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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bivocational Bishops?

The Episcopal Diocese of Eau Claire, which encompasses the northwestern third of the state of Wisconsin, has announced four candidates for the position of Bishop Diocesan.

There are approximately 21 congregations in the diocese, mostly small and rural.  I don't know how many have full or part time clergy on staff. Their last bishop was +Keith B. Whitmore, who served from 1999- 2008 and, last I heard, was assisting in the Diocese of Atlanta. 

The position is part time. 

To my knowledge, this is at least the second "part time" position of a Bishop Diocesan (I'm sorry but I can't remember the diocese - which means it's someplace west and south of RI :~), but I do remember that the bishop there is also rector of a "cardinal parish").  The Dioceses of Fond du Lac, Fort Worth and a few others in Michigan are considering either part time episcopacy or merger with another geographically contiguous diocese.

The retired bishop of Springfield, +Peter Beckwith, told me that when he was first elected there, the position offered him substantially less than what he was earning as a rector. The arrangement he had with them was that he remained in the National Reserve, working one weekend a month and taking a month in the summer for reserve training - none of which was considered "vacation time". It was the only way he could earn enough money for himself and his family and have a decent retirement.

I don't think he considered himself a "part time" or "bivocational bishop," but, in truth, that's what he was. I wonder how many other bishops in The Episcopal Church have either been quietly bivocational or worked full time for a part time pay and supplemented their salaries in other ways.

I've posted the announcement below. I love the descriptive phrase "roughly 20 hours per week". Roughly? You can bet it will be 'rough'.  Somebody is going to need to have some pretty firm yet semipermeable boundaries.

Interesting times in the church. New models of ministry and leadership are emerging, brought on mostly by financial necessity, but with an open, creative spirit. Seems we are going "back to the future" of episcopal leadership.

I wonder how we are preparing people - lay and ordained - for this new style of leadership?

Prayers for the people of the Diocese of Eau Claire, for the candidates, for their mutual discernment and for the church.

Diocese of Eau Claire Announces Candidates

dioshieldtransparentThe Episcopal Diocese of Eau Claire announced a slate of four candidates for its sixth bishop. They are:
  • The Rev. Robert B. Clarke, priest-in-charge, Holy Apostles’ Church, Oneida, Wisconsin (Diocese of Fond du Lac);
  • The Rev. Richard E. Craig III, former rector, St. John the Baptist, Portage, Wisconsin (Diocese of Milwaukee);
  • The Rev. Arthur B. Hancock, vicar, Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Hayward, Wisconsin (Diocese of Eau Claire); and
  • The Rev. W. Jay Lambert, rector, St. James Episcopal Church, Leesburg, Florida (Diocese of Central Florida).
All candidates will be in the Diocese of Eau Claire for public gatherings during the week starting Oct. 7. The election is scheduled for Nov. 9.

The sixth bishop’s position will be part time, averaging roughly 20 hours per week. “The ideal candidate will be able to support himself or herself through a part-time position, provide vision for new ways of working in the Episcopal Church, and an energetic spirituality that will nurture the wide variety of people to whom we minister,” according to information posted on the diocesan website.


Jackie said...

My feelings about bi-voc clergy have evolved (because that sounds so much more lofty than "changed!") over the years. It has been said that one should not pursue ordination unless one cannot do anything else, which I think has been grossly misinterpreted.
To be magnetically, irresistibly drawn toward ordination is different than being a washout at everything else--and I alas know people--too many--who fall into that latter cohort. If one brings other real, demonstrable skills to one's clerical service, one cannot help but be stronger even if serving in a full-time capacity. One will not feel trapped, because "I can't do anything else." One will be more likely to understand the struggles of the working person--or the unemployed person--if one has not been cossetted from seminary to settlement. And as the church is changing, how potentially exciting would it be to have clergy who don't wear their collars 24/7, who engage the world, who if they are priests or even bishops do not shed their diaconal identity, but embrace it in a very real way as they do extra-ecclesial work.
That said, you are absolutely correct; anyone pursuing this particular position will have to have impeccable boundaries. but the right person might just be a model for a newly mature church, one that is in and of the world in a very exciting new way.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Jackie - I'm not agin' the idea. In fact, I think it is probably a wonderful way forward for many dioceses. I also hope we do away with "diocesan offices" and, instead, begin to develop "satellite offices" in various parishes around the diocese, with bishops spending a certain amount of time in each - sleeves rolled up - penny loafers on the ground - in the midst of the people they are called to serve.

