Tuesday, November 27, 2012

... not the debtor forgiven 50 denarii, but the one forgiven 500

This is my response to the third and final question on the diocesan profile.  My complete candidate profile and the profiles of all the candidates, including their responses to the same three questions, can be found here.

Given the concerns, challenges, ministries identified in the diocesan profile and the challenges facing the wider Church in this present age, what vision and gifts do you have to assist the diocese in more ably living and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

I think I bring three unique gifts to this process.

1. My work in the Navy, particularly in the latter years, where I was responsible for the education and formation of junior officers, led me to read and reflect extensively on the nature of leadership to a degree which likely would not have happened had I remained in parish ministry during that period.

2. My work in public relations gives me particular insight and expertise in how organizations communicate complex ideas to a broad range of audiences outside the institution itself, using a variety of tools and techniques. Again, this likely would not have been the case had I remained in parish ministry.

3. The circumstances which led to my time away from the exercise of my ordained ministry led to an extended period of alienation from the Church. This experience, I believe, gives me a particular capacity to understand the perspective of those who are likewise alienated. At the same time, the experience of grace in my life, which overcame that alienation and which eventually led to my return to active ministry gives me a particular capacity to speak to the transformative power of God’s love. I was not the debtor forgiven 50 denarii, but the one forgiven 500 (Luke 7: 41 – 44). To my surprise, many of those who encouraged me to let my name stand pointed to this as the most important experience I have to offer in this process.

The Church I want to see proclaims this kind of transformative power to the world using every means available. That is the mission Christ has given us.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"... influencing human behaviour to accomplish a mission ..."

I had hoped to post an in depth response to the recent vote on female bishops in the Church of England, but due to a computer meltdown I'm working from an unfamiliar machine.  Instead, I'll publish (as promised) the next installment of my responses to the Qu'Appelle Diocesan Profile.

What is your understanding of the nature of Christian Leadership, and how would you see that functioning in light of the diocesan profile?

Clearly any discussion of Christian leadership must begin with Jesus, who came not to be served, but to serve. Christian leadership – and, frankly, any kind of effective leadership – is focused not on the leader, but on the led.

Transformational leaders change the culture of the body they lead. I think principally they do this by example. They also do it by engaging their people more closely and more personally. I’m a big fan of LBWA (Leadership By Walking Around). Practically, that means a Bishop who is on the road in the Diocese, for whom St. Cuthbert’s House is not a workplace, but a base of operation – as our church buildings are bases for mission.

The Canadian Navy Leadership Manual defines leadership as, “the art of influencing human behaviour to accomplish a mission . . .” That’s not a bad place to start. Effective leadership will require different approaches at different times. While some situations may require the leader to be very direct, the “Father Knows Best” approach is generally unhelpful. People will own the mission more effectively if they are led to a decision rather than compelled. Sometimes effective leadership requires the leader to let people make their own mistakes in order to learn from them. And one of the principal tasks of any leader is to develop the leadership capacity of others. In the latter part of my naval career, my most important responsibility was teaching and mentoring young officers to become effective leaders.

If our next Bishop can focus on the lives of the parishes and congregations and on strengthening the lay and ordained leadership of the Diocese, we will be well on our way to accomplishing our mission.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted . . ."

The title of this post is a quotation from the Chicago - Lambeth Quadrilateral, which sets forth an Anglican view about the basis for eventual organic union among Christian Churches.  I'm pondering the nature of the historic episcopate a little more closely these days because I find myself nominated as one of seven candidates to be the XIIth Bishop of Qu'Appelle.

As part of the process, each of the candidates has completed a profile which includes basic curriculum vitae information as well as our responses to three questions regarding the Diocesan Profile (.pdf).  The profiles of all seven candidates can be found here.

Over the next few days, I intend to share my responses to the three questions.
The diocesan profile speaks about the challenge of moving "from a maintenance mentality to a mission mentality." From the evolution of locally ordained leadership to the use of the internet and social networking, from ecumenical partnerships to the renewal of First Nations ministries, the Diocese of Qu'Appelle has often been prepared to experiment and to take risks. Based on your reading of the profile and your knowledge of the diocese, which of these or other opportunities would you see for the diocese to pursue the Great Commission more effectively in the post-Christendom context?
Shifting from the Christendom / Maintenance mentality to a post-Christendom / Mission mentality will have to run significantly deeper than seizing opportunities or engaging in new and experimental approaches. It will require a complete transformation of our understanding of the mission context.
At the Ascension, Jesus tells the Eleven to return to Jerusalem to await the Holy Spirit. And he tells them, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1: 8b). So they go back to Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit comes upon them and they witness to Jesus in Jerusalem. The earliest followers of the Way are comfortable in Jerusalem. They know and understand the religious culture in Jerusalem. They "get" the familiar rhythm of Temple worship. It takes the crisis of the arrest and stoning of Stephen and the subsequent persecution before the early Church is "scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria" (Acts 8: 1b) and "those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word" (Acts 8: 4).
We are comfortable in our parishes and congregations as they are. We know and understand the religious culture of our congregations. We "get" the familiar rhythm of Anglican worship. But like the early Church, we need to be reminded that the mission of the Church is not in here, it’s out there.
The first Mission Action Plan, entirely appropriately, was mostly focussed internally, on equipping current members. This was essential. But the next iteration of the Mission Action Plan needs to shift us to the next phase, so we can be scattered throughout the countryside of Qu’Appelle to proclaim the word.
Initiatives like the Qu’Appelle School for Mission and Ministry can be very effective at equipping us to be Jesus’s witnesses. Regional approaches like the Pelly Deanery mission can strengthen local congregations as centres of mission. Q-Events not only provide useful learning opportunities, but they also help people to realize that they are part of a much larger missionary enterprise. These things prepare us to be scattered.
We need to learn more about the social context we find ourselves in. In the US, almost 20% of adults (almost 33% of adults under 30) now have no religious affiliation. Yet 68% of them believe in God, 41% say they pray regularly, while 18% say they are religious and 37% spiritual but not religious. Only 10% are looking for a faith community, in part because 70% say that religious institutions are too concerned with money and power. These are American numbers, but I doubt the Canadian numbers are that different.
That is our primary mission field. They are not hostile to the Church. They are largely indifferent and they see little to challenge that indifference. Reaching them will require creative, effective and strategic communications using all the tools at our disposal, including stronger online presence and more visible presence in our communities.
In the heart of our see city is one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Canada. There are people in communities throughout the diocese who are learning that "more stuff" does not fill their spiritual need. There’s mission to be done and there are people who need to hear the Good News. But to tell them this Good News, we need to have the courage to leave our buildings and to go where they are.