Sunday, November 30, 2008

Come Blessed Ones

Meditation on Matthew 25:31-46

Acknowledge I humbly beseech you a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Am I a goat? Am I a sheep? I want to be a sheep. Is he a goat…that one over there? Maybe a sheep? I don’t know, I just want to be a sheep. But I am pretty sure that she is a goat…yep…there was that one time…

You and I, human beings in fact, get real caught up in who is a goat and who is a sheep. Actually, most days we just want to think we are sheep and everyone else…well…should watch out!

Let me tell you a true story about the complexity of human behavior… sheep and goats living together.

The ride from San Antonio was bumpy, dusty and hot. It always was and never seemed to get better no matter how many times you were unlucky enough to have the blessing of traveling by stage coach.

Stage coach riding was just hard on your bones, your seat, and your spirit.

Suddenly, the stage came to a stop exactly where it wasn’t supposed to…you never could be sure what kind of trouble it was. Most times it was “borrowers” – those thieves who were perpetually down on their luck and stealing from their passengers always with a promise to return what wasn’t rightfully theirs just as soon as their luck changed.

On this particular day it was a couple of famous borrowers -- the James boys. Jesse and his brother asked that the passengers get out of the coach and line up. They were tickled because they could tell they had some folks there who had some money.

One of them happened, as they tell the story, to be the “sky-pilot of the Episcopal Church” none other than Bishop Alexander Gregg himself, first bishop of the Diocese of Texas.

The bishop stood in the hot Texas sun with his hands stretched toward heaven, no altar in sight, and Jesse rifling through his pockets. At the same time Jesse preached to him and asked him questions as if he were one of the Bishop’s own clergyman.

Bishop Greg was wise. He knew better than to fuss when the masked man lifted a fat roll of paper money out of his vest pocket, and unfastened his money belt which was full of gold coins.

Then Jesse reached into the other vest pocket and pulled out a gold watch and chain. Bishop Greg could take it no longer and he kicked back in his best pulpit voice:

“I beg of you to spare that watch young man. It was a gift to me from my beloved flock.”

Jesse replied in HIS best pulpit voice:

“I reckon the Savior wouldn’t never worn no such expensive time-piece.”

Bishop Greg looking frustrated and cross stood there sticking the linings of his emptied pockets back in place.

Jesse James turned to the next passenger in line who happened to be a widow.

She looked up at the young man and spoke to him kindly answering his questions about whom she was and her travels. She handed over her purse without a complaint. In the purse was a daguerreotype of her dead husband, a lock of hair from her baby who passed, and five dollars…a small portion compared to the bishop’s great contributions.

Jesse again spoke with his pulpit voice, “Look, Bishop, the widow’s mite.”

Quoting the King James Bible Jesse said, “This poor widow hast cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living…”

“Reckon I quoted the Scripture right, didn’t I,” said Jesse.

“I believe so,” came Bishop Greg’s answer. Not able to control himself he added, “Even the devil can cite Scripture for his purposes.”

“Well, the devil ain’t always so bad,” said Jesse James. He turned and gave the widow’s purse and five dollars back. Then for everyone to see he added to it twenty dollars from the Bishop’s own pockets.

“The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” Jesse called back as they rode away and waved their sombreros.[1]

So who was the sheep and who was the goat? What is clear is that it is Jesus, Christ the King who does the sorting.

While Jesus himself might have some trouble sorting them out – and I am sure he may not have imagined a character like Jesse James, or Bishop Gregg for that matter, Jesus did have a vision for what it meant to be blessed.

In point of fact, our protestant history leads us to ask the wrong questions about Jesus’ teachings – goats/sheep and sheep/goats.

Jesus says: “Come. You are blessed. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” This is the key to understanding our text.

These ideas about blessedness and blessed work were not new to Jesus’ time. In fact he is teaching a very old truth rooted deep within the Midrash, or Jewish story telling tradition and teaching, concerning Psalm 118.17.

The psalmist writes: “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.”

The Midrash or teaching goes that in the world to come it will be said, “What has your work been?” If then he says, “I have fed the hungry.” It will be said to him, “That is the gate of Yahweh, you have fed the hungry enter the same.”

Blessed work means feeding the hungry.

Jesus builds on this concept of blessed work in his sermon on the mount….who are the blessed? There are two categories of those he calls blessed.

First there are those who are blessed by living their life:

Blessed are the poor
Blessed are those who mourn
Blessed are the meek
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst

Then there are those who are blessed for their work:

Blessed are the merciful
Blessed are the pure in heart
Blessed are the peacemakers
Blessed are those who are persecuted for their work

So let us return to our teaching today: “Come. You are blessed. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you.”

Jesus is speaking in particular to those who have made mercy, purity, and peace their life’s work.

These are the ones who fed people, who gave drink to the thirsty, who welcomed the stranger, who gave clothing to the naked, and who visited when others were in prison.

And these people did it not because of Jesus or because of Jesus’ compassionate solidarity with the poor.

No they did it because it was part of their spiritual life to make life and living better for others.

“Come. You are blessed. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you.”

Brought up by parents who did not believe in God, a father who served as soldier and jurist in the military court, it is no wonder that he was made to join the military as soon as he was old enough. His father believed that life in the military would distract his son’s dreams of priesthood and monasteries…dreams that were not in congruent with his own heroic dreams for his son. The soldier’s plans were failing and his son’s thoughts of a holy life were increasing.

Just at the moment when all was lost and a military life perfectly ruined, the state enlisted all sons of veterans.

He was removed to the north a much harsher landscape. As a son of a veteran he was given rank and servants among the republic’s cavalry. Our want-to-be monk was content with only one attendant, who himself rose many a day to find his boots polished by his master.

He often dressed below his office with simple arms and cloak. He gave away his clothes and his earnings.

In the midst of a particularly harsh winter, when many soldiers and civilians alike were dying from exposure, he set out in his modest attire on his rounds arriving at the city gate. He found there a poor man without clothing. The man was begging. He was asking those who passed for aid, food, clothing, anything to help. No one stopped. No one spoke. No one saw him standing their destitute in the cold of the morning.

As our young man road towards him with some fear and trembling he began to realize the salvation of this young man was left to him. Perhaps in that moment, as he road closer, he thought that his own salvation was to be determined in this one instance and tested by his treatment of this man. He asked himself, “What do I have…I live a modest life and have very little upon my person. And most of my clothes I have already given to others for shelter. I have nothing left.”

Yet a moment of clarity came to him. Perhaps he remembered something someone once said. He decided in that moment, in that moment of clarity regarding his own salvation and the redemption of this man, to act.

He took his sword and divided his cloak into two equal parts and gave one part to the poor man.

The people who had ignored everything up until this moment, now laughed at the foolish soldier who was now about as unsightly as the naked man just moments before.

