Th e S e a r c h f o r t h e 13
Th e S e a r c h f o r t h e 13
Bishop of Rhode Island
Bishop of Rhode Island
Nominee Profiles Diocesan Profile
The Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle Age: 51 Ordained: December 5, 2004, Diocese of Florida Family: Married to Cathleen; two children Spiritual Hero: Nancy Jane Hughes, my maiden great aunt. She tithed out of almost nothing, cared for the lonely and sat with the dying, until she died herself. Current Position Rector, Grace Episcopal Church, Orange Park (Jacksonville), Fla.
Current Leadership Positions President, Standing Committee, Diocese of Florida Commission on Ministry, Diocese of Florida Deputy and member, Constitution and Canons Committee, General Convention
Previous Positions Canon to the Ordinary, Episcopal Diocese of Florida Chief of Staff and Deployment Officer, Episcopal Diocese of Florida Partner, Rogers Towers (law firm)
Education Master of Divinity, General Theological Seminary, 2004 Juris Doctorate, University of Florida, College of Law, 1987 Bachelor of Arts, Duke University, 1983
Autobiography My call to ordained ministry was unwelcome. My law practice played to many of my gifts; at the largest firm in town, I led a department and was head of hiring. I was set. I was a partner. Until God changed his mind, that is. Then he spent the next three years changing mine, too.
southern Virginia. Rather, I was led to General, a liturgically and socially alien world. Surprisingly, there, so much of what I believed was confirmed and even more challenged. That thick immersion into the Episcopal Church prepared me for an even more unexpected first call.
Seminary was not the expected Sewanee or equally
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The Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle Autobiography — Continued from the previous page As Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of Florida, I arrived in time for a mighty church conflict. The real and imagined evolutions in the Episcopal Church left our diocese divided and angry. There was little time for indecision or inaction. Instead, the work of re-membering had to begin quickly. While I needed my clergy colleagues to mentor me into a priest, running large and complex organizations was a gift already prepared in me. Quickly into the ministry, I realized that problems, however sticky, can always be solved with God’s help. Then the intense joy follows. Within two years, 15 percent of the people and 30 percent of the clergy in the diocese had left the Episcopal Church ... but our diocese remained Episcopal. It was time to rebuild, and we had churches in dire need. At Grace, where I currently serve as rector, 965 of the 1,000 members departed abruptly. I arrived to encounter seven acres with 21 buildings, a 400-seat sanctuary, a half-million dollars of debt and a day school about to lose accreditation ... all with $63 in the bank and 35 people. Only a baptismal response would work: I will, with God’s help. The challenge of rebuilding has everything to do with persistence, creativity and vision. Particularly vision. I think Proverbs is correct: “where there is no vision, the people perish.” Today, we have about 500 members, average Sunday
attendance of 190, a day school that recently expanded into the eighth grade, and a very important outward and visible sign of our inward and spiritual growth as an Episcopal church being installed for Christmas Eve: a new pipe organ! The thread running throughout my life is that I have been a poor planner of my own career. Now, history repeats itself with your invitation to participate in the Rhode Island Episcopal bishop search process. It is neither sought nor imagined. But, despite my complete contentment with my current ministry at Grace, I feel God’s call to respond to your first step. Let’s see where this goes.
The Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle Age: 51 Ordained: December 5, 2004, Diocese of Florida Family: Married to Cathleen; two children Spiritual Hero: Nancy Jane Hughes, my maiden great aunt. She tithed out of almost nothing, cared for the lonely and sat with the dying, until she died herself.
Question 1: Please identify one sentence or phrase from the Baptismal Covenant that has particular meaning for you. Tell us how this part of the covenant has influenced your life and ministry. “Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?” The Holy Spirit gets the short shrift in the Episcopal Church. Yet, if we really believe what we say in the Baptismal Covenant, the Holy Spirit is the “giver of life.” This acknowledgment raises critical questions: what kind of life do we want given to us? What kind of life can we embrace? Through the lens of Holy Scripture, I can envision God the creator. The incarnational expression of Jesus helps nurture our recognition of him at every turn in Word, Sacrament and in the faces and lives of each other. But God the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is much more elusive, like the continual reverberation of a bell, long after the clapper has struck. We can hear the steady tone, yet the Holy Spirit remains mysterious. We must know the Spirit’s presence by the fruits in us and in others. For me, the Holy Spirit is the only way to hold onto “the holy catholic church” through toil and tribulation as the well-sung hymn intones. Only the Holy Spirit knows how deeply we need one another,
bound together in the sinews of relationship called church, even when we are at odds with each other. The discomfort with our current theological and ecclesiological uncertainty can only be healed through the guidance and comforting of the Holy Spirit. Mending of the distortion of our relationships with God, one another, and all of creation can only be facilitated by the re-weaving intercession of the Holy Spirit; we simply can’t do it on our own. When hearts are heavy and words sparse, only the Holy Spirit can interpret. Even genuine, bone-depth truth escapes us unless revealed by the Holy Spirit. When I examine the congregation each baptismal Sunday with that pointed question, “Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?” I wonder if the responders truly know the power they are unleashing by their affirmation. I really wonder. The Baptismal Covenant begins with a trio of important commitments. All else in the Covenant follows. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no baptism. I believe in God the Holy Spirit.
The Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle Question 2: Please share your theology of the episcopate and describe the gifts you would bring to this ministry. A bishop’s job is to embrace whiplash1, constantly looking forward and backwards, then snapping from side-to-side. An appropriate job, I think, for leading a kingdom that lives into the Apostle Paul’s “already” and joyfully anticipates the “not-yet.”
All that said, a bishop’s job is a holy one. The church is a “wonderful and sacred mystery...” (BCP 515, 528 and 540), not the administrative convenience that our more Protestant relatives would hold, nor the princedom as our Roman cousins may describe. As guardian of our faith, a bishop must be constantly Church is holy because it is of God. Therefore, the calling of bishop as its leader is for a holy job, taking looking back. Not to the stale history of faith withspiritual gifts of persistence, creativity, humor, hospiout context, but – as only the Germans have such a tality, vision, resourcefulness and prayer, and transdescriptive word – to the gründnorms (the ground foundations, loosely translated) of our life together in forming them into gifts to be multiplied through Christ. A bishop tends to God’s ground while ensur- many hands and feet and hearts. A bishop must share his/her gifts to empower others to use theirs ing a robust spreading of seeds, care and feeding. lavishly. The bishop is the custodian and steward of all that has been handed down from generation to generaSo, with all that theology-speak, let me end with a tion, but not as a scrapbook-keeper. Rather as a scat- highly illustrative example of the episcopacy. terer and planter, spreading that ancient faith far and A long time ago while on a tour of the original Diswide and making sure to call excellent gardeners into neyland in Anaheim, Calif., a school group ran into the vineyard to tend, water and harvest the fruit. the man himself. After the greeting, a little girl asked At the same time – hence the whiplash – a bishop must lead by constantly looking forward lest we lose our path to the “not-yet.” From the practical aspects of numbers (yes, numbers in church really do matter) and budgets to the kingdom imperatives, a bishop must look forward lest history keep us in one place. Seeking the assistance and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the bishop must be a present and accessible pastor to those to whom the bishop is entrusted, clergy and laity alike. A bishop is called to constantly shift into forward. Similarly, a bishop’s job is to unify. While looking backwards and forwards, the bishop must constantly be looking side-to-side. From the broad middle to the little paths between the hedges, making sure that all the faithful feel – and are – included.
him, “Mr. Disney, do you still draw Mickey Mouse?” “No, but I used to,” he answered.
