Sunday, March 02, 2014

Master, it is good that we are here! - Bishop's Address to the 230th Covention of the Diocese of New Jersey

             .Welcome to all clergy and lay delegates, to all volunteers and staff, to our guests….Welcome to the 230th Convention of the Diocese of New Jersey.   A special welcome to Bishop Victor Scantlebury, Acting Bishop of the Diocese of Ecuador Central; to Bishop Blair Couch of the Moravian Church and to Pastor Wayne Zschech of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.   It is great to have you here.
Our youngest son, Richard, visited us last week.  He’s 27.  This past Monday, he and I decided to go play.   We drove up early Monday morning to Shawnee Mountain to go skiing. Actually, I went to ski, he went to snowboard. (It’s a generational thing.)  Watching a lot of the Winter Olympics gave us both the urge to hit the slopes.
Monday was a gorgeous day.  I hadn’t skied in more than 14 years, nor had he. We took a couple of test runs on the “bunny slope” just to get our ski legs.  The conditions were icy, so it took a lot of work, but we did all right.  We decided to take the chair lift to the top and try a more ambitious run.
            The ride up was crisp and clear and wonderful.  I enjoyed the view and the gleaming, white slopes beneath me.   We exited the lift.  I skied  down a bit to clear the lift and position myself toward the beginning of an easy trail, to wait as Richard clipped his boots to his snowboard.  He was concentrating on what he was doing.  I caught myself just looking at him,  remembering the little boy he had been,  proud of the man he has become,  deeply thankful for this moment, this rare moment, when we could both take time out from our otherwise busy lives and be together.  I wanted it to last.  I wanted it to last forever.
            “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings; one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah”   (Luke 9:33).
I get Peter’s desire to hang on to the moment, to memorialize the experience on Transfiguration Mount.   I’ll bet we all do.  I’ll bet many of us have preached that sermon.  I have…I just did…It’s become a cliché.  Still, it does resonate with us and with our life experiences.
Of course, Peter’s situation is different.  It’s a lot different. After all, Peter, James and John were with Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Son. That makes a difference. The context of the Transfiguration within the biblical narrative makes a difference.  I’ll come back to that, I promise, but for now, indulge  me…Let me think of Richard andwallow in the sentimentality of Peter wanting to preserve the moment, to  freeze it in time….
 “Master, it is good for us to be here…”
Yes, and it is good for us to be here now….I can’t tell you how great a joy it is for me to be with you in this place for my first Convention as your bishop.  A year ago when you gathered, the nominees for bishop had just been announced.   That announcement was the culmination of more than a year’s work by the Episcopal Election Committee Co-chaired by Deborah Schmidt and Fr. Ron Pollock.They labored diligently, along with consultant Ron Clingenpeel, to develop a process to discern what God was doing in the Diocese of New Jersey; to discern what God was up to in the neighborhoods of New Jersey, to anticipate the theme of this year’s Convention key-note speaker Dwight Zscheile.[1] You all worked together to try to a call a bishop that would be a good fit for what you felt the Lord was calling the Diocese of New Jersey to…And here we are, in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), all of us, hoping you have chosen wisely, that I have discerned faithfully and that we have all been under guidance the Holy Spirit…

Master, it is good for us to be here….

Susan and I have felt tremendously welcome and supported from the moment we quite literally landed in Cape May back in July.  We have had wonderful adventures across the diocese:  Spirit-filled worship at Cristo Rey and St. Peter’s Igbo Church in Trenton; a joyous, joint celebration of the Eucharist with the people of St. Mary’s Point Pleasant Beach and All Saints, Bay Head this summer before All Saints returned to their beautifully rebuilt sanctuary this past December.  I had the great honor and delight of being present for that as well.  We joined in for a Vestry Barbecue at St. Francis, Dunellen and an energetic, faith-filled conversation with their Vestry.  We’ve shared lots of other worship and fellowship experiences with different churches and church leaders.
We’ve joined with the youth of the Diocese on a couple of occasions.   Wow!   Are we blessed with outstanding youth and outstanding youth leaders headed up by our Diocesan Youth Leader Debi Clark with Julia Nemec and Arlis Astudillo, Co-Chairs of Youth Council.
Of course there was the magnificent Consecration at Trinity Cathedral on November 2.   I am most grateful to the Greg Bezilla and the entire Transition Committee, to Dean Rene John and to the people of Trinity Cathedral, to the outstanding Liturgical Commission, to the Diocesan staff who worked so hard to make that a glorious occasion for us all.    
Since then I’ve had my first ordinations, celebrations of new ministry; first Christmas at the Cathedral as well as my first Bishop’s Ball, Acolyte Festival and Absalom Jones Festival. (By the way, a very special Cathedral Day is planned for Sunday, June 1 when we are all encouraged to celebrate the important place the Cathedral has in our common life. More information will be coming. I encourage you to support it). 
Susan and I have shared fellowship, or worship, or both, with about 50 of the congregations of the Diocese or their representatives since I started on August 1st.  I can assure you, wonderful things are going on in the Diocese of New Jersey.  The living presence of Jesus Christ, the transfiguring light of Christ, is present, vibrant and vital throughout the Diocese of New Jersey from Sandy Relief efforts being led up by our own Disaster Recovery Coordinator Keith Adams, to feeding ministries at St. Paul’s, Camden and so many other churches in our downtowns and rural communities, to the rich and various ways God’s praises and love are celebrated in the parishes and missions of this diocese every day and every week….