That night though, he dreamed of Christ arrayed in his tattered and torn cloak. The same cloak shared with the young man. Then Christ said, "When you saved this man you clothed me. You clothed me with this robe.”[2]

The boy soldier is known today as one of the great saints of France and Hungary, Martin, Bishop of Tours.

The truth is most days we probably feel more like a borrower, or the widow, or the naked man, than Martin of Tours, or Bishop Greg or Jesus.

But Christ does miraculous work in and through our lives – the simplest kindness turned into transformative grace to those around us.

The fourth century bishop, John Chrysostom wrote that the tasks Jesus asks of each of us are not monumental or miraculous…they are really quite simple.

And they are aren’t they…

Feed people.

Give the thirsty something to drink.

Give clothing to those who don’t have any.

Visit those who are in prison and are imprisoned.

You and I have a great opportunity through simple things to transform the lives of people, and by so doing to transform the world.

That is blessed work. We have blessed work before us.
This is work that I look forward to accomplishing with you in the months and years to come.

May Christ who makes saints of sinners, who transforms us, raise and strengthen us that we may transform the world by works of equality, justice and kindness; in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you and remain with you forevermore. Amen.

[1] The Old Wild West, Raymond Hatfield Gardner and B. H. Monroe, San Antonio, Texas: The Naylor company, 1944.
[2] Story adapted from the Life of St. Martin, by Sulpitius Severus, translated and notes by Alexander Roberts

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

December Calendar

3 10:00 a.m. Program Group Meeting - Diocesan Center
4 11:30 a.m. Clericus - SE Convocation - Holy Trinity, Port Neches
5 6: 00 p.m. Bishop’s Clergy Christmas Party - Camp Allen
7 10:30 a.m. Visitation - St. Francis, College Station
9 10:00 a.m. Resource Staff Meeting - Diocesan Center
5:30 p.m. Executive Board Meeting - Camp Allen
10 10:00 a.m. Executive Board Meeting - Camp Allen
11 11:00 a.m. SLEH Auxiliary Christmas Luncheon - Jr. League of Houston
14 10:30 a.m. Confirmation - Trinity, Marble Falls
2:30 p.m. Ordination to Priesthood of Richard Pelkey – Trinity, Marble Falls
18 12:00 p.m. East Harris Clericus - Trinity, Houston
21 10:00 a.m. Confirmation - Christ Church, Matagorda
24 11:00 p.m. Christmas Eve Service - Christ Church Cathedral, Houston
25-Jan 2 Vacation

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Dear Parishioners, Members of the Diocese of Texas, Friends and Family,

I am so very grateful for all your support and prayers along my journey to this moment. I can't wait to see you over the next few days.

I know not everyone can be with us and so we are webcasting the celebration.

You can go to for instructions and the link.

Or, you can go directly to the link:

Blessings to you all,

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pectoral Cross Casting

Click on the Title to see the casting of the pectoral cross. Visit the Nancy Denmark's website for more information: regarding the cross itself and other work she is doing. Carol Andrews took the photos and created the slide show. Carol is also an artist. Her website is at: Greg Jensen is the metal artist in the video. His website is at: All are members of the ECVA (Episcopal Church and the Visual Arts).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bishop Wimberly Addresses Diocese 9.16.08 after Ike

Click on the Title to link to YouTube for this video.

After a full day of pastoral care, assessment of needs, cooperation and planning with other organizations, and onsite visits Bishop Wimberly addresses the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. For more information and updates log on to:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bishop Wimberly Addresses Diocese Monday after Hurricane Ike

This morning Bishop Wimberly met with key staff. Click the title above to watch Bishop Wimberly's address to the Diocese.

We have received a lot of questions about where to send donations. Please send them to:

Episcopal Diocese of Texas
Hurricane Relief
1225 Texas Ave
Houston, Tx 77002

Sunday, September 14, 2008

You Tube Video from The Diocese of Texas

Click "You Tube" video for Bishop Wimberly's message to the Diocese Texas on Sunday morning. Bishop Wimberly, Canon Doyle, Bob Biehl drove to Diocesan Center, Houston by way of several congregations.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hitchiking The Gospel of St. Mark

Click on Hitchhiking The Gospel of St. Mark and it will redirect you to the new website for Bible Study Materials for the Gospel of Mark.

Hurricane Ike

We met yesterday as a staff and worked on insuring we were prepared. We went over the list of congregations and clergy and their locations and plans.

We will meet on Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. to assess damages.

For information please go to:

Bishop Coadjutor Ordination

Follow the Link to get the latest Ordination Information.

Friday, November 22, 2008, 10:30 a.m., at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, Houston

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Set the Date: Ordination Date Given

Dear All,

The Presiding Bishop's office has let us know that, pending the consents of bishops and standing committees, I will be ordained on November 22, 2008.

The service is to be held at St. Martin's, Houston.

Please mark your calendars and join us for what promises to be a great day in the life of the diocese and church.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Muchísimas Gracias

Thank you for sharing your vision and your dreams of who we can be together. Thank you for the election as the next bishop of Texas. I am humbled by the work of the council and by the invitation to be a part of your lives, your families, your churches.

I am grateful to JoAnne…for her love and faithfulness to this diocese and our call to ministry. I am grateful for Caisa and Zoe, two wonderful girls, and their support and our life together.

I am grateful to Bishops Wimberly, High and Harrison for their support, guidance, and mentoring…and for their love. Each has cared for all of us, and in particular they have cared for JoAnne, and the kids, and for me.

Each nominee has given us a portion of our vision for the future reminding us of the role of bishop in pastoral care, congregational development, church growth, relationships, the future, and diversity. Thank you for your witness to us and your call to us.

I am reminded of Bishop Quin’s words to his first council, "To do my work well, it is necessary that you catch a vision which has come to me, of a Diocesan spirit -- a Diocesan family -- all one in Christ -- one in aim, ambition, endeavor -- one in rejoicing for the other's good. We can go ahead, we will go ahead, you and I together."

Thank you, and blessings to you all.

Muchísimas gracias. Gracias por compartir su visión y sus sueños a lo que podremos ser juntos. Gracias por la elección como el siguiente obispo de Tejas. Estoy muy humillado. Estoy humillado por su invitación para ser una parte de sus vidas, sus familias, y sus communidades de fe.

Cada uno de los candidatos ha sido esencial en tener una visión común para el futuro. Ustedes nos han recordado que el ministerio del obispo es pastoral, requiere relaciones con cada persona en la comunidad, y que necesitamos tener una visión del futuro con diversidad. Gracias.

Soy recordado de las palabras de Obispo Quin, “Para hacer mi trabajo bien, es necesario que ustedes perciban una visión que llegue a mí, de un espíritu del Diocesano - una familia del Diocesano - todos uno en Cristo - uno en la meta, la ambición, el empeño - uno en alegría para el bien del otro. Podemos seguir adelante, seguiremos adelante, ustedes y yo juntos”.