“Then, do you run the rides?” continued the little girl. Again, negative. “Well, since I have never seen you in any of the movies, what exactly do you do, Mr. Disney?” asked a confused little girl. Walt Disney thought and thought. Finally he answered. “I’m like a bumble bee. I fly from flower to flower, pollinating as I go, making sure all the other flowers have a little bit of each other stuck on them. Then I help them grow and watch them bloom.” A bishop travels from flower to flower, parish to mission, helping them grow and watching them bloom. Walt Disney was a bishop.
I seem to remember a sermon about “whiplash” years ago from noted preacher Barbara Brown Taylor. I don’t recall it having anything to do with the episcopacy, but I wanted to give her credit for the great word, nonetheless. 1
The Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle Question 3: What about the Diocese of Rhode Island excites you? What about it concerns you? How do you imagine your talents, skills and experiences might be put to use in this context? Your diocese’s robust history has grown old, deep roots. Yet, you also address current realities of declining resources and membership, lack of clergy joy in ministering together as a diocese, and what appears to be the most pernicious: lack of vision. You have outlined great challenges needing immediate action. The stark State of the Congregations report is a wonderful commencement because it is rooted in truth. People are drawn to truth-telling because it is so lacking in the world. You have begun a very appealing process; now comes the need for vision. My time at our diocese was formative. When I arrived, it was clear that we lacked community. Because humans only form relationship by playing or fighting together, I knew where we needed to focus. Our parish “Year of Fellowship” worked similarly. That’s just one example. But one thing became clear during my time as canon: a bishop’s primary job is to build up clergy leaders. Successfully done, the clergy team will lead Rhode Island to greatness; the bishop is just the coach. Of course, hopefully a coach with some vision! At my current parish, we started with nothing in the bank nor any endowment to back-stop, and lots of liabilities. But we did have a vision. In a sea of mediocrity, we would embrace excellence and re-grow as a “normal” Episcopal Church, neither high nor low, but rich and full in everything we do. Plus, we would have fun. Every time we meet, we live into our two-word mission statement: “Welcome Home.” Anything we do at Grace must fall under “Welcome Home,” whether it involves creating community that impels people to
want to join in, or when we give away so others may feel “home” where they find themselves. We really mean Welcome Home... for everybody. Period. Two learnings emerged in my ministry. First, there are two kinds of people in the world: (1) builders and (2) maintainers. The world – especially the church – needs excellent leaders of both kinds. Yet the wrong kind of leader in the wrong situation is catastrophic. It’s kind of like blood transfusions; all blood is good, but the right blood type needs to get into the right body. I am a builder, not a maintainer. Building gives me energy. The other delightful discovery was how much we could do with so little. At both the diocese and in the parish, we had to be very creative about how we provided the environment for growth with little on hand. God’s gifts to me of persistence, creativity and resourcefulness are precisely what we needed. Grace has been able to be a resource-acting church with a transition-size budget. Similarly, our diocese is about a quarter larger than Rhode Island, yet operates on about half the budget. Much with little. My concerns are mostly personal. I like where I am and have no desire to leave. I wonder if a southerner would fit in New England. Some think the episcopacy requires grayer hair, either literally or figuratively, than mine. Yet, one very personal thing also excites my family and me: water. Water gives us life. Ever since sailing into the Sakonnet River with friends several years ago, Cathleen and I have been taken by your state’s natural beauty. Rhode Island has that life-giving water in abundance.
The Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle Question 4: Tell us about one of your spiritual heroes. Nancy Jane Hughes was born in 1896 in Yoder, Wyo. She lived a completely unremarkable life and died 99 years later in St. Petersburg, Fla. She never married and did not have any children. An unremarkable woman living a nearly forgotten life. Yet, a saint. Nancy Jane Hughes was my maiden great aunt. She grew up on a ranch in frontier territory upon which her family staked a claim. After her mother died when she was eight, she took over raising her brothers. In turn, each left home to make a life – some of note. But Aunt Nanny stayed behind to care for her father. They had no electricity and pumped water by hand. When she was courting age, one young man came to call. It took a lot of effort for him to get there across the prairie. But, so the family story goes, just when he arrived for Aunt Nanny’s first “date,” the pickle barrel in the basement exploded, filling the house with a different sort of perfume. That boy – nor any boy – ever came back. She cared for her father until he was 86, when he died on that same ranch. Then, at age 54 she left Yoder and moved to a rented home in Riverside, Calif., where she lived for the next 36 years and did what she knew: care-taking. She cared for old ladies, usually for years until they died, keeping them as her own. Then, at age 90, she needed her own care and my mother and I flew to Riverside to bring her back to Florida.
That week as I was cleaning out her desk for the move, I came upon some calculations clipped to a cheap, plastic plaque. Prayer Changes Things, it said. I still have the plaque, yet only remember the calculations, but with laser precision. It was a list of her “assets.” She would receive $11,730 that year. Pretty measly, even for 1990. But after that figure, she did something so counter-worldly. She multiplied it by 10 percent. My great aunt tithed. And yet, she had almost nothing. I learned a great deal at her desk that day. My great Aunt Nanny was born close to nowhere and most would brand her a nobody. She did nothing historic nor had any great “ah ha” moment in history. Yet, she prospered in her own sitz im leben. Her resources were meager, but she knew God provides. She cared for the lonely and sat with the dying, until she died herself. Recently, we celebrated All Saints Day. The necrology was read and the named-saints remembered. I know that absolutely no one at church knew Aunt Nanny. But everyone knew of her, not because I had to tell them, but because they had Aunt Nannys of their own. The world is filled with Aunt Nannys. Rarely remembered. Often unremarkable lives. But always faithful; always generous. I never thought of Aunt Nanny as a spiritual hero. But she is. A truly great one. AMEN.
The Rev. Cathy George Age: 55 Ordained: May 31, 1987, Diocese of Massachusetts Family: Married to Michael; two adult children Spiritual Hero: Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Current Position Writing sabbatical; former Priest-in-Charge, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Dorchester, Mass.
Current Leadership Positions Bishop’s Advisory Cabinet, Diocese of Massachusetts
Previous Positions Rector, St. Anne’s–in-the-Fields Church, Lincoln, Mass. Senior Associate for Christian Formation, Trinity Church Boston Rector, Emmanuel Church, Dublin, N.H. Assistant to the Rector, St. John’s, Beverly Farms, Mass. Assistant to the Rector, St. Paul’s, Newburyport, Mass. Prison Chaplain, Massachusetts Correctional Institution
Education Master of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School Bachelor of Arts, Macalester College
Autobiography My Father was a carpenter and youth minister when he met my mom. The number of children in our family increased, and he started a company building custom homes. When our pastor was on vacation Dad was the supply pastor. His sermons were better than the minister’s; he got to the point, talked in his normal voice (not a churchy one) and used engaging props. I grew up on a farm outside St. Paul, Minn.; the church was a big part of my life and so was God. I
prayed under the night sky, lying in the field behind our house or staring out the school bus window. We went to church on Wednesday nights for youth group and in the summer, vacation bible school. My high-school boyfriend introduced me to the Episcopal church, where we were married in our early twenties. I enrolled in a post-high-school year of study in a Christian community operated by the Lutheran church ( we lived in community, prayed
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the daily office, studied and hiked mountains) and then began college. Working as an intern at the University Episcopal Center led me to enroll in seminary. At Harvard Divinity School I changed denominations and was supported for ordination in the Episcopal Church under Bishop John Coburn and my Dean, Krister Stendahl. My first call was to incarcerated women, where I worked on a chaplaincy team. As Senior Associate for Christian Formation at Trinity in Boston, I developed a formation/education program for all ages. The Sunday Forum gathered the adult community exploring social issues, biblical study and spirituality. It became a lively center in the community, inspiring spiritual growth, engagement with society and increasing fellowship. During my third year in seminary, while going through the ordination process, my marriage ended. Divorce was unheard of in the family I was raised in. I faced a painful time filled with uncertainty that was also a time of tremendous personal growth. Early years of ordained life were accompanied by the joy of marriage and family life. My husband Michael and I raised Evangelyn and Samuel, (now 25 and 23). Michael owns a small business.
fellowship space. The demands and accomplishments brought about spiritual growth. We completed our building project and our focus turned to mission in the inner city. Property renewal projects and tutoring in after-school and summer-school programs drew our community to the city. Our partnership with St. Mary’s led to my call to the inner city. Proceeds from the sale of a church supported the renovation of a dreadfully neglected, now restored, historic building. Nearly forced to close its doors, the parish was “refound,” as our bishop says. I focused on property renewal while leading the parish to connect to its neighborhood. Laity were empowered in leadership; a food pantry grew to serve over 100 families a week, the church became home to a popular concert series, neighborhood meetings, AA meetings, a tutoring program for teens; and a summer program for children with a new play ground was built.