It's just a hunch, but I'm thinking that if more bishops spent more time in the dioceses to which they are called to servant leadership, there would be fewer congregations in "trouble".

Unknown said...

Having spent many of my almost 33 years of priestly ministry as bivocational, I am encouraged by the diversity of experience that bivocational bishops would bring to the mix. My original Diocese of Nebraska is forward looking in having diocesan office events in the western part of the geographically expansive diocese instead of centering everything around Omaha.
My work as a pharmacist has given me many opportunities to be a priestly presence everywhere I have ministered in either vocation. Elizabeth, you frequently mention what your own nursing training has contributed to your own full and wonderful ministry. It's all about the Body of Christ being the organic dynamic body that keeps it alive today.
Richard (back in Hawaii)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Richard (back in Hawaii?? we gotsta catch up, honey). Here's my thing: I really wish we would look at this model - for bishops and priests - not when we're staring at the bottom line of a deficit budget but as an authentic model of ministry. It doesn't work for everyone in every place but I think it's something everyone everywhere ought to consider. There are so many good reasons for this - but especially for bishops. Thanks for writing, darlin'. We'll catch up soon.

Unknown said...

The Diocese of North Dakota also has a part-time bishop: 0.33 FTE. The cathedral has a part-time dean: 0.66 FTE. Presently, the Bishop of North Dakota, Michael Smith, holds both positions, the latter being viewed by some as a permanent arrangement and by others as an interim. There are two other parishes in the see city. Both are served by clergy less than 0.50 FTE.

He is also the bishops advisory committee chair of the Communion Partner Bishops. His spouse, the Revd Lisa White Smith, the rector of the Church of the Epiphany in Plymouth, MN, about four hours away. Thusly, there are long stretches when he is absent from the diocese and the cathedral.

It has been interesting over the last decade to see things put together in diocesan leadership--clergy and laity--in increments of as little as 0.17 FTE here and there.

In this diocese, it is the bishop's policy--enforced mainly for progressive parishes--that clergy cannot be titled 'rector' unless they are 1.00 FTE. Always one for consistent thought, for which we may thank my high school government teacher, wouldn't that then be a bishop-in-charge?

At any rate, I'm not convinced that part-time diocesan bishops are a good thing. What is needed in the episcopate in small dioceses are individuals who are willing, ye even called, to do more of the hands on, work-a-day, parish growth, stewardship leadership, and all the things that in a large diocese are parcelled out to various staff members, clergy and laity.

What this would require, however, is something that many bishops seem not to want to give up: twice yearly HOB meetings, lots and lots of travel out of the diocese (perhaps less of a of a problem for geographically smaller dioceses), and, in the case of bishops such as the Communion Partners, international and national travel to meetings that have little to do with the daily life and well-being of the local diocese. Being a bishop of a small (in numbers) and large (in geographic area) diocese, it seems to me, can be pretty boring.

Further, I think that where the diocesan bishop and the diocesan convention come to the conclusion that a part-time bishop is what they would like to implement, it may well be that the incumbent bishop may not be the individual to be that part-time bishop. 'Tis hard to lay down the mitre, so I'm told.

James Mackay
Fargo ND

JCF said...

4 men.

Le Sigh.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Probably all Caucasian. And, over 40. Are we really surprised?

Matthew said...

To me this raises additional questions - what do we want a bishop tom do? What is the job? The comment above from north Dakota was interesting because in the Lutheran church, there are two bishops, synods, in ND - each with tens of thousands of members. How many people or parishes is the right size for the job. The elca has more members but half as many bishops. Is that good? Bad? Why? Our dioceses vary enormously in size from big ones like LA, Mass, and Virginia to tiny ones like ND. Why? Is that good? Bad? Other denominations structure their dioceses to be a similar size in terms of members and to hell with geography. Is that good? Bad? Or just different or irrelevant? Is it okay that bishops do different things in dioceses? How do we decide? Just wish we would have a denominational conversation about it is all, maybe online or breakout sessions at GC or something.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I'd love a denominational conversation about the episcopacy. Me? I want missional bishops.