Master, it is good for us to be here!

I want to take a moment to acknowledge the 11th Bishop of New Jersey, The  Right Reverend George Edward Councell.   It was a great blessing and privilege to work with him in those first three months of the transition. Bishop Councell’s grace-filled ministry of care and healing was a tremendous gift of God to us all.  For his faithfulness, love of the Lord Jesus Christ and his ministry among you I am deeply thankful, as I believe we all are.
I am also deeply thankful for the staff that Bishop Councell put in place at Diocesan House. They are superior in every way.   This was evident to me during the Walk-Abouts.   They have only confirmed my feelings since I started working with them.   To a person, they are each a treasure.  We all understand that our primary reason for being is to serve and strengthen you to engage in God’s mission in the communities of this Diocese. 
I would like to take this opportunity to remember and give thanks for the life and ministry of Canon Cynthia McFarland who died two weeks ago after a grueling battle with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.   Cynthia’s contributions to the Diocese of New Jersey and to the wider Church cannot be numbered.   Her death is a great loss.    She leaves a lasting legacy with the work she has done as Historiographer and Archivist.   May she rest in peace and rise in glory.   
Fr. Richard Wrede has offered to step into the breach, for which I am thankful.  I am appointing him Acting Historiographer and Archivist so that the progress and work Cynthia has done will not be lost. 
I am also most thankful for the Lay Leaders who volunteer in critical capacities in the Diocese:  Paul Ambos has served as the Acting-Chancellor since the untimely death of John Wood Goldsack.    Paul’s love of the Lord and of his Church and his knowledge and expertise of canon law are great gifts to me and to us and so, with this Convention, I am appointing Paul Ambos Chancellor of the Diocese of New Jersey.   I am thankful for the work, ministry and dedication of Jim Bathurst who serves as Treasurer, of Steven Lewis who serves as Church Attorney and of Cheryl Browne, Secretary to Convention.  
With this Convention, Fr. Sunil Chandy steps down from his service on The Standing Committee.   There are particular pressures and challenges on a President of Standing Committee during an Episcopal Election and Transition.  I want to acknowledge his commitment and conscientiousness in fulfilling this important responsibility.  Thank you, Fr. Chandy.
There are so many gifted and talented people serving in this diocese,  all of you in this room. We are so blessed, how can we not join with Peter and say, Master, it is good for us to be here?
And yet, if we are honest, we must confess that there are things about us, aspects about our being here that merit some questions and some concern. I think it is important that we gather, share time together, enjoy fellowship and do some of the necessary work of organizing ourselves as a body, but it is also true that in too many ways, the  mechanisms and organisms of structure become the be-all and end-all of what we do.  There is too much bureaucracy, too much top-heavy structure, cumbersome canons and customs that can, and often do, become obstacles to mission, God’s mission.    This very corporate way of operating can be, and often is, a hindrance.
We need to continue to examine, reimagine and simplify the structures of the Diocese of New Jersey, as the larger Episcopal Church is seeking to examine, reimagine and simplify its own structures.   I understand this work had been undertaken in the diocese a few years ago, I am going to support it being restarted and continuing.
The primary locus of mission and ministry is not Diocesan Convention, nor Council, nor Diocesan House and staff….It is not even the parishes and missions of the Diocese.  The primary locus of mission and ministry are the communities we are called to serve;  the towns and cities where we are called to discover God’s presence and God’s challenges and to respond .
 Peter, James and John may have wanted to stay up on Transfiguration Mount and hold a Convention, but that’s not what that experience was about.  They were blessed to experience a theophany, a manifestation of God, but it was not a theophany for the sake of the experience itself; there was a purpose for the event.
It’s worth noting that narratives of the Transfiguration always begin with a reference to events some days before:  “Now about eight days after these sayings,  Jesus took with him Peter, James and John and went up on the mountain to pray…” (Luke 9:28).  Eight days after what sayings?!  
The printed lectionary many churches use, unhelpfully tries to establish the context with an editorial insertion… “Eight days after Peter declared Jesus to be the Messiah…” This is misleading.  It encourages us to focus on what Peter says rather than what Jesus says….
In Luke’s Gospel, eight days before, Jesus had been praying, as he does frequently, especially in Luke’s portrayal (Luke 9:18). In the course of his prayer he was, apparently, troubled. . He was alone with his disciples.  He turns to them and asks, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” (Luke 9:18). This question should intrigue us…How many people today are asking who Jesus is?   What a wide variety of answers there are in the popular culture… “They answered, John the Baptist, but others say Elijah; and still others that one of the ancient prophets has arisen” (Luke 9:19).