Gracias, y Dios los Bendiga.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dream Dreams

On Pentecost Sunday Peter quoted the following passage from Joel: "I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams."

This is actually a quote from Joel 2.28.

Joel was a prophet who exercised his gifts in the midst of the Temple at Jerusalem, using Temple liturgical forms in his writing, and maybe even transmitting his messages through the Temple priesthood.

He more than likely witnessed a locust plague and from that image offered a vision of God's hope and blessings.

What we hear in these words from our sacred text is that Joel and Peter are reminding us that the Holy Spirit is a gift to all people, not just the chosen. In fact the gift of vision is a sign of the age of Jesus.

This week JoAnne and I have busied ourselves. We have continued with our routine of life with the kids. Today is water day, a lot like bedlam at Camp Allen. The kids will soon be home with us for the summer.

I have been working through the normal load at the office. We are taking some time, but life is continuing.

I imagine that life is continuing for each of you. The reality is that it is all too easy to believe that things will continue just as they have. Tomorrow will be the same as today and the same as yesterday.

Yet the Christian message...the message of the hope of transformation. That you and I can prophesy, dream dreams, and have visions. This is available to us every day. We can not only see and proclaim a vision of hope, new life, and excitement for our future...but we can make that future real.

Jesus is telling us that this "making real," this Kingdom of God, is at hand, and we can see it and make it real in our day.

I have had the gift given to me of traveling with you these past five years, being in your churches, attending your conferences. I am looking forward to a long life together in shared ministry. I am looking forward to sharing your prophesies, seeing your visions, dreaming your dreams. I am looking forward to seeing and serving you as you make the Kingdom of God real for the people of Texas and of this world.

I am hopeful that Saturday you and I will take our first steps into this new life and ministry together...that our election moment not simply be another election moment...that it be the first step in making real our shared vision of God's hope for the church.

"I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams."

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Myanmar. What a question

About halfway through the Walk About in Houston a fellow clergyman of the diocese asked a question: What would you do about Myanmar? How would you help us deal with tragedies like this?


I paused, and those good folks in the room knew the question got to my heart. I was emotionally and spiritually moved by the question. I had one of those flashes, an instant, after I heard the question, when I was so very humbled. Here we were at Episcopal High School. Here we were in one of the wealthiest cities in the country. Here we were having a discussion about who would lead our church (which is VERY important). And there, across the globe was a terrific, a terror filled, tragedy.

I found the words to say that thank God they allowed the first aircraft with aid and supplies to land that morning.

Then I realized this why I am offering myself to lead this great diocese.

When I was sixteen my friends, Tommy, Blakely, Mike, Chan and I headed out to Addicks Dam. It was a clear night. We sat around on the top of the dam looking at the stars in the sky. It was one of those great moments of clarity, spiritual clarity with your friends. We were talking about what we were going to do when we grew up. I remember that I wanted to be a part of a church that changed the world.

I want to be a part of a church that changes the world.

I believe the people of the Diocese of Texas can change the world, and that we will in turn be changed - transformed by Jesus himself whom we discover in our global brothers and sisters.

We are raising money today for Myanmar. But we have to give of ourselves too. Can you imagine a diocese that decides to focus and change the world. That through the work of World Mission, our foundations, missionary funding, and mission trips we focus on a region of our Communion and change the world.

We do this not by saying, "Here we are the great Diocese of Texas. Let us help you!" No, we engage in a listening process, we seek to make them independent not dependant. We engage and help them to have and to live a better life, not our life, but the life they want.

We already have people in our diocese leading the way into these discussions. We need to capitalize on their experience and their dreams of changing the world. We need to learn from them and insure that we are not a diocese maintaining good relationships but a missionary diocese being transformed by our relationships.

The Trinity Question

I spent the week listening and talking with friends about my experience during the Walk About. Because people who attend the Walk About are in one room the whole time they only heard one set of questions.

So, one of the things I got asked this week was, "What was the hardest question?"

To tell you the truth I didn't feel as though I got a really hard question. I guess after doing 10 pre-council meetings every year for the last five years (pre-council meetings are meetings with the delegates of council in each convocation throughout the diocese) I am pretty used to receiving questions and having to think on my feet.

There was an interesting question though: "Tell us your theology of the Trinity and how you would articulate it to today's culture."

One response to the question could be to dismiss it as irrelevant. One response would be to make fun of the question because it is disconnected from the work of the church. One response could be to think this was just an intellectual exercise with no place in our bishop election discernment.

The truth is that the question is exactly what the election is about!

How will you interpret for the people of the church and for the people of the culture the most ancient teachings of the church.

If we are not discussing the way in which our deepest and most treasured beliefs impact an individual's life then we are not proclaiming the Gospel.

We have to be able to speak to people about how one of the central works of a christian is to seek as intimate relationship with God as Jesus had, so intimate that he called him Abba (Father). That God, our Abba/Father, created everything, everything that I have, all that I am....I am God's. That Jesus makes a different in our lives. That by knowing Jesus I understand and can discover a better way to live my life. That the Holy Spirit makes God present, in discernment, prayer, conversations with God, times of loneliness. God is my comforter.

God, the trinity, the father, the son, the Holy Spirit -- these are words with deep meaning, ancient meaning. People outside our communities are hungering for this wisdom. They are hungering for the transformative power this wisdom holds for their lives.

I thought the question was great. I was glad it got asked.

Houston Walk About

It has been a week since the Houston Walk About. JoAnne and I had a great time in Houston as well. We have received a lot of positive feedback. People are really feeling the spirit move within the discernment discussion.

I feel as though I have been faithful to the discussion. I know that I am out there, that I have been clear about the vision and hope for the future my ministry offers the Diocese of Texas.

I told the last group that no person wants to be elected without the diocese doing the difficult discernment God intends for us.

We are not looking for the person we like the best. We are not looking for the person who looks most like us. We are trying to discern who God is calling. We know that when we seek to understand who God is calling that we will discover what God intends for our own ministry, the ministry of our congregation, and the ministry of our diocese.

It is time for us to begin to think about a different set of questions:

We say we must be focused on Youth.
Who do you envision getting to know your teenager on a mission trip?
Who do you envision connecting with our college students via weekly pod casts?
Who do you envision bringing joy to the celebration of the Eucharist?
Who do you envision attracting the best and the brightest new/young clergy to our diocese?

We say we must be focused on Outreach.
Who do you envision inspiring our members to active participation in the gospel (by example)?
Who do you imagine will create bridges between our congregations and congregations throughout the global communion?
Who do you believe will lead us by the Holy Spirit to reach outside our congregations to those in need in our community?
Who has a vision of communion partners that changes the world around us and across the globe?

