Waiting in Anticipation and Hope

We as a diocese are in an Advent time, not just from a liturgical calendar point of view, but from the stance of becoming prepared to usher in our new bishop. With the announcement of the slate of candidates as presented to the Standing Committee by the Search Committee arriving tomorrow, we may find ourselves watching and waiting in anticipation of the new creation God has begun within our diocese.

And this is the right place from which to begin: in the certainty that God has, from the beginning and through and including this present moment, been a part of the search process. God has created with, shaped through and transformed the Search Committee members as they have prayerfully and faithfully discerned candidates called to move forward in the process of the election of our next bishop.

As we wait and watch in Advent, as in the search process, we recognize that we are waiting for something brand new, not something already known to us. We are waiting for someone chosen by the Holy Spirit, not chosen by our own desires and needs. We are waiting in anticipation and hope for something beyond our own imagination, something born of God. We are waiting in trust in our loving God, who knows our needs, and is ushering in a new creation, which will grow and stretch us into the people and the diocese God is calling us into. Let us do this joyfully and thankfully.

Standing Committee Report

At a meeting on May 1, the Standing Committee adopted the following two resolutions:

1.  “After reviewing the results of recent diocesan meetings–the data from the Listening Events  conducted by the Search Committee, the Assisting Bishop’s initial report on the state of the diocese, and the responses from the joint meeting of the Trustees and Standing, Search, Transition, and Finance Committees–the Standing Committee affirms the continuation of the current time line for the search process.”

2.  “The Standing Committee is simultaneously committed to working with the Provisional Bishop to address systemic weaknesses, indicated by Bob Gallagher and Michelle Heyne in their report of the recent facilitated joint diocesan leadership meeting, to bring health to our diocesan community.”

This report is to let you know about a concern regarding the search process for a new diocesan bishop: The question we discussed was, should we proceed along the present timeline, or should we put the process on hold to give us time to address a number of concerns that have come to the fore.  Although Bishop Gepert suggested that we stretch the process out for an extended period, he has clearly stated that it is a decision for the Standing Committee to make.  In the first of the two resolutions, we unanimously agreed that we should continue on the present timeline  (http://cpabishopsearch.com/search-schedule/).  What follows is the background and rationale for our decision.

First, we wish to thank the Search Committee for their excellent efforts in conducting the Listening Events throughout the diocese, and the members of the diocese who participated in those sessions, sharing their concerns and desires for our diocese.  The data which were gathered are available on the diocesan web site, here:  http://cpabishopsearch.com/resources/     We encourage everyone to view and reflect on them.  A pdf  is provided with suggested questions for use in a parish forum or adult education discussion.

Members of the Search, Transition, Finance, and Standing Committees, and of the Council of Trustees participated in a workshop on April 26th facilitated by Robert Gallagher and Michelle Heyne from Congregational Development Institute  (http://www.congregationaldevelopment.com/).  We looked at the data from the perspective of several models of organizational function, and we also heard from Bishop Gepert, our Assisting Bishop, soon to be our Provisional Bishop, concerning his observations in the brief time he has been with us in the diocese.

After some discussion there was some feeling that we should stretch the search process.  However, it was again made clear that this was a decision that the Standing Committee would have to make.

The Standing Committee believes that some of the concerns raised by the material can be dealt with over the next few months.  We believe that clear job descriptions will be put in place for the bishop’s staff and that Bishop Gepert will work closely with them to improve relationships with the parishes.  The Finance Committee is working to make financial information more readily understood and available.

Other issues, such as people having a feeling of being disconnected, do not have a definite end point at which we can declare them resolved; they instead require continuous work, both now and into a new episcopacy.  As such, the Standing Committee does not believe they are a sufficient reason to prolong the search process.

We sense that through the listening process and the airing of concerns, there is some momentum developing for addressing areas in which people feel a need for change.  We need to continue to listen to each other with respect and understanding, for it is only in such two-way communication that we can address the things that bother us and grow into a more healthy community.

Dr. Sam Ward, President, Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania


Listening to the Data: Joint Leadership Meeting Held

When a system like a diocese moves into the time of transition from one bishop to another, the people charged with discerning the choices for election do well to take time considering what makes for a good fit between themselves and the candidates.  The Listening Events were the first step we took in making ourselves more aware of who we are, how we are, and who we hope to become.  The second step we took involved looking at ourselves honestly.

The Search Committee invited all members of the Standing Committee, the Council of Trustees, the Finance Committee of the Council of Trustees, and the Transition Committee, to join them at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Harrisburg, on April 25th and 26th. Assisting Bishop Bob Gepert and the Very Rev. Ronald H Clingenpeel, our consultant from the National Church guiding us in the Bishop Search process, were also with us.   The Search Committee asked Bob Gallagher, OA,  and Michelle Heyne, OA, who are congregational development consultants in religious systems,to facilitated both meetings.  They brought skill in facilitation, but more significantly, skill in helping large groups of church leaders come to grips with understanding what’s going on in the system, and how to make changes for health and faithfulness.

The Search Committee scheduled and hosted the meetings, initially to bring all the current diocesan leaders together on the same ground while looking at the Listening Event data, before we put the results into the diocesan Profile.   But even before the meeting, systemic concerns plain to many of us loomed large, seeming to overshadow the possibilities ahead.  So, with Bob and Michelle’s guidance, the groups took a few steps back, to see the whole with detachment and not just the parts of our diocesan system that we ourselves experience or represent with passion.  Our goal was to understand and reflect on the way we do our work, and how our work benefits our ministry and mission.   We used the same set of questions on the Listening Event data which are provided for parishes on the Resource page, to name, claim and find a responsive stance toward these issues. During this time, the search process timeline came into question. The questions raised and the concerns named are discussed in the report Bob and Michelle made to the diocese, and also in a statement from Dr. Sam Ward, President of Standing Committee, published above.

All who attended the two days of work together indicated on their evaluation forms that the experience was very good, helpful, encouraging and inspirational.  One even said it was the best diocesan event he had ever taken part in. Good congregational development can have that effect.

We encourage you take time to follow the links provided by the Congregational Development team to give yourselves as full an understanding of this joint leadership meeting as possible.

The preparation that Bob and Michelle asked of us before our joint leadership meetings can be found here: http://www.congregationaldevelopment.com/diocese-of-central-pennsylvani/

The consultants’ report on those meetings can be found at this link: http://www.congregationaldevelopment.com/cpa-follow-up/

Data Report Now Available for Viewing & Study

The analyzed data from the Listening Events is now available on the website under the Resource tab. Simply click on the link for Analysis of Narrative Data that you find on the main page under Resources.  In the same place, you will find a link to a suggestion for using the data in a forum or adult education discussion. If you don’t want to use the data directly from the website, you can download the report as a pdf and print it as a handout for discussion. If you’d like to be in touch with a member of the committee for further discussion of the data, please look at the committee members’ tab on the website. Each convocation has at least one committee member resident in its bounds, and all committee members are able to talk with you about the data.