Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Bishop Speaks

The Bishop speaks - Introduction

I have great hope for the future of the diocese. One of my hopes is for our diocese to become a place where clergy are dying to get in rather than dying when they get in.

I was asked, in the public interview process before the election of a new bishop, how I would describe my strongest point in being a bishop. This was an easy question for me to answer. My greatest strength, as I would put it, is my memory of what life was like as a rector. I have served under four bishops in my nearly 20 years of ordination and it was not always great. My commitment to you and to myself is that I will take the things which my bishops did that I liked and I will do those things. The things they did which I did not like will not be done here. I need to tell you the things I liked, as a rector, are part of a very short list.

Now, having said that, you need to know things will be different under my leadership because I am different from my predecessor. Whatever directions we decide to take in the future, we need to be free to not let that be a criticism of the past. We will draw a line. We are now here. We are going to do things differently, and I do not want any of us to keep apologizing for that. We are now on the other side of the line, and it's all OK. I believe my predecessor was clearly the man of the hour to do the things he did. I bless that and it is now a new day. Let us begin.

I want to establish an environment which is penalty-free regarding thinking. You are totally free to express your thoughts. To do anything else stifles creativity. The gifts we need are all here. For us to work most effectively, we need to set them all free. To the extent we put restrictions on people's freedom to think, we restrict what we can do.

In order to have a penalty-free environment, someone is going to have to take some risks. I will be that person. My first risk is telling you this. Every one of us is going to have to seek a personal comfort level. I recognize this will be difficult for some, but I want you to be invested in what we are going to do.

I do not claim to always be right, but I do claim to always be clear.

The story begins with Parsifal. He is the legendary knight who sought the Holy Grail. As you know, the Grail was the chalice used by Jesus at the Last Supper. For Parsifal it symbolized a contact with the holy, with spiritual reality. His quest for the Grail was a quest for the truth about life and immortality.

The secret of the Grail was held by an old King, but this King was suffering from a mysterious illness. His whole kingdom was cast under this same spell. The palace and its gardens were in decay, the springs of the kingdom were drying up, trees would not bear fruit, and even the animals were no longer bearing young.

Knights from all over the realm arrived every day seeking news of the king's health. Then one day Parsifal arrived – poor and unknown. He paid no attention to courtly custom and politeness, but made straight for the king's chamber, and without greeting, or inquiry about the king's health, said, “Where is the Grail?” As if to say, “Where do I find the Holy? . . . Where is the truth about the meaning of life?”

In that instant, everything was transformed. The King rose from his bed, made well; springs brought forth water; vegetation began to grow; animals were with young; and the castle was restored. Parsifal's question regenerated the whole land.

The central point here is that institutions perish where there are no seekers of truth, no adventurers. It is enough, you see, simply to raise the central questions, to pose the problem, to become a seeker, for life to return.

For a church to begin to ask questions inevitably leads to seeking answers, which leads to vision, which leads to mission.

There is more to be said and it will be said. We are on the journey of creating the church of our dreams.


  1. Bob, thank you. I know enough to be aware of your life as a Bishop which has been all about true seeking. It is the Episcopal Journey of Hope in person and professional leadership. To seek truth is to seek relationships that bring, like Parsifal to the King, the gathering moment of journey into truth, and that is hope.

  2. I think that I would like to be a part of the truthful and free church of our dreams. Freedom to think and speak without fear is critical to life in the church; indeeed, life anywhere. Thanks you Bob for reminding us that clear thinking and communications is a first principle in church reform and renewal.

  3. “The Bishop Speaks” is a rare insight into Episcopal leadership; we welcome the candor and thank Bishop Bob. However, we must point out that that not all leadership at that level is as well grounded as our writer demonstrates. For example, Mahatma Gandhi upheld that “We must become the change we want to see.” Bob says, “I will take the things which my (previous) bishops did that I liked and I will do those things. The things they did which I did not like will not be done here.” Same thing, right? Outstanding!