Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Some Thoughts About the Bishop Election

All, I this is the text of an e-mail I sent to Maureen, David and Rick --our representatives in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington convention some days ago. For those of you who read this blog and are not Episcopalians, please try to understand the primary audience for this missive -- and the others on this topic.

Here's the e-mail:

I have been thinking about the upcoming bishop election. We do have five excellent candidates. I will discuss some of my thoughts about each in alphabetical order by last name.

Ronald Abrams has an interesting history. He's a native New Yorker who has spent much of his career in the South -- including one stint where he had significant dealings with the military. I was impressed with the fact that, while he sees value in the new technologies for communications, he thinks that personal contact is more important. You might be surprised, but I agree with him on that. You would not believe what I have read on the Internet -- and from people who don't come off as nuts as soon as you meet them. We are still learning how to communicate decently over electronic devices. Remember in 1811 the fastest way to get a message from New York City to Philadelphia was via men on horseback and an overnight stop in Trenton, N.J. People had more time to think back then. Our communications technologies may have evolved -- but we humans have not. Abrams came off as friendly and quite interested in strengthening our church with some good ideas on how to make this happen. Reaching out to the young especially with things like Theology Pubs has real merit. Getting our youth to think about their futures and our church is also a good idea.

Mariann Budde has had significant experience in Minnesota with turning around parishes that had fallen on hard times. I was very interested when she mentioned that the Episcopal Church does not have any sort of "brand" to the general public. We can change that. She seems aware of the problems with Washington National Cathedral -- possibly the church that is most identified with the Episcopal Church. We need a strong, healthy cathedral Given her interests, knowledge and overall energy, I think she would do well in bringing the cathedral back to health.

Let me interject a note about our lack of public attention at this point. I will cite one recent example here in Maryland. Former Governor William Donald Shaefer died in April. The man was not only respected as a great governor and before that mayor of Baltimore, but the man was positively loved. "He Cared." is on the front cover of the program of the celebration of his life. I am rather well informed about Maryland politics. Besides the Democratic Party, I am on the Episcopal Public Policy Network. When did I learn Shaefer was an Episcopalian? When I read his obituary. That is appalling.

Samuel Candler is a real Southerner -- but a very open minded one. He's led large churches that are doing well in this world. He seems able to communicate well with a wide variety of people. We need people such as him. I was quite impressed that he responded to my request for a joke with one that was funny. Later on we had a chance encounter during which he spoke appreciatively about my request. He recognized what I was getting at by making such an unusual request. In general he seems quite prepared to handle the real challenges of being Bishop of Washington, leading Episcopalians, interacting with politicians and the general public.

Jane Gould is originally from this area. I wonder if, for some reason, she is seeking to return. Boston is a fine area, but she might miss things about DC. I will note, though, that this area and diocese is sufficiently attractive in so many ways I won't hold the fact that she would be returning to the diocese of her youth against her. In some ways that makes her a strong candidate. I was very impressed that she manages to be both the priest that leads a quite multicultural parish and be Episcopal Chaplain at MIT, Tending to the spiritual needs of engineers and scientists who are willing to participate in a religion is quite a challenge.

John Harmon is a priest in our diocese. He. along with Jane Gould, probably understands our diocese best at present. He's also described himself as a product of Episcopalian education. He knows his way around DC politics -- both local and national. While he describes himself as a life long Episcopalian, his accent gave me the idea that he was born outside of the U.S. and spent some time living there. I could be wrong, of course. He is sharp and aware of both the challenges and opportunities we have with our church.

I think St. Mark's will be able to work well with any of these candidates. This is my first time actually paying attention to the internal politics of the Episcopal Church, at least regarding election of a bishop. I may even be able to rank the candidates in my eyes before the election. Yes, in one sense I am a good Episcopalian in that I have been a cradle Episcopalian born to cradle Episcopalians. Now I am starting to pay attention about the way things currently work in our diocese. I think I have much to learn. I also suspect I have much to offer.

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