We say we must be focused on multi-cultural ministry.
Who will listen to the people doing the ministry and expand our multicultural ministries?
Who understands that we have to acknowledge our history with African American Congregations and supporting them in new mission and outreach?
Who offers a vision of African American, African, Latino, and Asian ministries?

We say we want a bishop in relationship with us.
Who do you envision teaching our congregations what it means to share in the ministry of the baptized?
Who do you envision inspiring you to become the embodiment of Christ's transforming love?
Who do you envision stopping and speaking with you one on one about your life's ministry?

Let us ask a different set of questions. Let us dare to ask questions that truly are transformative. Let us ask questions that are challenging us into ministry.

Friday, May 9, 2008

On Our Way To Houston

Thank you so much for a great time in Tyler. Those organizing and helping with the Walk About have been wonderful, kind, and generous hosts.

Tyler was a great opportunity to see so many of my good and dear friends and to have them meet JoAnne. It was great to watch you welcome her as you have for so many years welcomed me into your churches. Thank you for that kindness.

I believe the Tyler meetings went very well. Each room offered good questions. JoAnne and I both felt it was an opportunity for all of us to talk and listen about what God is hoping for in our future.

The Daughters of the King have been a wonderful companion along the journey praying and lifting up our diocesan conversation. For that JoAnne and I both are very grateful.

Tonight, JoAnne and the kids and I are going to my mom's retirement dinner! She has been a teacher and principal for 25 years.

We will see you tomorrow at the Houston Walk About. Thank you again for all of your prayers for us and all the candidates, and for your support.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

On Our Way to Tyler

Today we are on our way to Tyler. We are passing by the Davis Feed Company here in Buffalo Texas. I am writing as JoAnne is once again driving us to our next stop.

We had a great night last night. I thought the first Walk About in Austin was very fun. I was energized by the folks and the questions.

We began with dinner along side the other nominees. We then went to the Seminary and prayed Evening Prayer together with all those from Austin and surrounding area who were prepared to ask us questions.

We visited six different rooms. There was real concern by those gathered that we needed to engage the multi-cultural issues and youth/young adult issues facing us. Canon Case and Ewart Jones are fantastic ministers in these areas and I would look forward to further empowering their ministry and work for the Diocese of Texas.

I am proud of my call to bishop. I take pride in the fact that so many friends and peers believe I should be the next bishop of Texas. I am eager to continue my service to the people of the Diocese. There is no greater opportunity than to serve one's brothers and sisters. At the same time I am humbled by the prospect that you would have me as your bishop and call me into a relationship with you.

Keep the prayers and good thoughts coming. If you attend a Walk About share your impressions! Let us know how we are doing.

Blessings to all of you. We couldn't do this without your support.

Keep the prayers and good thoughts coming. If you attend a walk about share your impressions! Let us know how we are doing.

Blessings to all of you. We couldn't do this without your support.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

On Our Way To Austin

Good Afternoon. JoAnne and I are packed and we are now on our way to Austin for the first walkabout. JoAnne is driving and I am answering email by satellite.

Caisa and Zoe are off to spend a couple of days with Nanny and Pawpaw.

We are excited about tonight and the opportunity to begin a diocesan conversation about the future of our church.

I guess I could be nervous. But I love getting to see and visit with my friends across the Diocese of Texas.

I have spent the last five years helping and supporting Bishop Wimberly in setting his vision. Tonight I get to build on that vision by listening and sharing with you our possible future, our vision of the church: vibrant, thriving, growing, energetic, filled with life, celebrating, joyful, fun, and transformational.

On another note, we were so excited about getting to Austin we almost ran out of gas, with only half a gallon left. We rolled in to Columbus on fumes...

Quote of the day: "Remember tonight the Holy Spirit is ready to dance, and wait'n for a partner."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Are we ready to bridge the gap between our reality and God's vision?

I will never forget a very important conversation I had with my father-in-law. We were sitting around the breakfast room table having one of those conversations that happens on a lazy Saturday morning when breakfast is done and the paper has been read.

We were talking about why we go to church. Fred, my father-in-law, has been an Episcopalian since he was a boy in Hooker County Nebraska. I made the statement that the reason I go to church is to help me live a Christian life in a very challenging secular culture.

Fred said to me he had never thought of church that way. He went to church because that is what you go to church. You don't have to try and live a christian life because that is what you live a christian life. You attend services. You give to the church. You work outside the church on behalf of the church. You give your time. You do this because that is what Christians do. That is how Christians are.

This is the gap between where most of our folks are in our church today and where the culture is.

The folks looking to us for help on their Christian journey need us to talk to them about our journey. They need us to be ready to talk about Jesus. They believe we should be able to show them what is in the bible. They want us to be doing work out in our community, not just sending money. The truth is when we are authentically ourselves we can transform the world.

However, we have to dare to engage outside our normal patterns of being church.

I was recently visiting with a young person who was excited about starting up a prayer/bible/ worship service in a local pub. He was worried that his clergy person or people in the church might not think that was OK. He was worried it might even be an initiative that never got any help or support.

Leaders help us bridge the gap between our experience reality, our conversations, and the vision of ministry God has for us. As Paul says in Ephesians, may you be filled with the wisdom of God that you may know the hope God has for your ministry.

We have to bridge the gap by creating bridges into our community, bridges of community. We need a bishop who will understand the work and lead us into the gap and help us create opportunities for these conversations. We need a bishop who will support our initiatives and support the folks out on the front lines of ministry.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What is this election about?

Since my name was put in nomination to be the Bishop of Texas, people have asked me a lot of questions about the issues of sexuality in the church. People have asked me questions about what age a bishop should be. Some people have talked about what it means that there is a woman who is a nominee. Still others have talked about the titles and jobs the nominees have had.

I have answered these questions. The truth is, these are nothing new. These are the same issues we have been talking about for the last four episcopal elections. I imagine people have talked about these issues for decades. If we as a diocese continue to focus solely on issues during this episcopal election the chances are good that the same conversation will come up in ten or so years when the next election cycle comes around.

It is time that we took the spotlight off the same old issues and focus instead on where God is leading us; only then will we have clarity about who we are to elect.

I believe God is leading us to ask a different set of questions. How will we spread the gospel in a radically changing culture? How do we hold the tension of being a Church that both respects our heritage and reaches out to strangers who are searching for deep meaning in their lives? How will we repent of the unconscious racism in our congregations and reach out to people who expect a church that is as multicultural as their workplace? What does leadership look like in the future? How do we use power in our diocese? How do we elect missionary bishops that benefit the mission of our church?

We need a bishop that will inspire us all to answer God's questions.

In order to find real answers we need a collaborative and visionary leader who will help us redirect our energy in ways that will not only transform us but will ultimatly transform the culture around us. It is going to take hope and energy and change.

