away. Who knows.))

Father Floberg's wife made the best impression upon me with her answer at the Rapid City walk-about. Once again, she seemed "real" and caring. I think they make a great team. Except for the daughter, they have a young family, and it must be tough.

Again, loads of things aren't brought out in a walkabout, but you have hit on one of the good ones.

David Handy+ said...

I agree with you, Tim+, and with the first commenter: your observation about Fr. Floberg's extensive experience at the national level is potentially very valuable, especially as the institutional meltdown of TEC continues and the competition for the ever more limited funding available from the national headquarters keeps intensifying.

But that only goes to show that the Diocese of SD can't afford to remain so heavily dependent on 815 for funds, especially for ministry out on the Reservations. Good old Bishop William Hobart Hare didn't rely on such institutional channels. He used his personal connections (coming from a wealthy family on Philadelphia's famous Main Line) to solicit large gifts from people he knew back east. The quintessential example being how Calvary Cathedral was paid for by a single wealthy donor, Jacob Astor. The new bishop is probably going to have to be equally creative in raising funds, though perhaps in different ways than +Hare did.

Anyway, I note that once again this post displays a conciliatory attitude in rather striking contrast to what once prevailed on this blog. Your positive remarks about liberal cp's efforts to make videos of the walkabouts available is further evidence of that new irenic spirit.

And I commend you for it, Fr. Tim.

TLF+ said...

Nothing to commend, David+. Just an unprofitable servant here being marginally obedient to the Lord.

cp did a great job helping to foster open communication. The lack of same is a massive problem in the church. Too much is going on in secret. The breakdown of trust makes it harder and harder for folks to reconcile or even just walk away in decent order. Everybody is trying to get their perceived measure of "justice" instead of looking at the things Christ wants among his people, even in disputes.

But I think we all know this so I'll shut up.

Still, a blessing to hear from you!

Anonymous said...

Interesting. As for the "wealthy people back East", even churches that have endowment funds are struggling, as there is not as much money coming in from their investments.

As for pledges, there are churches where significant numbers of people were not able to make their 2008 pledge, and so expected revenues were down. Who knows about 2009.

So some churches are dipping into their endowment funds. They will have to replace this money, but how?

((Was this question explored with the candidates? -- i.e., the current financial situation has changed dramatically since last fall and is what you might call volatile. How are they keeping things in motion while recognizing that their congregations may be experiencing unemployment, underemployment, fears as to their financial future on the part of retirees, etc., etc. ))

Yes, there plenty of individuals out there with money, but everything is relative, and lots of people "back East" have lost big chunks of 401Ks, investments, etc. And as a result, many are not giving as much to charity as usual. (Even if they are tithing, this would be true, as if income is down, so is the percentage.)

Churches are not as willing to make a long-term commitment to a certain charity. They are "waiting it out", seeing what happens, as they do not want to make promises they cannot keep.

I think that lots of people are in a "wait and see" mode. And this is affecting how they choose to give money.

Allied to this, I found myself thinking just now of some of the candidates who mentioned tithing in their bishop write-ups. They would encourage church-goers in SD to practice tithing. Comments on this?

((Oh, and I wonder if anyone thought to ask how the candidates felt about the closing of churches on Pine Ridge? It's an i$$ue.))