God has called me to parishes needing revitalization. The doors of Emmanuel in Dublin, N.H., were nearly closed. Eight years later we had a Sunday morning community of almost 100 people. Eva and Sam were in elementary school when we moved into the rectory at St. Anne’s-in-the-Fields in Lincoln. My love of the outdoors flourished: trails to hike and ski, and Walden Pond to swim in. God blessed our parish with I built collaborative teams of laity whose skills helped growth, and with it came the challenges and joys of us meet our goals. Preaching is a vehicle for pastoral leading through change. care, teaching and inspiring leaders. Prayer is the guiding light, sustaining force and anchor in my life We completed a $4.6-million building project, increasing sanctuary capacity and creating program and and work.
The Rev. Cathy George Age: 55 Ordained: May 31, 1987, Diocese of Massachusetts Family: Married to Michael; two adult children Spiritual Hero: Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Question 1: Please identify one sentence or phrase from the Baptismal Covenant that has particular meaning for you. Tell us how this part of the covenant has influenced your life and ministry. While I was rector at St. Anne’s in-the-Fields we built a bridge to an inner-city parish that offered an afterschool program for children. They needed tutors, cooks, people to create classrooms and a playground. A lead counselor in the after-school program was killed by a random bullet not far from the church. He gave a lot to the kids and was a sign of great hope for them. What did we, 20 miles from the city in the safety of our suburban community, have to do with this terrible incident? Why did his death feel to us like a death in our own parish? Because he belonged to us in the covenant of baptism, whether or not he was baptized or Episcopalian. In the closing question of the Baptismal Covenant the celebrant asks, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every person?” It is the all and the every in this phrase that has influenced my life and ministry. We strive, through the promises in baptism, for justice and peace among all people, not just our neighbors, not just our own, but all. Every baptism we witness renews our own promise to respect the dignity of every human being. Where else in our society are we asked to promise to move out from what is familiar and the people we call our own, to respect and dignify every person God places in our path? What relevance the church would have
in the world if we lived out the every and the all in word and deed. Our pews would be full! Baptism is the centerpiece of Christian life. Out of its waters flows our identity as beloved children of God, and our marching orders to move out in witness to the love that we have been blessed with. We set our sights at St. Anne’s in-the-Fields on caring for neglected property, renovating our sanctuary and building a new parish house. We placed a marble baptismal font, recovered from a dusty closet, at the entrance to the sanctuary. Every time we entered to pray we walked through the waters of our baptism; reminded that we are loved for who we are. People left their pews to gather around the font for the great sacrament. As we left worship, the waters of baptism sent us out to do the work God gave us to do. Baptism moves forward and outward, embracing us to send us out to the world God has given into our care. Baptism undergirds lay vocations. Our church values the voice and vote and ministry of the laity. At the heart of thriving parishes are clergy who understand this. They listen to the laity and work to fuel and equip (through dynamic preaching that is relevant to life outside the church, compassionate pastoral care and effective administration) the laity for life in the world.
The Rev. Cathy George Question 2: Please share your theology of the episcopate and describe the gifts you would bring to this ministry. A bishop is an overseer, responsible for loving the whole body of the diocese; guarding its unity, faith and discipline and strategically leading it into the future. A bishop is part of the people, yet one who stands apart to assess the needs of the whole, and create a vision that takes each part into account. A bishop has a significant role as pastor, teacher and preacher to lead people with a compelling vision of what can be done together that cannot be done on our own, inspiring parishes to participate in the larger community of the diocese.
sachusetts courts, the bishop asked me to chair the task force where distinctly divergent viewpoints were represented to create and implement diocesan policy regarding same-sex marriage.
I served on the search committee for our diocesan bishop. That experience, and working closely with my bishop as president of the Standing Committee, a member of his Council of Advisors and Chair of the Task Force on Episcopal Oversight gives me insight into the role of the episcopate. Nothing however, has made the bishopâ€™s role clearer to me than the parish visitations over 25 years of ordained service. People look to a bishop to be a person of God; a person of prayer, who will lead and inspire others in their walk with God. A bishop expresses the love of God in the manner in which she/he is present with people. A bishop is a person who knows how to inspire spiritual growth in others. My tenure on the Standing Committee prepared me for the difficulties faced in a diocese as charges of sexual misconduct, property issues, and budgetary constraints were confronted and resolved. I worked with postulants and candidates in the ordination process. As marriage equality came before the Mas-
Serving as a parish priest has equipped me with the gifts of preaching, teaching, pastoral care and administration to care for clergy, empower laity and lead parishes to new life and faith. Opportunities in rural, suburban and inner city parishes facing difficult challenges provides me with experience in building teams, collaborating to harness the wisdom and energy to work through obstacles to bright solutions. In a small rural congregation nearly closed, simple things were done: joining two services, meeting the needs of families, buying a swing set, Bible study, inviting others in, and sermons relevant to peopleâ€™s lives. In our suburban parish I worked through the growing pains of change to become a larger parish. I raised money and oversaw a building project. God used the difficulties and joys enabling us to grow closer to each other, and deepen our spiritual lives. In the inner city parishes I served I connected people to each other to merge parish programs, and renovate a building. Gay and straight, black and white, young and old came together, learning to trust each other and claim their leadership as we forged a future for their inner-city parish. I bring a gift for visionary leadership and am not afraid of conflict and change; I have seen them bring abundant life to the church and her people.
The Rev. Cathy George Question 3: What about the Diocese of Rhode Island excites you? What about it concerns you? How do you imagine your talents, skills and experiences might be put to use in this context? Your profile states there is an overwhelming consensus that “visionary leadership” is the most important skill in your next bishop; that excites me. The other characteristics that you seek – a compassionate and effective pastor, the ability to foster and create healthy, growing churches, someone who lives from a place of prayer in their life and work – all draw me into your search. God has given me opportunities and experiences in my life as a priest that match the desires of the next leader you seek. Like you, I value laughter. I love to be with people who have a good sense of humor. Serving in one of Boston’s poorest neighborhoods, facing parishes that wanted little to do with each other, but needed to come together – it was laughter that opened our hearts and increased our trust in each other. Laughing together in the midst of the hardships and obstacles that came our way gave us renewed energy. We were more creative. Laughter kept us connected when we disagreed. Laughter made the seemingly impossible situations we found ourselves in easier to address. I read of your willingness to join with your new bishop to be led by God into the future; that excites me. I do not lead in isolation. I am motivated by the energy that builds around a task when the skills, ideas and energy of others are brought to the table. As I view the Participation and Giving Trends of your diocese and the statistics over 10 years, it is evident
that there is much collaborative work to be done. Your numbers decline in most every category, from marriages and burials to confirmations and pledge cards. Healthy, growing churches start with people willing to change, open to trying new things, willing to give up something they cherish in order to compromise for a larger, shared goal. I am excited to see this spirit among you and am blessed to have been given the experiences that have developed in me the skills that would be put to use in the context of the problems you face and the hopes you have for your diocese. Few profiles list their desire, as yours does, not only for a compassionate pastor, but an “effective” one. Pastoral care is something I practice with those who sorrow or mourn as they face pain and hardship. Preaching is a way to offer public pastoral care; I value this time in a community when we are all together to hear and receive God’s word. Preaching is a way to encourage people in their relationship with God and inspire them to persevere in a life of prayer. Teaching and administration are opportunities for pastoral care. Effective pastoral care values people’s time. Running meetings efficiently, taking strategic and decisive action toward reaching a shared goal is an expression of a pastor’s care for her people. God has given me sizable problems to solve. I find the urgency in making changes to create a future for our church compelling.