But who do you say that I am? (Luke 9:20). To me this is among the most important questions in all of Scripture.   Every generation must answer this question….Each person in every generation must answer this question for him or herself….Who do you say that I am?   Peter answered “The Messiah of God.”   (Luke 9:20).
[Jesus] sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes and be killed, and on  the third day be raised” (Luke 9:21].  With this response, Jesus is defining what being Messiah means to him. It is a shocking statement and identification of Messiah as the Suffering Servant; so shocking that in Matthew and Mark, Peter is repelled by it and rebukes Jesus (See Mt 16;22, Mk 8:32).
Yes, Peter got the identification of Jesus as Messiah right, but his understanding of what that means was not in accord with Jesus’ own understanding, at least as Mark and Matthew portray the scene. Characteristically, Luke shields the reputation of the apostles and does not portray that exchange nor Jesus’ resulting rebuke of Peter, “Get behind me Satan….” (Mt. 16:23, Mk 8:33).
Jesus predicts his passion for the first time and then says to his Apostles….  “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it (Luke 9:23-24).
It is eight days after this in Luke, eight days after these sayings, that Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray, Transfiguration Mountain (Luke 9:28). It is eight days after these sayings that Jesus is transfigured before them; eight days later when the voice speaks from the cloud, speaks in the midst of the theophany and says to those three apostles, “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him!” (Luke 9:35).  Exclamation point!
Listen to him when he tells you he must undergo great suffering and be rejected ….Listen to him when he tells you that he will be killed and on the third day rise again…Listen to him when he says to you, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.  Listen to him!”
The Transfiguration is, without question, a hint and harbinger of Easter but, it also serves an interpretive  function within the gospels. It affirms Jesus’ own understanding of what it is to be the Messiah, the Christ, and also what it is to be his disciples:  The Son of Man must suffer…., If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.   For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it….It is about Jesus’ mission….It is about God’s kingdom…..It is about who we as disciples are to be in joining up with God in that mission….It’s about our cross-bearing and bringing the light of Christ and going up to the Jerusalems of the world and confronting the dark places and places of abusive power and shedding the light and love  of Christ.
Master, it is good that we are here!  Yes, yes it is, but we can’t stay here.  We have to go up to Jerusalem.  We have some cross-bearing to do.  We have to lose our lives so that we can gain them. Wonderful, grace-filled things are going on  in the Diocese of New Jersey; I’ve already mentioned some of them.  There are also enormous challenges in front of us….Challenges that result from the diminished place of the Church in our society and culture, or shifts in population away from urban areas and blight;  challenges that result from our own short-comings and too often our  failure to adapt to changing circumstances and to the beckoning call of God to go forth from the relative safety of our sanctuaries into the world to engage in deep ways  the communities where our parishes and missions are located.
 We know from the study before the Election of a Bishop and from the Profile that many parishes and communties are struggling. (See The economy has been difficult. It is clear that we need to be adaptive in the face of these challenges…Many congregations need to reconsider how they approach God’s mission and ministry.  Most of us recognize that we have too many buildings that are being underutilized….We have too many buildings, period.
In far too many instances these buildings are in a poor state of repair. Small handfuls of people are doing everything they can to keep the doors open. I’m challenged by this. I hope you are too.  Is that what we’re supposed to be doing?   Is the mission of the Church to keep buildings open?  To pour enormous amounts of money into structures that are decaying, falling apart, and serving a dozen or even two dozen people?  Is this what Christ came to earth and died for?  Our buildings are to serve God’s mission, God’s mission is not to serve the buildings. In too many instances we have got this backwards. 
 I love many of our buildings….Many are beautiful works of art that were built to praise and glorify God.  Precious passages and milestones of life have taken place in them; they are repositories of history and faith.  Many continue to serve the purpose for which they were constructed:  They are centers of gathering, worship and service, of observing life’s passages; places supporting God’s mission in the world and in the communities in which the buildings are situated.
