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Sunday, October 10, 2010

From Bishop to Servant

Let's start by saying that there is indeed a role for bishops, after all, they are the successors of the apostles in the modern church. So, let's begin with a few definitions of bishops:

•a senior member of the Christian clergy having spiritual and administrative authority; appointed in Christian churches to oversee priests or ministers; considered in some churches to be successors of the twelve Apostles of Christ
•port wine mulled with oranges and cloves
•(chess) a piece that can be moved diagonally over unoccupied squares of the same color
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

•A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. ...
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishop

•In the Catholic Church, a bishop is an ordained minister who holds the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders and is responsible for teaching the Catholic faith and ruling the Church.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishop_(Catholic_Church)

•Bishop is the highest priesthood office of the Aaronic priesthood in the Latter Day Saint movement. A bishop is usually the leader of a local congregation of church members. ...
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishop_(Latter_Day_Saints)

•A bishop is a person of authority in a Christian church. In particular, see also: * Bishop (Catholic Church) * Bishop (Latter Day Saints)
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishop_(disambiguation)


Clearly, from day 1, bishops have had a pastoral role in the church. But, for some reason, perhaps good, perhaps not so good, bishops have picked up the function of "administrative/organizational/political arm of the church, especially our church. Over the course of time the position has come to be sought after by many. Let's face it, in American society (at least)we have an "up or out mentality". While this is prevalent in the military it pervades our entire society. It means that if one is not being promoted one is not doing the job correctly. I ask you, what priest in seminary, has not asked/day-dreamed about becoming "The Bishop"? My guess is at least every one of them that carries a mitre and crosier today, plus some that have not yet got it but are in the wings (wink, wink, nod, nod, Fr. Martins). The upshot is that very few priests daydream about being a parish priest, worker priest, chaplain or whatever. Most are looking for the kick in pay and more importantly, the kick in authority. After all, once made a bishop, one gets to join the good old boys club, better known as the House of bishops. One then gets to travel to all parts of the country (and nowadays the world, ask Robert Duncan, John Guernsey, Martyn Minns, etal) and affect the lives of thousands of unsuspecting Anglicans the world over.

One interesting idea promulgated by the current definition of bishop is that of "teacher". In days gone by, like hundreds of years ago, books were in short supply and clergy "had to teach" the laity what the laity needed to know. Well, I think there are enough books and texts and the laity is smart enough now to figure things out, at least as equals. In effect, the need for bishop as teacher is gone, though one will not get many bishops to agree to that! Ask Mr. Akinola, Mr. Orombi and Mr. Venables.

So, what do we need to do? Well, for openers, let's dissolve the House of Bishops and return them to the House of Deputies. Voting by orders is not very productive when the orders are feathering their own nests. Let's mix things up a little more, after all, William White originally saw no need for a House of Bishops. He was pushed into a compromise from the delegates from Connecticut. Time to do away with that.

Next, let's move the authority of the bishop back to pastoral care only. Bishops complain they never have enough time to see everyone. Let's make sure they have enough time to do so. Certainly the Standing Committee and the Diocesan Council can carry the weight of the political/administrative end of the diocese. Bluntly, bishops should be kept home. It ain't no fun, but they were not elected to have fun, they are elected to care for the flock. By flock that means clergy first and laity second.

Next, bishops should be elected to seven year terms. Certainly a bishop, doing a fine job could be re-elected as often as the diocese wants but there should always be an opportunity for the bishop to return to the regular orders. In addition, and as a new twist, with a seven year term, there is no need for approval from the other bishops/standing committees.

So, where would the eccelsiastical authority lie? Well, on most matters, primarily with the Standing Committee and then secondarily with the Diocesan Council. The Bishop becomes a member of those committees and voices his/her opinion on certain matters affecting the pastoral care of all the flock. Standing Committee is a committee of the whole and no one person could do anything (or for that matter is anything without a majority vote. Same would be true of the Diocesan Council. A possible unintended consequence would/could be the rise in authority of the Canons, but that can be dealt with later.

Another consequence of the seven year vote would be that Archbishop Duncan would only be Mr. Duncan not only for us but for the ACNA as well. In effect, had he been re-elected he would certainly be unelected shortly. Same is true of Minns and Guernsey and Anderson and all those who would pretend to the throne.

Clearly, we need to do something and something dramatic and soon. The abuse of the bishops position has grown beyond that which this church can much longer stand. We need to move forward and forget the past. This becomes the springboard for just such a move.

4 comments:

Elizabeth said...

This idea is clearly evolving. I like the addition of the option to re-elect a Bishop. I'm not so sure about dropping the consent of the church to an election. There is some advantage to rein in some of the wanderers. Having a unicameral Convention has benefits. Obviously there would have to be some day to day structure where a subset of Convention could advise the Presiding Bishop.

I was amused by the "dreams of being a bishop" because I am the daughter of a priest who never wanted to be a bishop. He specialized in messy missions in out of the way places.

Fred Schwartz said...

Elizabeth,
Thank you and you are inded correct. Fr. Joel Miller would be another likeyour father. Painting with a broad brush develops the canvass but leaves the picture sometimes a little unfinished.

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