The Rev. Cathy George Question 4: Tell us about one of your spiritual heroes. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is one of my spiritual heroes. In his book No Future Without Forgiveness, he tells the story of his leadership in South Africa during the end of apartheid. He established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, bringing together victims and perpetrators of crimes against humanity under the apartheid regime. He led them through a process of telling the truth, the unimaginable acknowledgment of the horrors that occurred, in order for healing to begin, and a new South Africa to come into being. Across racial and tribal lines people told their stories and listened to each other. One passage of his book tells the story of the archbishop boarding an airplane after a meeting of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that ended in anger and hostility. Horrific stories of torture and inhumanity were revealed and people took sides and remained unwilling to consider forgiving each other. Revenge and vengeance mounted, and he called the meeting to an end in despair and went to meet his plane. Sitting on the airplane, he bowed his head. As it took off, a reporter who was present at the meet-
ing was sitting next to him and he asked Archbishop Tutu if he was going off to sleep. No, he said, “All things are possible with God. I am praying.” They flew off, and returned to meet again two weeks later. I am inspired by the bold and prophetic voices in our church that see God’s world as their congregation. He is a hero of mine because the leadership he undertook took Christian faith into the public sphere. Tutu carried the Christian belief in the power of forgiveness, a tenet of our faith, and applied it to a painful, divisive situation, not in the church, but in the world. He sought to do the work of God for all the people, respecting the dignity of every person in that community, regardless of their race, religion, righteous or heinous actions. The truest form of evangelism is when we step out, armed by our faith with its strongest beliefs in our hearts and minds and apply them to the courtrooms, boardrooms, school rooms we live our life in every day.
The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely Age: 51 Ordained: June 13, 1992, Diocese of Delaware Family: Married to Karen; 2 children, one 18 and one deceased at age 2 Spiritual Hero: Bishop Samuel Schereschewsky, primary translator of the Bible into Mandarin and Wenli (a Chinese dialect) during his time as the Episcopal Bishop of Shanghai. Current Position Dean, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Phoenix, Ariz.
Current Leadership Positions Deputy, General Convention, and Chair of Arizona Deputation
Previous Positions Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Bethlehem, Pa. Rector, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Brackenridge, Pa. Curate, St. Barnabas, Wilmington, Del.
Education Master of Divinity, Yale Divinity School, 1991 Master of Science, University of Delaware, 1987 Bachelor of Arts, Franklin & Marshall College, 1982
Autobiography I was born in Harrisburg, Pa., and baptized on Christmas Day in York, Pa. I mention that because for most of my childhood Harrisburg and York represented two primary poles in my life. My father’s family in Harrisburg were Episcopalians, Republicans and establishment. My mother’s family in York were German Reformed, Democrats and working people. I grew up in both communities and learned to move comfortably between the poles they represented.
I suppose that my comfort moving between different sorts of communities explains why it has always seemed natural to me to be involved in diverse activities. I’ve been interested in science for most of my life, formally studying physics and astronomy in college and graduate school, but at the same time I’ve been very involved in music, theater and dance.
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The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely Autobiography — Continued from the previous page While I met my wife of 30 years, Karen, in college in a calculus class (and we were lab partners in physics), we actually fell in love while we were dancers and choreographers. I was raised on World History and English Literature textbooks (my parents were teachers in those ﬁelds), fascinated with myths and legends, and yet did my graduate studies in General Relativity and Chemical Physics. I became a Christian in an intentional way in 10th grade while reading the Bible on the school bus. I intended to enter the ministry but decided to pursue science in large part because of the conﬂict I saw in the congregation I belonged to as a teen. Later in graduate school my wife and I joined a congregation, became involved in outreach ministry and music, and I recovered my sense of call and a new-found willingness to deal with church conﬂict directly. I attended Yale/Berkeley Divinity School and served a suburban congregation in Delaware as its ﬁrst curate. As it was a congregation that had been wounded by its previous rector, the work in that place centered on rebuilding trust and re-energizing the congregation’s ministry. That experience led to a vocational focus that has been repeated in one way or another in all my calls since. I subsequently served a blue-collar parish in Western Pa., a college parish in a historic community in Eastern Pa., and now a cathedral in the Southwest. These
represent radically different cultural settings and different ministry needs, but have taught me common skills useful in all of them. Because of my science and technology background I became very interested in the communications revolution, and have been active at all levels of communications ministry since. I’ve served on ecumenical boards at the local, state and national level, and was a part of the Moravian Episcopal dialogue. I was able to teach physics and astronomy while serving in Bethlehem and am working on a book on science and religion as a result. Our daughter is active in the Episcopal Church, serving as a youth leader here in Arizona, and is studying digital design in college.
The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely Age: 51 Ordained: June 13, 1992, Diocese of Delaware Family: Married to Karen; 2 children, one 18 and one deceased at age 2 Spiritual Hero: Bishop Samuel Schereschewsky, primary translator of the Bible into Mandarin and Wenli (a Chinese dialect) during his time as the Episcopal Bishop of Shanghai.
Question 1: Please identify one sentence or phrase from the Baptismal Covenant that has particular meaning for you. Tell us how this part of the covenant has influenced your life and ministry. My heart has always skipped just a little whenever we recommit ourselves to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” My entire ministry has been, at its core, one of an evangelist. All of the work I have done in communications, all of the technology I’ve used, all of the science classes I’ve taught, all the community presentations I’ve given, have been a part of ﬁnding effective ways to share the Good News that the Messiah has come and God’s promises have come true. I even started blogging, primarily as a way of proclaiming the Good News. Much of what I preach and teach is an attempt to help people in the congregation learn the meaning of the Gospel in their life, and then to be ﬁlled with a willingness, even a desire, to share it with the people in their lives.
Each one of us, by virtue of our common life in the Body of Christ, is sent into the world to share the Gospel. My experience, though, has been that people are reluctant to proclaim by word and example because they are afraid they’ll say something wrong, cross a social boundary they’re not willing to cross, or suffer rejection or even ridicule from their friends. But we can all learn to simply be who we are as followers of Christ, comfortable in our own selves, full of gratitude for God’s blessings in our lives. As our faith journey transforms us, and as we grow in our commitment to being a follower of Jesus, I’ve noticed that people begin to proclaim the Good News without using any words at all; by just being who they are becoming. It is our transformed lives that are after all, as one writer puts it, the only Gospel that most of the people around us will ever “read.”
