Thursday, May 26, 2011

Walkabout for Episcopal Diocese of Washington Bishop Candidates -- Collington

On Wednesday, May 25th, I attended a walkabout at Collington. The focus of this walkabout was specifically on concerns for seniors and retirees.

The afternoon session began with the question about how the candidates would minister to diversity.

John Harmon spoke first. He expressed the thought that diversity should be more than mere tolerance. There is a need to communicate well. People must live together, not just visit.

Mariann Budde spoke next. She first became really aware of how different people could be when her second son was born. They were -- and are -- very different from one another. She noted that living in tension makes us sicker. We need to embrace our different communities and live into the fullness of our uniqueness.

Jane Gould spoke next. She feels called to be bishop because of diversity. She recognizes she serves a very diverse church. Young people meet elders in her very diverse parish. In her parish there is a need for communications across generations and racial differences. They also have partnerships with other, different congregations.

Ronald Abrams spoke next. He has done congregational work in a black church. He personally loves diversity in all its ways. It must be nurtured. He would create a bishop's lunch to bring together groups of clergy and a wardens' dinner to bring together groups of lay leadership.

Samuel Candler addressed us next. He mentioned that he grew up in a small church where diversity was the rule. The more diverse the church, the more you learn about God. He quoted Mother Teresa when she was asked by a young person what they could do, Mother Terese replied "Smile at the people you live with."

The audience now asked questions. The first was about gays being elected to high positions.

Samuel Candler said he supported same sex unions but also supported the world wide community -- which has members who do not.

Jane Gould spoke next. She signed the vote for Gene Robinson. She noted she served in a diverse community with varying views on this issue. She noted that one church leader in Africa had six wives but was still welcomed into the church. We must struggle with this issue every day.

John Harmon answered next. No one's gift should be denied. We need to connect with those who have different views.

Ronald Abrams spoke next. He was personally mentored ans supported by all kinds of clergy. Our broad and wide commitment to Christ is what brings us together. What we have together is greater than what we have apart.
One questioner asked about the breakdown of respect for divergent points of views.

John Harmon has met with most congregations in this diocese. He noted we must act on the views of the majority, but respect those who differ.

Samuel Candler commented that the antidote to bad behavior is to model right behavior.

Ronald Abrams cited examples of people working together.

Jane Gould observed that we must take moral positions in the larger community while respecting differences. She observed that government and political leaders have lost the sensibility that we have more in common than in difference.

Marian Budde said that is one reason why she wants the church to grow. We can help set the tone.

Financial matters were also the subject of one question. Budde said it was necessary to rebuild some congregations. Gould said that people give to what is most transformative in their lives. Candler said much the same thing. Harmon said people give to enterprises that reach the larger generation. Abrams said people must give out to the community and that is is important to bring out all parts of the community. Budde said it is important to listen to our elders because they have learned much. Harmon noted that it is important to listen to all groups. Candler said this his church had started a retirement home for seniors on low fixed incomes. He added that elders have wisdom. Gould noted that we need to help our elders. Addressing structural problems in our society is important.

I almost certainly missed some things. I will observe, again, that the candidates responded in similar ways to the variety of communities that they met. That, I will add, is quite expected and good. A candidate for bishop should be open and honest with all.

Once again, I did put some photos up on Flickr. You can find them as Bishop Walkabout, Collington.

I hope these notes and photos help people.

There is a good chance I will write my thoughts on this blog in the next few days -- perhaps a week or so. I will comment that all five candidates seem to be personally good people with sharp, open minds. I do expect that those who oppose women in priesthood would be happy to have the two women candidates as members, even lay leaders. I can't be sure of that, though.

Walkabout for Episcopal Diocese of Washington Bishop Candidates -- Washington Episcopal School

I also attended the walkabout on Tuesday evening, May 24th, for the bishop candidates. this one was held at the Washington Episcopal School. This school seems quite interesting. It runs from kindergarten through 8th grade. Some parents started this school because they thought that the existing offerings -- especially public -- left much to be desired. I did have a pleasant, albeit brief, chat with one man who was on the school's faculty.

Once again, the meeting began with the five candidates being asked one question. The question was "What experiences have you had that equip you to be Bishop of Washington?"