But some of our buildings are barely serving the purposes for which they were constructed; they have become albatrosses hanging around the necks of remnant congregations.  These buildings are draining resources that could be converted and used for dynamic mission and ministry that serves God’s purposes.  We need to be intentional in assessing in each instance the purpose or purposes our church buildings are serving. 
We have congregations that should give very serious consideration to merging with other congregations.  Not only would this result in more efficient use of space and finances, it would help create a better critical mass of people to engage in mission and ministry .
I have enjoyed being in conversation with the leadership of St. Francis, Dunellen and with the leadership of St. Elizabeth’s, Elizabeth, both of which overcame the fears and anxieties of merger and discovered in the process that it brought about resurrection – new understanding of purpose, new understanding of priorities, enriched community and enriched commitment to ministry beyond their buildings. 
In a while we will see a short video that tells their stories along with that of St. Andrew’s Bridgeton and Trinity, Vineland.   When it comes to the kind of faith, courage, creativity and initiative demonstrated through stories like these in re-imagining ourselves as church, diocesan leadership is committed to offering strong financial and administrative support.  We can no longer, however, justify supporting failing buildings and missions. 
While the finance and budget proposals that will be placed before you today remain fairly conservative, and in total dollars the operating budget remains basically flat when compared to the budget a year ago, the proposals do contain three important initiatives that I pray you will support:
The first initiative calls for an allocation of $44,234 from the Disposition of Church Assets Fund to the operating budget to support the creation of a staff position -  Canon for Congregational Development and Mission.  This person will have responsibility for coordinating our diocesan efforts to assist congregations in developing and implementing plans for renewed mission and ministry, investigating new opportunities, developing regional collaborations and working with our Congregational Development Committee to expand our capacity in all of these areas.  I imagine a process developing whereby teams from parishes and missions will come together to share ideas and best practices and to encourage one another in carrying out the Lord’s work. 
The second initiative calls for an allocation of $45,500 from the Disposition of Church Assets Fund to support the establishment of a Regional Hispanic Missioner in the Monmouth/Ocean County areas of Red Bank, Toms River, Point Pleasant Beach and Lakewood.  This is a cooperative partnership in terms of both human and financial resources between the Diocese and three parishes.  It serves as the foundation for a visionary plan to go up to four of our Jerusalems and use the Good News of Jesus Christ to break down barriers  that currently keep cultures separated, unifying them as one community of faith.
The third initiative is to create a process whereby parishes, missions and others in the diocese can apply to use the DCA Fund to support new ideas  for mission and ministry.   This is a good beginning towards streamlining some of the cumbersome structures that have kept resources trapped on the mountain, releasing and re-tasking them to do God’s work in the world around us.  All three of these proposals are very much in the spirit of previous recommendations to Convention for the use of these funds, and especially in strengthening Hispanic Ministry which is, as you know, a major area of growth in the diocese and in the wider church.
In order for us to be more effective and unified in carrying out mission and ministry, I am enhancing the place of the Convocations and strengthening the role and authority of the Deans in the Convocations.   I will work more closely with them, and am asking them to work more closely with the Congregations in their Convocations, and especially where congregations are struggling.
During Convocations in the fall, I heard, loudly and clearly, a greater desire from the people of the Diocese to decentralize from Trenton and to be more regional in our offerings of resources.   Staff and I are committed to doing this.  This past month, Phyllis, Cecilia and Jonathan went out to different parts of the Diocese to lead Vestry and Treasurer workshops.   We will do this more often.
Nonetheless, Trenton and our Cathedral is still a center of our diocesan life.  Cost and time limits often make it the best choice for some events.  This is true of our March Parish Leadership Day when Hugh O’Doherty of Cambridge Leadership Associates and the Kennedy School for Government at Harvard University will be with us to share the basics of Adaptive Leadership.[2]  This is a follow-up to the outstanding work he did with the clergy at Clergy Conference this past November. 