The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely Question 2: Please share your theology of the episcopate and describe the gifts you would bring to this ministry. Historically the ofﬁce of bishop has been described as the successor to the ofﬁce of the apostles. The word apostle means literally “sent out” and I think my own sense of the meaning of episcope is linked to this idea. The bishop is neither the CEO of a non-proﬁt nor a priest with added responsibility. The episcopate is a separate order of ministry with its own particular charism, one of connecting and encouraging. The apostles were sent out from the churches in the earliest days to share the good news, to plant new churches and to build up communities and leaders. Over the course of history the ofﬁce of bishop has grown to include the additional responsibility of oversight, but I believe this part of the ministry of a bishop is best shared and expressed collegially with lay and clergy leadership of the diocese. Focusing on the apostolic character of the ofﬁce, I believe bishops are meant primarily to inspire, to teach and encourage the people of their diocese. To do this the bishop has to be out of the ofﬁce and on the road, visiting as much as possible, growing relationships in the various communities of the diocese, listening to the concerns and reﬂecting those concerns to the larger bodies of the diocese and the
Episcopal Church as a whole. To encourage and build up leadership the bishop will lead the work of recruitment, discernment and the equipping and coaching of the next generation of leaders. But to see this as the sole work of one person would be a mistake, and I believe, miss a key part of the theology of the episcopate within the Episcopal Church. Our Lord Jesus sent the disciples out two-by-two, setting from the beginning a model of episcopate grounded in the experience of community. I believe that our best hope of responding to God’s call lies in working to be sure that the entire community of the diocese participates in the discernment of that call. I feel strongly that bishops should work cooperatively with the college of presbyters to create a shared model of servant leadership that empowers the diaconal and prophetic work of the community. That servant leadership is focused on equipping the laity as the primary ministers of the Gospel in the world to be able to proclaim the Good News in their particular communities. I’ve often described this as the inverted-pyramid model of leadership, with the bishop at the bottom and laity at the top in a way that opens the whole diocese to the world’s needs.
The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely Question 3: What about the Diocese of Rhode Island excites you? What about it concerns you? How do you imagine your talents, skills and experiences might be put to use in this context? My ministry has been centered in communities and structures within the Episcopal Church that are in the midst of significant transition and the generally attendant conflict. I’ve learned a few things about how systems change as result. The first thing is to recognize that no system will change if it is unwilling to recognize that it is broken in some way. Trying to grow or heal a congregation that thinks everything is fine is impossible. The system will naturally resist the changes needed, even if a number of people want to see them in place. I say this because I read in your profile a frank evaluation of the challenges that the Diocese of Rhode Island is facing, and hear a broad agreement that something needs to be done in response. It has been my experience that once the system admits there’s a need to respond, the rest will follow. As the profile says, there are many bright, committed lay and clergy leaders in the diocese who know what will work on a local level and what would best support their particular ministries. Giving the leadership the freedom to dream, and the support and tools needed to implement their vision is, in my thinking, the key ministry of the bishop. Former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, reflecting on his own experience as a diocesan bishop, points out that new bishops need to learn that they are no longer the “central figures” when it comes to the
corporate life. Their ministry is different than it was when they were parish priests. His greatest joy came when he saw the clergy and lay leaders succeeding; and once he recognized that supporting them was his primary responsibility, he believes he found the fundamental meaning of episcopate. I have learned that church growth happens in inverse proportion to the amount of control and responsibility the leadership is willing to share. I think my experience is consonant with that of Bishop Griswold. As I’ve been given responsibility for larger congregations and oversight of more clergy, I’ve learned that the best way to lead is to support the team, and move myself out of the way. Doing that, though, requires leadership and an assembled team that is excited about the future, willing to be creative in problem-solving and judicious in making difficult choices about what to do with limited resources. I see that in the Diocese of Rhode Island. So, given that there’s a consensus that things need to change, and a willingness and commitment to work together to make that change, in my estimation, the people of the diocese have the two key pieces to grow into a new and exciting future. I would be honored to a be a part of that work. How exciting it would be to have the diocese become a role model for the wider Episcopal Church.
The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely Question 4: Tell us about one of your spiritual heroes. A decade or so ago there was some serious discussion about who the patron saint of the Internet might be. The Roman Catholic Church decided on St. Isidore of Seville, but Episcopalians suggested that a more ﬁtting person would be Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky. Schereschewsky, who began his life as a German Jewish rabbinical student, died as the Anglican Bishop of Shanghai. He had a gift for languages and was the primary translator of the Bible into Mandarin and Wenli (a Chinese dialect) during his time as the Episcopal Bishop of Shanghai. After his consecration as bishop in 1877, he was stricken with Parkinson’s disease, and it is said that toward the end of his life he only retained reliable control of one of his ﬁngers. He is reported to have typed thousands of pages of the Wenli Bible translation with that ﬁnger as he sat conﬁned to a wheeled chair. That is the context of his well-known quote: “I have sat in this chair for over twenty years. It seemed very hard at ﬁrst. But God knew best. He kept me for the work for which I am best ﬁtted.” From the very ﬁrst time I heard the full story of his life he has been one of my greatest spiritual heroes. Here is a man who was constantly searching for God,
a man who was willing to pursue that search no matter where the chase would take him; across multiple continents and oceans, and across denominations and faiths. He was a man whose passion to share the Good News led him to use the gifts God had given him in novel and totally unforeseen ways. And he is a man who managed to ﬁnd a way to keep active in his task until the last days of his life, against great obstacles. We live in a difﬁcult time for the Church. People are not entering quickly enough to replace those who are leaving. Population and demographics are forcing Episcopalians to rethink how we structure ourselves to do ministry and mission at all levels of our denomination. Finances are stretched thin and people are worried if “our faith will have children.” Schereschewsky’s life reminds me that God does not call us to be successful, God calls us to be faithful. We have incredible challenges in front us. We’re not the ﬁrst people to encounter such things. We have gifts that we are expected to use. Perhaps not all the gifts we want, perhaps not exactly as we’d like, but looking at Schereschewsky’s witness, we probably have enough to do the particular task we are being set to do. And that is all any of us can hope for.
The Rev. Ledlie I. Laughlin Age: 52 Ordained: May 6, 1989, Diocese of New York Family: Married to Sarah; two adult children Spiritual Hero: Moses
Current Position Rector, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, Pa.
Current Leadership Positions President, Standing Committee, Diocese of Pennsylvania Co-Chair, Diocesan Antiracism Team Member, Diocesan Consultation Team Deputy, General Convention
Previous Positions Rector, Grace Episcopal Church, Norwalk, Conn. Rector, St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City, N.J. Assistant Rector, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C. Parish Missioner, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Paterson, N.J.
Education Master of Divinity with Certificate of Anglican Studies, Berkeley ~ Yale Divinity School, 1987 Bachelor of Arts, Oberlin College, 1982.
Autobiography In Composing a Life, Mary Catherine Bateson observes that our lives frequently resemble a patchwork quilt; from pieces stitched together patterns emerge. Some patterns: I see my life and ministry as an adventure; I love exploring, travelling literally and figuratively to foreign lands, willing to embark and lose sight of the shore even for a long time. My explorations are balanced
with homecoming; returning to the familiar. I am relentlessly hopeful. I am most energized when living in creative tension between reality today and possibility tomorrow. I am drawn toward complex situations with a gift
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The Rev. Ledlie I. Laughlin Autobiography — Continued from the previous page for finding simpler or direct ways; for making the obscure plain. Some pieces stitched together: My father is a priest. First years were in Jersey City; then Newark during the riots of the 1960s70s. When we moved to Greenwich Village in the dawn of Gay Rights, my younger sister, brother, and I were old enough for my mother to pursue her career in book design/publishing. I worked every summer of high school and college as journeyman carpenter in Vermont. I loved the routine, accomplishment, and natural beauty of wood. For a year between high school and college, I traveled around the world: attended school for traditional arts in Japan, worked a dairy farm in Southern India, and a kibbutz on the Jordan River. Intellectually, I blossomed at Oberlin studying East Asian Culture and Religion, in which I majored with honors. Unsure of next steps, I returned to Kyoto and spent a year studying Chanoyu — Japanese Tea Ceremony — and Zen Buddhism. There I first began to pray on my own. A couple of startling experiences of God’s presence prompted me to wonder if I was called to ordained ministry. Enrolled at Yale Divinity. Having discerned God’s calling to ordination, I presented myself to the Commission on Ministry. The Commission turned me down. I was devastated, bawled like a baby. They wanted me vulnerable and revealing; sent me off in search of a spiritual director and therapist. They were wise. I grew, and opened up — a lot.