John Harmon was the first to answer. He made some key points:

  • He is completely the product of Episcopalian education.
  • He has good leadership skills.
  • He has a great love of people and God.
  • He has helped address the HIV problem as a leader of over 100 clergy with concerns.
  • He has done significant fund raising.

Samuel Candler was the second respondent. Among his points were:

  • He is a product of small towns.
  • He has led two major churches in the past 17 years.
  • He is attuned to both the conservative and liberal versions of Christianity.
  • He has met challenges by taking risks.
  • He praised his family. He learned much from listening to his mother.
  • He commented that we can be a great church for the entire Anglican communion.

Jane Gould spoke next. She made the points that:

  • She grew up in the DC area and attended college in California.
  • People have described her as a smart jock.
  • She is fed by diversity.
  • She brings people together in communities and encourages their gifts.

Mariann Budde was the fourth speaker. Points she made included:

  • There are many ways of being Christian. The Episcopal Church is particularly good at that.
  • She came of age as a young volunteer helping the poor.
  • She has led her current parish for 18 years, leading them to serve others.
  • Words are not enough. There must be actions as well.
  • She loves the Episcopal Church.

Ronald Abrams was the final speaker. He made some strong points:

  • He is a product of the Episcopal Church.
  • He grew up in a multicultural environment in New York.
  • When he was 15 his 20 year old brother died of Hodgkin's. The community helped in so many ways that it led him to commit his life to the church.
  • He has served in a variety of communities ranging from the Hamptons to Fayetteville to a military community.

We then moved to breakout rooms to question the candidates individually. One difference this evening from St. Mary's was that the groups were larger and more equally divided.

The first candidate in my room was Samuel Candler. He made a number of points in answer to various questions. Among them were:

  • We must have the support of the community in reaching out to the larger church.
  • One the topic of same sex unions he favors them greatly. He added, though, that you did not have to agree with him to be a part of the community.
  • Listening to people is important.
  • A bishop should learn one distinctive thing about each parish.
  • The number of parishes is dropping. We need to reverse that trend.
  • In response to a question about resolving conflict, he mentioned that in 2003 he gave a speech at our general convention favoring same sex unions. When he got home, he engaged his parish with an open, engaging conversation. His parish has 6000 members.
  • Regarding college ministries he said that the diocese should not duplicate college ministries of parishes but support said ministries.
  • I asked him to tell a good joke. I found his response funny. I suspect, though, that the people running the session did not completely appreciate what I did because, when I held my hand up to do the same for other candidates, I was politely ignored.

The next candidate we interviewed was Mariann Budde. Among her points were:

  • She endorses the report made about Washington National Cathedral.
  • Her parish was failing when she arrived. Her predecessor and lay leaders began its revival. She continued that work. It is important to not define yourself by what you don't have, but by what you do. Her current parish has become a "big sister" to parishes currently struggling.
  • It is important for the bishop to learn the strengths of various parishes.
  • When asked about personal strengths, she mentioned her high energy, a great love of the complexity of humans and a lack of fear of other faiths.
  • She sees a sea change happening in the episcopate. The church is at a critical juncture. Parishes need attention. this is a collective era of renewal.
  • Raising the profile of the church is important. Most people had no idea about what the Episcopal Church stood for or did. Her diocese began to address this problem by putting up billboards.

Ronald Abrams was the next speaker. He mentioned several important things, including:

  • New technologies are important and can help, but one on one approach is best.
  • He has seen breakdowns in communications.
  • You can't get communion through TV.
  • He supports same sex unions.
  • It is important to be collegial in working with staff. Trust must be built. It can't be done through micromanagement. His door is always open.
  • When someone in his current congregation has a loss, the church community steps forward together to help.

John Harmon was the next candidate to appear. He spoke to similar concerns. He noted that, while he supported same sex unions, it was necessary to work with all, whether they agreed or not.

Jane Gould was the last to speak. She did mention briefly that some deacons had unhealthy work life balances.

You will note that I did not do much note taking for the last two candidates. It was not because of a lack of interest or unwillingness to report. It was, in good part, because the questions the candidates were asked were very similar to the questions asked at St. Mary's with similar responses. In short,I got tired of note taking.

I did do some photographs of this event. You can find them on Flickr as Bishop Walkabout, Washington Episcopal School.

I hope people find this report and the photographs helpful.