The reality is that the people who are hungry for truth and transformation --- who are hungry to hear that God cares for them and Jesus loves them --- are not asking questions about the old issues on which we focus. They are hoping that we are following God's lead in finding answers to questions that matter on the deepest level. They want to know that the Diocese of Texas is a different place filled with different kind of congregations. They are hoping that when they enter our doors they will have a life changing experience. That's the experience that they deeply, desperately need.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Gospel and Action

Matthew 25.35ff:
"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”

Since before there was an established Christian church, Christians have followed Jesus by feeding strangers, healing the sick, visiting those in prison, and bringing good news to the poor. This is not simply about doing good deeds –– it is the Good News of the Gospel, and as central to our lives as worship.

I’ve grown up seeing how much of this vital Gospel work is carried out, in all kinds of places throughout our diocese: small food pantries, Lord of the Streets, Houston, The Cathedral Dunn Center, Houston, El Buen Samaritano, Austin, and Ubi Caritas in Beaumont. But I also know that, in many places, outreach, social justice and mission work are a real point of challenge for our churches.

We as a church often fall into the trap of staying in our heads and not acting from our souls. Too often, we find it easier to let committees talk about social problems, than to actually feed hungry families or serve the elderly and sick in consistent ways. Or, we set up our own bureaucracies, instead of encouraging and funding creative, grassroots efforts. We waste our time talking about it, and not enough time getting personally involved. We act as if outreach is something that should be left to professionals––instead of seeing it as integral to the life of every single member of the church. Our diocese can do a lot more to empower, fund and train members of parishes to actually do Gospel work.

Sometimes this kind of ministry on Jesus' behalf gets politicized. The Diocese of Texas has adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). [] We have people assuming that support of these goals means embracing a particular set of political ideas. Of course, the actions of the church in the world inevitably confront politics....but it’s important for our diocese to make it clear that we are serving God and our neighbors because Jesus calls us into action. Christians help people because Jesus tells us to.

There is a spiritual challenge to ministering to the poor. We tend to talk about feeding the poor, or visiting prisoners, or caring for the sick, as ways for churches to help “the less fortunate.” We act as if “we,” the church people, are doing something nice for “them,” the poor people. But Scripture tells us that our salvation depends on strangers, and on serving others. And Jesus tells us that “we” are “them.”

I know from experience that poor people and rich people alike share a hunger to give of themselves. I believe with all my heart that real Gospel work—hands-on, done with integrity—is essential if we are to catch and keep the attention of young people, who yearn to make a difference with their own hands. And I know that by taking up Jesus’ work and making it our own, our churches will become renewed.

The Diocese of Texas Mission Funding Program was established to meet these challenges. Mission Funding is a diocesan program that was created because the missionary dollars from the churches were decreasing. It increased parish participation in work throughout the diocese. I am proud to have been a part of the Mission Funding Task Force in its early years. After a decade, we have a program that works well. We now have an outstanding Mission Funding Coordinator. But today, people don't just want to send money, they want to go themselves.

I believe Jesus has been waiting for us as a culture to go out into the vineyard where the harvest of compassion is bountiful. It is time to dream again about what we can do together.

I want to dream together about what we can accomplish in the next ten years. Can you imagine a online resource, where you can watch a video or slide show of your dollars in action? Can you imagine information and a map of where in the diocese your missionary dollars go? Can you imagine finding out how to volunteer, take a mission trip, or make a donation directly to the programs in the field? Then, can you imagine going and working hand in hand with the poor?

We have to get better at connecting. We have to get better at connecting the people in the pew with the people in the neighborhood. We must realize that we are, as a whole, rich and poor. We are a diversity of classes. We are a diversity of experiences. We are all poor in very real ways.

As we look at a church enveloped in mission work, we must find ways to work with the poor, instead of for them. It will take vision; it will take prayer; it will take putting energy and resources into developing concrete new programs and redeveloping ones that already exist.

Daring to act hand in hand with the poor will lead us closer to the Kingdom of God, and there we will find the words of the Gospel translated into experiences of grace.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Worship Changes Lives

Worship changes lives.

I grew up using the 1928 Prayer Book. I was confirmed in Mexico using the 1979 Prayer Book. Over the years I have worshipped in many churches and communities. I have worshipped in the beautiful holiness of Anglican chant at Christ Church Cathedral and in the laid back ambience of summer camp at Camp Allen. I have been moved by the the organ at St. Martin’s in Houston and by the jazz of St. James in Austin. I have prayed with people using the '28 Prayer Book, Rite One and Rite Two, in Morning Prayer and the Holy Eucharist.

One of the greatest gifts I receive in undertaking my job is being able to worship and praise God by singing contemporary Christian music one Sunday, swinging incense the next Sunday and singing my favorite hymns the following Sunday.

If the church’s business is to live the Kingdom of God, then our worship must be a clear expression of that life.

Regardless of the style or form of worship, regardless of the size of the congregation or its ethnicity, I have learned that the clearest indicator of a congregations health is its love for what they do and how they create worship together.

That’s why I take my job as a liturgist seriously. I believe that the best way to celebrate the presence of God’s Kingdom is to make liturgy that appropriates the tradition of the church in creative, not nostalgic, ways. In other words, liturgy has to be alive. Liturgy that works is alive with the tradition that we consciously use in the service of God. And because I believe that liturgy must be alive, beautiful and real I believe that we will meet God every time we worship.

When we worship well together we are energized for the work that is before us. I believe that when it is done well (not just right) liturgy welcomes everyone to encounter the living God in the midst of the lively people. This liturgy will prepare people to grow into full, active and conscious worshippers and ministers. I expect that liturgy done well will make people powerful and wise and let them know God in new ways. And this way of worship will tell the truth about who we are, who God is and how we can hold these two truths in prayer. I believe that this way of prayer opens us not just to love for those we worship with, but opens to us the experience of transcendence.

We can be lifted out of our self-centeredness when we worship, and be prepared to serve others. God is present whenever two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus; not as a third or fourth in the group, but in the midst of the relationships we share with one another. I believe that worship makes us new as we open ourselves to God and to one another; opening ourselves to those who are like us and unlike us. And in this opening to the other – and to God – we are a part of the new creation that God is making right now. When we worship with the face of our neighbor in our heart and mind I believe that we learn that God loves us all, desires our company and longs to use our gifts for his glory. As those so loved we find the energy to love and serve others.

Our liturgy is like our faith. Faith tells us that God is at work in the ambiguity of human life, in trust and in doubt, in our relationships and our loneliness, in the people we love and in strangers. Liturgy says the same thing. When we embrace this truth we are set free to worship - and to live in God’s Kingdom of love.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Work of the Bishop: Gifts, Communication, Leadership

The work of bishop is defined in The Book of Common Prayer. In Texas, the work is also given particular form by the previous bishops who have served the diocese, and the particular institutions and ministries that have developed over the years. These things, in addition to the vision, mission, and core values set out by the diocese, and the new bishop's gifts and skills, will shape the office of bishop into the future. I believe my gifts, communication styles, and my leadership strengths are important windows into who I am and how I lead.