Two good years in Paterson as bridge-builder between homeless and affluent. We had a rough time in Jersey City — a dangerous, drug-ridden neighborhood. The entrenched parish leadership had no interest in my first-time-rector, all-kinds-of-new-ideas enthusiasm. We struggled, put more bars on the windows. Leaving felt like failure, but was healthy and life-giving. Norwalk was a good community for India and Nick’s elementary school years. Dreaming up and launching the Mustard Seed was fruit of creative collaboration between congregation and community. Sabbatical trekking in the Himalayas, meditating in Dharamsala and guest of a lama in Bhutan, all with my 21-year-old-daughter, opened my eyes and heart to other paths and deepened my faith in the Way of Christ.
Silent prayer, often with Scripture, is a constant means I had met Sarah a couple of years earlier. We married. of renewal and fresh awakening for whatever the new day brings. She is the love of my life.
The Rev. Ledlie I. Laughlin Age: 52 Ordained: May 6, 1989, Diocese of New York Family: Married to Sarah; two adult children Spiritual Hero: Moses
Question 1: Please identify one sentence or phrase from the Baptismal Covenant that has particular meaning for you. Tell us how this part of the covenant has influenced your life and ministry. Singularly potent is: “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” I believe each moment offers potential annunciation: God comes to you or me, inquiring if we will participate in birthing Christ in the midst of our lives. Each moment is fraught with potent possibility and offers us opportunity to say “yes” to God as Mary did. Yet, it is one thing to believe that God is continually seeking to be incarnate, and quite another thing to hear, perceive, or recognize that invitation in daily life. A frequent prayer on my heart and lips is a variation of words found in Eucharistic Prayer C: Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us.
My work in Paterson running a shelter for 40 homeless men every night for six winter months, and more recently, spending one day each month as chaplain at a maximum-security prison, has brought me face to face with those our society most fears and shuns. My interest in East Asian culture and religion led me to explore Hinduism, Zen, and Tibetan Buddhism. As I seek Christ in the face of a Buddhist friend, I believe each of us can glimpse the holy only in part, and that our own vision of God is enriched by the perspectives of others. Some of my richest experiences of ministry have been in my work with interfaith community organizing — in Paterson, Jersey City, and Philadelphia. For me there is little more exciting than coming together with a broad cross-section of people, negotiating differences, and striving toward a shared vision and goal. This is one of the ways I strive for racial justice.
My senses of awareness are greatly enhanced by a discipline of daily contemplation. By stilling the voices within, I can more clearly and truly hear the voices of others. As a community, we articulate this through hospitality: Within my first months at St. Pe- Mindful of my inheritance as a highly privileged ter’s we made two new, bright red signs: These doors white heterosexual male, I continuously engage in are open to you, and All are welcome at God’s table. my own internal work on racism. I am committed to addressing the systemic ways in which our church Even as a child, I learned from my parents to seek out the company of those who differ from me — dif- perpetuates injustice and diminishes the holiness of fering races, sexual orientation, beliefs, or socio-eco- certain “others.” Being a frequent presenter of my nomic background. With the support of my wife and cousin, Katrina Browne’s, film, Traces of the Trade; serving as co-chair of our Diocesan Anti-Racism family, I have lived and served in parishes of every Team; and serving on the board of Crossroads Antisocio-economic level, from desperately poor, innerracism Organizing and Training — all are integral to city Jersey City and Paterson, N.J., to working-class Norwalk, Conn., and very well-off Washington, D.C. my commitment.
The Rev. Ledlie I. Laughlin Question 2: Please share your theology of the episcopate and describe the gifts you would bring to this ministry. So that the church may be a vibrant expression of the body of Christ, sharing God’s love in deed and word, the bishop is to embody and represent the unity and catholicity of that church body. In practical terms, the bishop is called to nurture health within the body of Christ, the community of the faithful. This means bringing clergy, people, and congregations together in unity, while lifting up and celebrating their varied and particular gifts. The core ingredients for any healthy community are relationships built on trust and mutual respect. The integrity and gifts of each individual and each congregation must be honored. Only within a healthy diocese can the bishop lead the people and together with them cast a vision for future mission and ministry. As spokesperson for the diocese, the bishop is to be a prophetic voice for church and society, while sensitive to diverging perspectives within and accountable to the people s/he serves. I perceive that what you need most is what I do best: as bishop I shall love you, gather you into one, and lead you forth in creative and courageous proclamation of the Gospel. I am a pastor. I will listen to your dreams, hopes and fears. I will be with you in times of life transition, vocational discernment, and crisis. Through encouragement and occasional provocation, I seek to help others grow into the fullness of who they are as a child of God. As “guardian of the faith,” I will uphold the radically expansive and inclusive love of Christ in
every facet of our communal and sacramental life. I will exercise visionary spiritual leadership, gathering with you in prayer to consider the future God may be calling us toward, and together set forth a courageous plan to move from here to there. As lay leaders and staff with whom I’ve shared ministry will attest, I seek and rely on the God-given gifts of others, generate a lively mix among those whose strengths differ from my own, delegate generously, favor a flat/broad organizational structure, inspire vision, and implement plans together. I have a strong and gentle confidence; I hire well, and build healthy teams. I am patient and not easily over-burdened amid painful crises. As an avid learner, I will nurture the diocese as a learning organization. I seek to learn new things, and to learn ancient things anew; I seek wisdom from sources within the church and beyond. I value constructive criticism and will expect diocesan leaders to regularly engage with me in mutual ministry review. I will bring my passion for puzzles and complex systems. I love sorting out organizational dynamics, figuring out what may be blocking energy, and what will release creative vitality. I pay careful attention to the dynamics of power; who is included and who may be left out. I will dismantle an unjust or ineffective system for one that allows greater participation, collaboration and effectiveness. To this end, I will readily engage conflict and difficult situations.
The Rev. Ledlie I. Laughlin Question 3: What about the Diocese of Rhode Island excites you? What about it concerns you? How do you imagine your talents, skills and experiences might be put to use in this context? In Rhode Island and throughout the Episcopal Church stormy weather and rough seas lie ahead. As your honest profile makes clear, the leadership of the diocese will need courage, discipline, and vision to address the effects of declining attendance and income. That same leadership will need to cast a courageous, spirit-filled vision of a thriving diocese for the future. There will be institutional loss, yet we believe God shall not abandon us; we trust and affirm that even now God is doing a new thing in our midst. To survive and thrive, the entire crew must pull together. Everyone has something to offer, everyone’s gifts essential. I am excited by the extraordinary potential to be realized when people, clergy, and bishop of the Rhode Island Diocese enjoy vibrant relationships among one another. Having served a wide range of congregations/communities — small struggling, large thriving, suburban, urban, former mill town, inner city — I see diversity of your congregations as a gift. I will work with you so the unique demographics and practices of each contribute to the fullness of life and faith of the whole. Less a concern than challenge is the need to address inevitable institutional anxiety born of decline and loss. As we get caught up in needs — “How do we get people in here or pay the bills?!” — we grow fearful, pinched. Yet, our mission is to love and serve our neighbor. As we look outward, toward others’ needs, we discover anew gifts we have to offer. In turn, we become thankful, generous, open, cre-
ative. Similar intention is needed in responsible merging or closing of congregations. Beware the perception that some churches succeed while others fail; such language exacerbates shame and loss of already painful circumstances, and has no bearing in a Gospel of resurrection that faces and proclaims death and new life. We recently experienced a conversion at St. Peter’s: instead of trying to grow by “getting” more people, we “give ourselves” to others. Growth results through people attracted to our generous spirit! I am grateful for the inspiring vision set forth by your Mission Task Force, striving together for justice in our communities. Financial stewardship is integral to my identity as a Christian, and top priority in my ministry. I have served/chaired three diocesan stewardship commissions. After ten or twenty years, the Diocese of Rhode Island will be different. We will look back and say “that was challenging work, but it was good because we did it together prayerfully, with integrity, mutual respect, and faith in the ever-creating Spirit of the living God.” We will give thanks for the diversity of our congregations — small house churches, glorious ancient sanctuaries of lively worship, and on-line communities linked through “the cloud.” We will acknowledge that no one of us could have seen clearly what the future held, but will give thanks that each of us was empowered to be creative and to experiment, to seek wisdom within and beyond, and to trust that a new incarnation of God’s church in Rhode Island lay just ahead.
