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