The Gifts and Ministry Outlined in the Book of Common Prayer:

The prayerbook is clear that the bishop is chief apostle, and evangelist. The bishop is faithful in prayer. The bishop's ministry is rooted in scripture and he or she is a preacher and teacher. The bishop must also have a gift of caring and helping the baptized find their own gifts of ministry. The bishop is the chief deacon, calling the church to be about Christ's work in the world. Finally, the bishop must also be a reconciler and a shepherd.

I am an evangelist and my ministry shows a true concern for those not in a church and those seeking God. My ministry exemplifies this in the work I have done with youth, young adults, reaching out and communicating outside our church walls, and in the coaching I have done with congregations, to help them understand the changing world around them.

I am a member of the Fellowship of St. John the Evangelist, which is an order associated with the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Boston. I am faithful to a rule of life based upon the Order of St. John the Evangelist. I am devoted to a healthy spiritual practice. I pray for my coworkers, priests, and parishes that I am working with by name on a daily basis. This deep prayer life has buoyed me and aided me when I have had to undertake very difficult work.

Most everyone who knows me well, knows that I love the study and preparation it takes to be ready to preach. Peers would tell you that I love the Bible and study of the Bible, most recently illustrated in the Hitchhiker's Guide to Matthew that I published for the clergy and youth ministers in the diocese. I believe those who have heard me preach would say that I am a gifted preacher. They would tell you that I preach from the Bible and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, motivating people into the personal work of transformation, and then transforming the world around them.

I was confirmed in 1979 with the "new" Prayer Book. Baptismal ministry has been at the very center of my life from the time I took on my Christian journey. This idea of mutual baptismal ministry was more fully developed when I went to a Multi-Cultural Leadership Academy For New Directions, which was held in the Diocese of West Texas at the beginning of my ministry. This bilingual conference looked at how baptismal theology undergirds all that we do in the church, how our ministry is shared among the orders, and that each of us has a role to play.

An example of how this work and deep appreciation for baptismal ministry influenced me is seen in the people who were raised up to new life and ministries in the various places I have served. There are individuals I have worked with who have discovered their own gifts for ministry and undertaken new work like: ESL teachers, worship leaders, ministry coordinators in parishes, spiritual directors, individuals writing sacred music, writing liturgy and prayers, authors, not to mention those who discovered their vocation as nun and priest and deacon.

My father was an Anglo-Catholic priest who instilled in me a deep connection to those without power, the poor and disenfranchised of the world. I have had a ministry that has always been focused on developing outreach work. I have been part of teams who started a large ESL program, Spanish service, Spanish Bible study during a lunch program for seniors, outreach community center and food pantry, and twelve step groups. My father was an advocate for women entering the priesthood, and I have worked carefully to help increase the number of women in ministry in our diocese. I have also worked to increase the diversity of our clergy by placing multi-cultural and multi-ethnic individuals on lists for our parishes. I have worked at a diocesan level since 1997 on Mission Funding, helping us as a diocese be good stewards of our ministry dollars.

In 2000, I began to study mediation and reconciliation through courses at George Mason University in Virginia and at the UT Law Center in Austin. I have over 100 hours of training, and this skill has aided me in developing processes for churches throughout the diocese.

I believe that when I started, we as a diocese had a "storm trooper" approach to conflict, which meant we came in and made things right. I tried this in the early days of my work as canon and believed we could do better. For the last 4 1/2 years I have worked closely with the bishops and the congregational development group to handle situations, empowering the local congregation and clergy to make decisions. My goal is always reconciliation, not just mediation and settlement. I have worked with Mary MacGregor (Director of Leadership Development at the Diocesan Office) to further develop a cadre of mediators to aid us in this work. I believe that this work has touched every part of our interaction with congregations from misconduct to conflict. In this arena of difficult work, I continue to see community conflicts and discord as an opportunity for reconciliation and new life.

Communication Styles:

Alongside these gifts, and this ministry history, I bring a particular combination of leadership communication styles. I am a resonant leader with those I work with. This means people who work with me see my communication styles as a coach, a relationship builder, and a visionary.

I am a coach to those communities and individuals with whom I work. I enjoy helping others develop as leaders and ministers of the Gospel. I am seen by many of my peers as a counselor who is willing to explore goals, values, and strategies, helping individuals or organizations use and expand their own repertoire of gifts and competencies.

I am a relationship builder. I am a collaborator in action. I am most interested in promoting harmony and fostering friendly interactions, nurturing personal relationships that can expand the connective tissue of organizations. I value down time in the organizational cycle which allows for building emotional capital that can be drawn on for the work ahead. I have an ability to sense the feelings, needs, and perspectives of others, caring for the whole, and enabling team approaches to our work

I am a visionary leader. I can communicate where we are going and help create a climate of transformation. This is perhaps my most effective style of leadership, and I believe it has worked as a true aid in supporting our bishop in guiding us through the many challenges we faced in the last 4 1/2 years. I believe in what we can accomplish together. I am able to communicate to the whole our shared objective, syncing our gifts and interests to truly create inspired work.

So what's my biggest challenge? Being a coach, relationship builder and visionary are great leadership skills to have, but when an organization or individual lacks motivation, I have learned that we must begin first with consensus-building. That is why I believe it is so important to understand where you are committed and how we can move forward together in common mission and ministry.

Another challenge for me is balancing my empathy for individuals with the demands of the organized church. I have had to learn that within the church, sometimes individuals must told something they don't want to hear.

Finally, as someone who has a clear vision of the future of the church, I have to work hard to make sure we aren't just working on my vision, we have to work on our vision. People with vision and power are notorious for undermining their own team based initiatives.

I believe that each of these communication styles work effectively together, and I have learned that I also have to surround myself intentionally with great people who can help the team as a whole accomplish the tasks and challenges that are ahead.

Leadership Style:

My leadership style is: I value input. I focus on achieving goals. I believe everyone has gifts to offer. I use resources and past failures to learn. I thrive in environments where I can find solutions to problems.

I really like to seek as much input as possible: books, information technology, and people's voices. I believe we have to seek as much information as possible to be able to be as creative as possible.

I am an achiever. At the end of the day, every day, I want to see what we have accomplished. I love to see core values lead to visions, which lead to missions, which lead to goals, which lead to strategies, which lead to team building, which leads to work, which leads to achieving what we believe God called us to do.