The Rev. Ledlie I. Laughlin Question 4: Tell us about one of your spiritual heroes. At a critically important juncture in my journey of faith, I heard anew the story of Yahweh leading Moses to the top of Mount Nebo and showing him the Promised Land toward which he’d been leading the people for 40 years. Moses saw the land, but was not able to enter in; he died on Mount Nebo. Although already in seminary, I was not clear whether or not to go down the road toward ordination. I was plagued with doubt. I wanted to know for sure that it was right, wanted to know for sure that God was calling me to this ministry. A preacher helped me see that for some people faith is sure, something solid they can claim: Paul, Francis of Assisi, and Martin Luther, who claimed “Here I stand, I can do no other.” For others, faith is experienced as something longed for; not so much knowing God as desiring God, yearning after God: Moses and Kierkegaard — who wrote achingly of love long sought. In this telling, I found room for me. Like Moses I long for God, and trust that my longing itself is faith. One need not even arrive. One can hunger and yearn and search. In this journey, I believe it is none other than God who first implanted those seeds of yearning and desiring. It is God who first ignites a vision of promised community, of how it is we are to live together. For me faith is a matter of seeking, glimpsing, appre-
hending. Questing, questing: at times urgent. God is always calling me toward deeper faithfulness, toward greater realization of my potential as a beloved child. Gregory of Nyssa observed that each glimpse Moses gets of God is pleasing, yet awakens deeper hunger. Moses’ faith — and mine — is one of simultaneously receiving and seeking. What I understand as a personal calling, I see to have parallel power for congregations, and for dioceses — that we are ever called to live into the full potential of who God has created and is calling us to be. I lead by sharing openly my own journey of faith in Christ, being vulnerable about my own desire for the fullness of the presence of God. Others are inspired by this — encouraged in their own search, invited to host new possibilities, and compelled to join in the journey of ministry and mission. In recent years, I am experiencing a shift in my interior landscape. No longer quite so hungry, I have found an inner calm that allows me to attend less on attaining, and more on giving. Increasingly, I find myself called to give myself away, a form of kenosis and self-emptying. This, too, is shaping my ministry; at St. Peter’s we are seeking ways to give ourselves away to others. Much as Rhode Island has embraced the vision and goals generated by the Mission Task Force, we are seeking to feed our neighbor and feed Christ’s sheep — with food and justice.
The Rev. Jennifer Pedrick Age: 45 Ordained: January 24, 1999, Diocese of Rhode Island Family: Married to Michael DeAngelo; two children Spiritual Hero: Mary, the mother of Jesus
Current Position Rector, Church of the Epiphany, Rumford, R.I.
Current Leadership Positions Chair, Mission Task Force Member, Standing Committee Deputy, General Convention
Previous Positions Assistant to the Rector, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Portsmouth, R.I. Teacher, Chair – Humanities Department, St. Andrew’s School, Barrington, R.I. Intern, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Tiverton, R.I.
Education Master of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School Bachelor of Arts, Sweet Briar College
Autobiography This discernment process has caused me to look at the defining moments and experiences of my life as a way of understanding who I am today and what God may be calling me to in the future. An earlier “clarifying” time in my life was the year following my college graduation. I was interviewing for jobs in business and finance, but my heart and mind were not in it. After a few months of indecision, an Episcopal priest in Rhode Island helped me to define the
commitments of my life, those things that were most essential for me to live as the person God created me to be. Twenty years later I might call these core values, or the ways in which I live them out, a rule of life. As a 22-year old, I simply thought of all this as a relief. Almost as soon as I wrote my deep commitments on paper, I could see that I could live happily as a teacher.
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The Rev. Jennifer Pedrick Autobiography — Continued from the previous page Within months, I began a five-year teaching career at St. Andrew’s School, in Barrington. This job fit with several of my core values: living life as a student, growing in healthy relationships, enjoying meaningful work in the service of others, and earning a living. Three years into my teaching career, while leading the youth group at my church, St. Martin’s in Providence, I began to sense a call to live and work with God at the center of my life in ways that my teaching career did not allow. Earlier I had defined living as a faithful, Christian woman as another core value. In these years I learned to pray, I entered the ordination process, I served as an intern at Holy Trinity in Tiverton and I met my husband, Michael.
Following seminary, I served as an assistant at St. Mary’s in Portsmouth, where our second child, Isabella, was born. In my fourth year of priesthood I I spent four years in seminary at Harvard Divinwas called to serve as rector of what is now Church ity School, rather than the usual three, because our of the Epiphany in Rumford. Both of these comdaughter, Lydia, was born between my third and munities have formed and supported me as a priest, fourth years. My formation during seminary included mother, wife, and child of God. Over the course of my new marriage, rigorous theological education, parish adult life, I have learned that when I order the loves ministry, the diocesan ordination process and motherof my life with God first, followed by my family and hood. While my core values were at the center of this the Church, my several vocations can be lived as one swirling life, and I had an awareness of God’s presence whole, holy, blessed life. much of the time, I could not actually picture how God and I were going to fit all the pieces together.
The Rev. Jennifer Pedrick Age: 45 Ordained: January 24, 1999, Diocese of Rhode Island Family: Married to Michael DeAngelo; two children Spiritual Hero: Mary, the mother of Jesus
Question 1: Please identify one sentence or phrase from the Baptismal Covenant that has particular meaning for you. Tell us how this part of the covenant has influenced your life and ministry. The question, “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?” is critically important to me as a follower of Jesus Christ and as a priest in the Church.
believe so strongly that these are the foundations of Christian community, I have focused my ordained ministry on worship and education that renews and strengthens people of all ages.
This promise grounds my own faith and ministry in the first community of Jesus’ followers. It reminds me that Christian faith has been handed down through all the generations from those who followed Jesus literally on foot and to the table. The Good News that Jesus proclaimed, as well as the Good News he embodied, was the first form of the apostles’ teaching. The disciples witnessed first-hand his compassion, his feeding and healing, and his relationship with his Father. This informs my pastoral care as a priest.
Creating community where healthy, accountable relationships are nurtured has also been very important to me. I teach and preach that it is very difficult to live as a Christian apart from a church community. The rest of the promises in the baptismal covenant will not be as compelling or have significant depth if we do not take this first one seriously. Belonging to a Church and being formed in Christ this way gives one the support and context to say, “yes” to all the other promises: perseverance in resisting evil, repentance, seeking and serving Christ, proclaiming the Good News, striving for justice and peace and respecting the dignity of all. These are ways of living that would be difficult to imagine or achieve apart from the Body of Christ and the ministry that forms and supports people in it.
The Risen Lord commissioned the first disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. Life with Jesus, and witnessing his death, resurrection and ascension, was so compelling that they willingly risked everything to continue his teaching and mission. Continuing in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of the bread and the prayers invites us to embody the power and possibility of Christian community to transform lives. When preparing a family or an individual for baptism, I emphasize this promise to continue to participate in Christ-centered community. Being a part of a church where one is formed by worship, education, prayers and relationships is the foundation for the other promises that follow from this one. Since I
The word “continue” has another important meaning for me in my vocation. Continuing in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in worship and prayer is not only what I do or encourage others to do for our own benefit, or for the benefit of the present Church, but for those who will come after us. Just as this faith has been handed down to us through the generations, we must continue to keep the faith and create loving communities of disciples who will pass it on for future generations.