Among my objectives for the Diocese of New Jersey is a renewed commitment to Christian formation.   This is an adaptive problem. The traditional Sunday School model has become less effective.  Individuals and families are devoting less and less time to Church and to Christian formation.   It’s a complex problem that requires real creativity. A Church-based, school-instruction model will not be the primary model of delivery.   We have to find ways to get into people’s homes.   
We have to recognize that formation is beyond what happens in a class, and embrace an understanding that everything we do, every occasion for which we gather, including in this home, perhaps most especially in the home, has the potential of being a formative event.   We also need to get up to speed with the technological delivery of Christian education – through videos and webinars for example.  The Diocese can and will be a resource in developing the thinking and strategies around these concerns. I will be reforming and re-commissioning the Committee on Lifelong Christian Formation to accomplish this.
We are blessed in this diocese to have vibrant College Chaplaincies – at Rutgers, Princeton and at The College of New Jersey and at Rowan, and to have the Procter Foundation which supports much of this.  I am thankful for the ministries of Greg Bezilla, Peter French, Lisa Caton and Deacon John Hanson and am committed to supporting them and the growth of our engagement with the colleges and universities in the diocese.  I am also committed to being a presence on those campuses in whatever way I can be.
I am thrilled that many of our Postulants and Candidates for Holy Orders are here.  It’s an exciting time to be called into ordained ministry.  You [who are feeling called to ordained ministry] all are coming to realize that the old models of traditional ministry are no longer as secure as they once were….This is especially true for those of you moving toward priesthood.   Today’s newly ordained are going to have to be much more creative, more entrepreneurial than clergy in days past.  There are very few entry level positions – curates and associates positions -  where we can train people.   There are increasingly fewer full-time clergy positions overall.    In part, some of this goes back to our having too many buildings with too few people.   But there are also larger global issues that are contributing to this, such as the cost of maintaining full-time clergy.  Again this is an adaptive problem and it will require experimentation and flexibility from everyone.
I am, however, committed to trying to work with parishes to create some curates’ and associates positions where they would be valuable.  This is something I will be working on in the next year.   I am equally committed to trying to retain the newly ordained of the diocese in the diocese.   Recently, we have been sending people to seminary, supporting them through the process, and then releasing them to other dioceses because we don’t have positions to offer them.  We’re losing vital, young talent by doing this.  I want us to work on ways to keep them here. 
The Diocese of New Jersey is blessed with a strong diaconate and a strong Deacons School, ably administered by Canon Linda Moeller and her faculty and assistants.   This strong diaconate was a very real part of the attraction of New Jersey to me.   Three Archdeacons have overseen the work of the diaconate and will be stepping down at the conclusion of this Convention.  They are:  Archdeacon Victoria Cuff who oversaw the formation and ordination process along with Canon Moeller; Archdeacon Keith McCoy who oversaw Deployment; and Archdeacon John Hansen who oversaw Pastoral Care.    They have been dedicated and faithful servants of this ministry and have done extraordinary work. Thanks you all.  Few dioceses have as strong a diaconate.
I will be working to build on their efforts and with the Convention am appointing four Archdeacons:  Deacon Lynn Johnson will continue to serve as Co-Chair of the Committee on the Diaconate and will also assume responsibilities for Ordination Process and Formation.  Deacon Carmen Viola will assume responsibilities for Deployment. Deacon Denise Cavaliere will assume responsibilities for Pastoral Care.   Deacon Pete Cornell will assume responsibilities as Co-Chair of the Committee on the Diaconate and will also have oversight of the Deacons’ Council.
Throughout the election process and since my call to New Jersey, I have underscored the centrality of the Baptismal Covenant as the basic ground from which our ministries flow, both corporately and individually.[3] The promises we make at baptism, that we renew each time a baptism takes place, provide the framework for us as we join in God’s mission in the world.    They are concrete promises that make real demands of us and are the very heart of our existence and reason for being.   
I was impressed that last year at Convention you endorsed a Covenant of Abundant Life.[4]That Covenant was the culmination of the work of the Vitality Task Force led by Canon John Sosnowski and the viability and vitality characteristics built around the Baptismal Covenant.  We will be reminded about the Covenant you endorsed later today as it will form the backdrop of our work together in the year ahead.
Throughout the Anglican Communion we have committed ourselves to 5 Marks of Mission[5]:

·        To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
·        To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
·        To respond to human need by loving service
·        To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
·        To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

We are living into these marks of mission on many fronts. 

Our Anti-Racism Committee led by Co-Chairs Reverends Joan Fleming and John Thompson-Quartey do an outstanding job in helping  us confront the unjust structures of racism that continue to exist and to work toward more complete racial reconciliation.   All leaders of the Diocese – lay and clergy – are mandated to attend anti-racism training.  It is important that we do this.   It is about wellness.  I will be attending the three-day training in April and hope I see many of you there. 
Concerned, as I am, about continuing threats to rights and safety of the LGBT community in our nation and in in the world, I will be forming an LGBT Commission after Convention to raise our consciousness about the persecution of this community, exemplified in the attempts to effect a discriminatory law that failed in Arizona and which were appallingly successful in Uganda.  I know we are not all of one mind on issues of human sexuality, but persecution is persecution.  It violates the demands of our Baptismal Covenant.  I believe we have a holy obligation to speak out about it, as we do to speak out wherever persecution and the threat of violence exist.
I am deeply troubled by the level of violence in our nation, and especially the level of gun violence, particularly in our urban areas.   Trenton experienced a record number of homicides this past year.  Camden continues to rank high on the nation’s list of violent cities.   I am part of a coalition of Bishops Against Gun Violence that is being proactive about this issue. 
Poverty and the increasing gap between the wealthy and poor in our nation, budgets that increasingly target the poor all demand our attention and the most vulnerable demand our advocacy. I am grateful to our MDG Committee under the leadership of Lisa Caton who have kept the issues of poverty and the poor in front of us this year.  Great work!
I am excited to inform you that Fr. Skip Vilas has agreed to Chair the Environmental Commission.  I met with him and with Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of the interfaith organization Green Faith.[6]   We discussed ways that the diocese can partner with Green Faith through the work of the Commission.  We are going to start by working on an energy audit program that can help congregations be more efficient in their use of energy and also realize significant savings on energy costs…..Being Green makes sense in every way.
The  Baptismal Covenant, our Covenant of Abundant Life,  the Anglican 5 Marks of Mission - these are our priorities, they provide us with clear direction and purpose as we engage with God and with the communities and contexts in which God has set us, and to which God sends us.
It is a wondrous, exhilarating, frightening, joyous, awesome time to be the Church.  We can no longer rely on a dominant Christendom model of Christianity where our place in society is assured and easy.  Our times are more like those of the Apostles and the early Church.  The context around us is often indifferent, sometimes hostile.  Yet there is a yearning….There is a yearning for the holy….There is a yearning for the kingdom of God, even if so many don’t realize what the kingdom is.
Master, it is good that we are here…..
Yes….But we can’t stay here….The Lord has work for us to do….
How grateful I am to be your bishop, to be called to take up the cross with you and to go forth at this time in this historical diocese. May God grant us grace, strength, courage and faith to bring Christ’s light, Christ’s transfigured, transforming, light into every corner and crevice of New Jersey and beyond.  Let’s get to work.  Right Onward!

[1] For biographical information about Dwight  Zscheile see
[2]  For information about Adaptive Leadership see Heifetz, Ronald et. Al The Practice of Adaptive Leadership:  Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Boston:  Harvard Business Press, 2009).
[3]  See Book of Common Prayer, 1979 – pp. 304 – 305.
[4]  See Vitality Task Force – Report to the 229th Convention of the Diocese of New Jersey – Document 22 at

Friday, February 14, 2014

Beyond the Gold!

I love the Olympic games, especially the Winter Games.  I have always been captivated by the alpine events and by figure skating.  Who can forget 1980’s Lake Placid Games  (if you were around then!) with Eric Heiden’s five Gold Medals and the incredible win of the U.S. Hockey Team against the Soviet Union?  “Do you believe in miracles?”  Of course we do!!   

This year, I have been especially impressed by the group of young men and women who are dazzling us with outrageous maneuvers on snowboards and skis in “slope-style” events and on the “half-pipe.” 

No matter the commercialism and shadow side of the Olympic Games – doping, corruption, etc – there is still something about them that captures an ideal I believe we all share.  It is the ideal of the peaceable Kingdom of God, when “they shall beat their swords into plowshares; and their spears into pruning hooks…” (Isaiah 2:4).   

Yes, as I watch the Olympic Games, I am looking beyond the gold.  I am looking for the realization of God’s hopes and dreams for all of us and for God’s creation.  It is an Olympic ideal!  May we all look for it, and more important, strive toward it as athletes straining for the prize (Philippians 3:14).