I believe God has a purpose and ministry for everyone. Individualization is one my leadership styles because I can see how each person brings gifts to the table and how, as a team of individuals, we can accomplish great things together. I believe Lone Rangers fail, and that Jesus' model of a discipleship community works best.

I love to learn. That means every new situation presents a learning opportunity for me. I have made plenty of mistakes, but I learn from my mistakes. Sharing what I learn is an important part of this as well. I find that in sharing, I learn from others as I listen to how they have been shaped by their challenges.

Finally, for me, restoration is essential. I love to solve problems. I enjoy the challenge of analyzing the symptoms, identifying what is wrong, and finding the solution. I enjoy bringing things back to life. I can, with others, identify the undermining factor(s) within a problem or system, eradicate them, and help restore something to its true glory.

The Godly Play story of the Good Shepherd is one where the Good Shepherd leads the sheep to safety over hills and into valleys, finally arriving in green pastures. I know that the work of the bishop is to follow the one True Shepherd - Jesus Christ. Yet as apostle and disciple, the bishop must also take his place as a good shepherd. I believe I am called to be a shepherd, and I believe I have the gifts, communication skills, and leadership style to be good at shepherding. You must help me figure out if this is truly my vocation.


What are your communication skills?

What is your leadership style?

Where do you bring these into the service of Christ in the church?

Resources: Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath (Here is the link: I took the earliest strengths finder by Gallop in 2001 and have been using it as a guide for deployment and vocational discussions for a number of years.

Primal Leadership by Daneil Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee (Here is the link: This book came into circulation in the diocese through the Crosspointes program and I have used it for over a year to help me better understand strategies for improving my gifts in communication and my weaknesses.

Note: Leadership books like this are helpful only if you can connect them with real life examples from your ministry.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Navigating the Future

In the movie Chariots of Fire Scottish Olympic runner Eric Liddell is talking with his sister Jennie. He is trying to convey to her why he is putting off his missionary work in order to run in the Olympic Games. He says, "God made me for a purpose -- China. But he also made me fast. When I run I feel his pleasure."

Colin Welland, who wrote the screenplay for the movie, captures the essence of what it means to be called by God and given gifts to achieve what God sets before you. The Diocese of Texas has a God given purpose to proclaim the Gospel. The bishop and your diocesan staff are there to help.

Sometimes bishops and staff undertake this work, commanding us into the future. It can look like this advertisement for Silva Navigation tools: . While parishes often feel like the lighthouse, we at the diocese can be perceived as the battleship. Power used in this commanding way typically hits a wall (or a lighthouse). People can only take so much dissonant communication. This leadership style uses a pace like a sprint, and does not take into account that we have long-term ministry goals that require pace setting like a marathon. Also, commanding styles of leadership require the expenditure of great amounts of influence to keep everyone in line. If you step out of line in this model or don't keep the pace, the leadership will assume there is something wrong with you and not question the system.

I served a small parish church that grew from 40 to 140 in average Sunday attendance as a restart by the diocese. Having been on the front lines, I remember what it was like to wonder what was going on down there at the diocesan center. I know that some of you think we operate more like this commercial for Becel Heart Health Makeover: After speaking to some of you I know you think that we are ineffective and can't really see where we are or where we are going (or not going).

What I know and understand is that our work is your work -- our purpose in spreading the gospel is getting you the resources you need. We must be about ensuring that you have the right tools for navigating your mission field, and not try to navigate it for you.

In the last four years, the diocesan staff has faced very serious issues that were inherited or that grew out of current events. In 2002, our attendance began to drop. Then came the anxiety and conflict flowing from General Convention in 2003. Following this was the embezzlement of nearly $1 million from the diocese. As fallout from General convention, we had a church plant leave the diocese (St. Barnabas, Austin), another church shrink from a healthy mission down to a restart (St. Philips, Austin). We also had to come up with the funds to build three new churches. Increasing conflicts in parishes, along with rising deployment needs, have created instability in parish leadership. We are not in the flush nineties anymore and the challenges, conflicts, anxiety, and hurdles are coming more often and with greater force.

Despite these events, in the same four and a half years, through the dedication and hard work of the diocesan staff, we have been able to launch the Iona school, Crosspointes, begin the diaconate, increase bi-vocational priests for small churches, move the diocesan center, completely restructure and computerize our finances, and keep unity within the diocese. Having deployed 55 new rectors -- almost 1/3 of our congregations. 80% of churches with new rectors are growing. (A large number of the 20% have not been in their places long enough to see trends develop.) We have doubled the number of clergy under the age of 45. We have almost tripled the number of female clergy who are rectors and priests-in-charge, while loosing a number of very key women rectors to retirement.

What is next?

In 2007, the people of the Diocese created new vision, mission, and core value statements. In the first year of the next episcopate I want us to lay out specific strategies and goals for meeting this vision head on. Because of my resonant style of leadership that values listening and collaboration, once these strategies are developed, I want to take them out on the road. In each convocation, I want to meet with the clergy and laity to get input. I think the bishop should personally roll out the goals and strategies, listen, and engage in the larger conversation. The bishop has to be prepared to make adjustments based on the directions given out by our lighthouses.

One thing I've learned is that leadership can come up with a lot of good ideas and then command them to be undertaken; but, unless these ideas are taken out into the mission field, and those in the field take ownership of the great ideas, nothing will come of it. The bishop diocesan must listen and provide programing, resources, and curricula that are going to impact your work in the field in a positive collaborative way.

Church life is not going to get easier or any less challenging. I have been in the system just long enough to see how we can do things differently and better; but, not so long that my reply to new ideas is "well, we've never done it that way before". I will continue to lead us in striving towards greater efficiency and effectiveness. We also must be in dialogue with the people of the diocese. A vision can be a good thing, but it has to be YOUR vision, YOUR goals, and YOUR strategies.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mission: Proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a New Century

We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God...because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5.3,5)

The Gospel is the light which salvation throws ahead of itself. It is nothing less than the arrival of the coming of God in the Word. (The Way of Christ , Jurgan Moltmann)

The essential work of the Church is the glory of God through the proclamation of Jesus Christ. All ministries flow out of this notion and our unity is dependent upon this most ancient theology. (Ephesians 4.1-7 )

As Moltmann reminds us, when we proclaim the Gospel, we are making incarnate the very real presence of Jesus. The Diocese of Texas has mission in its DNA. We were founded as the first foreign missionary field by The Episcopal Church. From our earliest bishops to our most recent, mission has been a perennial focus of our efforts. Today we are challenged to renew our missionary efforts within a culture no less daunting than planting churches in the wilderness of the fledgling Texas Republic.

Today, "Christians are now the foreigners in a post-Christian culture, and we have got to wake up to this reality if we haven't." (Dan Kimball, author of They Like Jesus But Not The Church)

Research, conversations, and mountains of experience are offered to us about just what people who don't belong to churches are looking for and expecting from us. I have been studying this new culture, and book after book has the same message and themes.