The Rev. Jennifer Pedrick Question 2: Please share your theology of the episcopate and describe the gifts you would bring to this ministry. I understand episcopal ministry to be a servant ministry in which the bishop is a steward of the Church that has been entrusted to her. A bishop is called to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church. This guardianship is, at its heart, a form of stewardship, rooted in love and gratitude for the powerful, life-transforming, wonderful, sacred mystery that is the Church. As a minister of Christ, I have great love for the Church, especially the Episcopal Church in Rhode Island, and the people who are its ministers. I am aware of the diverse and powerful gifts of others with whom I share ministry or could share ministry. I have gifts to offer as well, but know that they are most fruitful in connection and collaboration with the gifts of others. This respect and gratitude for God’s people and their gifts is a significant offering I could contribute as a bishop. As a steward of the life and work of the Church, a bishop is a guardian and minister of its primary gifts: the Good News of Jesus Christ, the historic faith, the Body of Christ, and the Sacraments. Of course there are many other “gifts” that vie for a bishop’s heart, mind and ministry. These include attending to the orders of ministry, programs, canons, conventions, liturgy, buildings, budgets, committees, strategic plans and more. One of the greatest challenges of episcopal ministry must be balancing the roles of bishop as guardian of the primary gifts, while administering all the other supporting gifts.
I have a lively relationship with Jesus Christ. I am formed by daily prayer, the study of the Holy Scriptures, the Sacraments, Sabbath time, life in Christian community balanced with life in a family. This disciplined way of life offers some balance, keeps joy alive in me and informs how I function as a priest. I believe this way of life would also sustain a bishop as chief priest and pastor, and promote health in a diocese. In Rhode Island, as in the wider church, the changes we face require faith and attention to the Holy Spirit. A bishop is challenged to maintain unity while so many in the body are fearful, anxious or have lost hope. I have hope grounded in God’s mission and love for us, as well as the tremendous resources we already possess and those God will provide. I am realistic and competent in church administration, and I have an active imagination, particularly when it comes to imagining God’s kingdom. My vision, creative problem-solving skills and sense of humor, along with my ability to invite others to dream, plan and participate, have been valuable gifts in ministry contexts so far. I have the ability to walk with those who are fearful, and at the same time discern and point toward the future to which God calls us. I believe this is a fertile and potentially fruitful time, as we are being called to live differently as the Church.
The Rev. Jennifer Pedrick Question 3: What about the Diocese of Rhode Island excites you? What about it concerns you? How do you imagine your talents, skills and experiences might be put to use in this context? The tremendous human resources in the Diocese of Rhode Island, coupled with the opportunity to redevelop the Church in this place are two of the most exciting things to me in this time of transition. Several of the challenges facing the Diocese of Rhode Island are the very things that engage me as a discerner in this search process. Like many dioceses across the Episcopal Church, our current number of congregations is not sustainable, and many are in decline. The financial condition of the diocese is cause for concern. I have experience in reversing decline in a parish and would look forward to supporting motivated leaders in redeveloping congregations and the diocese. I would bring pastoral experience and a collaborative approach to this redevelopment ministry. I believe that the Holy Spirit would be at work, strengthening the faithful in this difficult ministry of change. At the last diocesan convention, the Mission Task Force and the 2015 Task Force marked a “first anniversary” of sorts. The 2015 Task Force is making strides in analyzing parishes and missions using financial and spiritual indicators of health and vitality. Clearly, this work is just beginning, but I am encouraged by the progress so far in this transitional time. As the chair of the Mission Task Force for two years, and the primary author of the initial report, I worked collaboratively in setting the goals to create a new direction for our diocesan mission and strategy. I can see that connections are emerging between congregations, diocesan bodies, and individuals who
are sharing new ideas and plans for ministry. There is evidence of joy, hope and commitment among people from across the diocese engaging the new mission focus “feeding the hungry.” In 2007 I led a merger of two parishes that resulted in a new congregation with a new name. The merger was arduous, but also a holy time of transformation for the emerging new community and for the leaders and members. My leadership through this time called on gifts I knew I had, such as pastoral care, communication, discernment, community building, visioning and strategic planning. It also gave me the opportunity to develop new skills and discover abilities I did not realize I had. I have learned to lead and foster growth in complex emotional systems. I have experience with managing conflict effectively and pastorally. It is thrilling to me that the profile expresses an interest in visionary leadership and the importance of change. I have a gift for seeing possibilities, and resources others might not have imagined, getting others to share a vision, and then moving a community toward that vision. I have first-hand experience in the new life that comes when God’s people are willing to let go of some of the institutional trappings of Church, seek healing of past hurts and choose to join together in God’s mission. I would enjoy supporting congregations and clergy in discerning new partnerships for mission and ministry, and new ways of being the Episcopal Church in Rhode Island.
The Rev. Jennifer Pedrick Question 4: Tell us about one of your spiritual heroes. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of my spiritual heroes. I admire her balance, her focused response to dramatic and traumatic situations, and her faithful consent to God’s word and action in her life. One of the strongest impressions I have of Mary is that she was open to God’s possibilities for her life and her world as a result of her faith. Mary had a certain spaciousness in her heart and mind that allowed her to both give and receive radical hospitality. In nearly every appearance of Mary in the scriptures she was welcoming strangers and new or changing relationships, or she was a guest or pilgrim in a foreign, challenging or unprecedented situation. She made a few arduous journeys, including one before and one after Jesus’ birth. Later she made the painful way to Golgotha to witness his death. She welcomed all sorts and conditions of people who came to see the infant Savior. The Holy Spirit came upon her once at conception and perhaps again at Pentecost. She questioned and listened to her teenager as his authority was emerging, and learned to support and take direction from him in his adulthood. Although it would have been reasonable for her to behave differently, she handled all this with gracious, un-anxious consent. The most powerful example of Mary’s open heart and mind is the annunciation. As any woman facing pregnancy knows, Mary knew that things were about to change and what would happen deep inside her body would only be the beginning. Mother-
ing, like ministry, is a form of consent to have your heart, your mind, and your priorities change. In Mary’s case, this was even more complicated, yet she responded to the angel Gabriel so simply, “Let it be with me according to your word.” Mary showed gracious hospitality by offering her body and life to be a God-bearer. Her hospitality, however, began even before she consented to the angel’s request. She was first able to welcome Gabriel in conversation, and held her fear lightly enough that she could question him, and seriously consider his outrageous proposal. Mary could have said, “no” or “not sure” to God’s messenger. She could have disqualified herself for any number of reasons and her life would have been easier to manage. Instead she consented in a balanced, focused and faithful way. Trusting in God, and in the story she was told by God’s messenger, she consented. After she gave birth, she welcomed shepherds and magi. She treasured the words of these guests and pondered it all in her heart. This is the pattern of her life: hospitality toward guests and new relationship, a calm approach to change, consent to God’s will, reflection and prayer. This pattern continued to keep her open over the tumultuous, painful and glorious pilgrimage of her life as the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. Her openness to change and her courage to say, “yes” changed the world.
Prayer for the Calling of a Bishop for Rhode Island Gracious God who sets the seas in their bounds and gives life to all your creatures, Who continually renews the face of the earth and is faithful to your covenant from generation to generation: Lift up and guide the people of the Diocese of Rhode Island as we seek the next bishop to lead us; Renew our strength in the baptismal ministries to which you call us; Watch over and inspire the work of the committees entrusted with this task; And, by the power of your Spirit, draw your people always toward the vision of your holy reign; We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.
Published on Mar 12, 2012
Autobiographies, photos, and answers to essay questions submitted by the final nominees for the 13th bishop of the Diocese of Rhode Island.