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What I Would Do If I Were a Bishop

What I Would Do If I Were a Bishop

(Continuing the long-running series of articles by the pastor of a local church.)


            If I were a bishop, this is what I would do: I would be a pastor.

            I would get to know by name the pastors and lay leaders given to my care.  I would gather and treasure the details of their lives.  I would find out where they hurt and what makes them laugh.  When death touches their families, I would visit or, if that’s impossible, personally call them.

            I would listen… carefully to what is on the other’s mind and heart, and, then, as conscience and judgment dictate, alter my own understandings as enlightened by theirs.

            I would communicate.  I would write my own letters.  I would dial my own phone.  I would be available. I would be open and receptive to everyone and, maybe, especially those with whom I do not see eye to eye.

            I would get around, drive my own car, and visit the far-flung corners of my jurisdiction.  I would actively seek out those who need my attention and not just those who clamor for it. 

            I would forego most of the building dedications and would invite myself for Sunday preaching and serving communion in churches where the episcopal presence has been absent for many years.

            I would honor my promises and not promise more than I could deliver.

            I would not ask anyone to do anything for me that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself.

            I would insist on fiscal responsibility up and down the line, beginning with me, and find a way, however difficult it might be, to put the Conference’s budget on a solid basis without the smoke and mirrors of contingency funds.

            I would actively recruit pastors of intelligence and commitment by personally visiting seminaries and issuing the challenge and joys of pastoral leadership to the young people in Conference churches.

            And I would do anything needed to provide my office with the honor and respect that comes no other way than by doing your job thoroughly and for the sake of those you serve.  In other words, I would spend myself freely and generously for the sake of the kingdom, the way a pastor is supposed to in his or her own parish.  I would immerse myself in the lives of those in God’s providence given to my care.

            If you or I had the time, we could probably add to this list a dozen more “I would’s”.  The problem with the episcopacy in the present moment, as seen from the perspective of this one now on the sidelines, is quite simply who is serving whom.  Roman Catholics aren’t the only ones who have been asking of late, “Is he really on my side?  Does he really know my situation and care about me?”  If I were a bishop, I would have this red letter verse taped to the monitor of my computer: “I am among you as one who serves.”

            That’s what I would do if I were a bishop.  But, of course, I wasn’t one and now cannot be one.  “The problem with you, Howard,” my DS once opined, “is that you have never done anything new.”  True, true: all I have done is preach the word, administer the sacraments, and tend the flock of Christ… with everything I am and have.  I would ask as much (or as little) from anyone aspiring to be a bishop… especially “tend the flock of Christ.”

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