People outside our churches want us to talk about Jesus and the Bible. Some Episcopalians are comfortable with this, many more are not. We cannot afford to be uncomfortable talking about our faith. These days, it is not politically correct to talk about Jesus. Miss Manners says don't talk about religion or politics. We all love Emily Post and want to use the right fork, but we must be willing to talk about our faith. People who are seeking a relationship with God expect those who say they have a relationship with God to be able to speak about Jesus. We have to be able to speak about Jesus and listen like Jesus.

People outside the church want our churches to be places with discussions rather than just sermons and lectures. We have to respect the intelligence of those who come to us. (This is especially true as we attempt to work with young people and other cultures.)

We must get beyond the church building, and get the Gospel out into the world: book shops, restaurants, coffee shops, homes, offices. We are literally, figuratively, and financially trapped within our buildings! At the same time, we will always need traditional churches, where belonging is so important. Our places of worship must be places where people can gather, think, pray, be quiet, sit together. Imagine churches as urban retreat centers where people can wonder, and be at home, and find sabbath and peace. I wonder how many of our churches and church yards are places of retreat and open to the public.

The church must be a loving place. We must understand our unity and love for one another is essential if we are to love those outside our church walls. In a denomination where almost 75% of congregations report moderate to major conflict within the parish in the last five years, we have a long way to go in this spiritual discipline of love. Yet Jesus was clear, we may have a great commission, but the commandment is to love God and others. (Matt. 22.37-39).

The Church must be proactive in its mission. Today mission includes local outreach, foreign mission, and mission to our environment. This key component of being stewards of God's love and grace for the world means we have a Gospel imperative to take our proclamation of the Gospel and make it incarnate in acts of mercy.

We really don't have to change much of our way of following Jesus. After traveling around the diocese, I have come to understand that there is no single expression of Episcopal liturgy. In fact, we enjoy an abundance of ways to worship in the Anglican tradition. There is a place in our missionary field for the 1928 Prayer Book, Rite 1, Rite 2, Rite 3, contemporary, blended, emerging and any other style we can come up with. It must, however, be authentic. New generations will not be attracted to churches doing the "new-now" worship for the sake of commercializing the Gospel.

To be missionary in this age means that we must review, rethink, and figure out funding for this work. The Diocese must plant churches. The churches must plant churches. We must give permission and room for congregations to plant different kinds of congregations. These needs and the financial costs must be thought out, planned out, and we must venture out. We must look at the cultural and ethnic surroundings, and get into the mission field.

We also must be prepared to try church plants that don't work. Too often we read the parable of the sower and think the work of the church is to ensure that 95% of our planting efforts are seeds only thrown on fertile ground. The gospel message for us from Matt. 13.1-8 is that we must scatter the seeds, knowing full well some will take root and some won't. This is modeling Jesus' own ministry: sowing the word everywhere allowing it to take root as it may.

JoAnne has a beautiful garden. (I just haul dirt and dig big holes.) But she can only prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water, prune. God handles the growing, and we are often surprised at what we get, versus what we expected.

It is going to take vision, creativity, energy, unity, fearlessness, and hope to spread the Gospel in our new age.

Questions for meditation and conversation:

When is the last time you had a conversation about your faith with someone who does not go to church?

If you were raised outside the church and hadn't met a Christian who represents Jesus in a good way, do you think you would like Christians?

How difficult would it be for a 25 year old to get involved in your church in a significant way?

What specific stumbling blocks can you list that prevent people from ever reaching the gospel?

(Questions are from: They Like Jesus But Not The Church.)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Why Elect A Young Bishop?

Our vision of being one church in this diocese is going to continue to need energy, creativity and time. I have hope for this vision and the church it describes. I have energy for the work this vision requires. Whether you choose me to be your bishop or not, over the next fifteen years of my ministry I will continue to work to fulfill this vision. I believe in what we are doing and believe we are engaging in work that changes the world.

Some people worry about electing a long tenured bishop. They worry that the bishop will become entrenched or burned out. But it will take an energetic, long tenured bishop to nurture the promise of our diocese and hold the vision that promise brings to our future.

Thomas Friedman makes the case that the world is flat in the sense that globalization has leveled the competitive playing fields between industrial and emerging market countries. The same flat world dynamic gives us the opportunity to build real relationships with partners throughout the Anglican Communion where we can share our vision of the church and our ministry. Sharing vision across the Communion will take creativity and energy. With an energetic leader, a diocese in the 21st century can engage in this work now.

We will create a younger church together. Our flat world gives us new tools and technologies to create new and widening conversations with young people inside and outside the church. We will become the evangelical church of the Great Commission as we make our mission the real life experience of young people both locally and abroad. We will develop new ministries that relate real life to real vocation, going deeply into the lives of young people so that they can be guided by their own rules of life. Vocational discernment will not be for church professionals alone; it will be for anyone who wants to experience transformation in his or her life. In this way we will create a church that lives in the real world, sharing the Good News of Jesus and leading others in the miraculous transformation of life.

We will follow the Spirit’s lead in building new churches and collaborating in new ministries across the Communion. Different kinds of congregations must be explored, evaluated and planted. We will start new, emerging church communities and traditional congregations. Each will be deeply rooted in scripture, grounded in personal rules of life and nourished by our common worship.

We will build on our successes in local outreach throughout the diocese. What we have learned in one community will be used in developing new ministries in another community. This increase in ministry will only come as we serve and raise up leaders – the master craftsmen of our faith – to share their wisdom and experience in starting new work.

As we work in this common mission the vision of being one church becomes a reality, not just a marketing phrase. When we bring the best we have to offer and share it freely with one another we can thrive and grow in the ever-changing world where we preach the Gospel and live as Christ’s Body.

I promise you that I will use my energy, my time and my creativity to make the church a thriving place for old and young, insiders and outsiders, tenured and newly arrived. I want to lead you in this work now.

When were you first given great responsibility? How old were you? What was the job? How did your energy and ability affect the work? How does your experience inform our missionary choices in the Diocese of Texas?

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Wesleys

Today, March 3rd, is the day when Anglicans and many others remember John and Charles Wesley. What is it that makes the Wesleys so important to the Church? Many Methodists think the Wesleys were Anglicans, many Anglicans think they were Methodists. The truth is they were deeply devoted to all God's people.

Their ministry became historic, because at a moment when our institutional church was not attentive to the individual, they were. They believed that the church had to intersect and engage people in their daily lives.

We talk about Mission. We talk about Evangelism. We talk about "sharing the Gospel of Jesus." But what is the incarnational reality of this Gospel work? I believe that it means each of us has to be so changed that we change the lives of people, and make a real difference in the lives of others.

To live the way of a Christian also means practicing an intimate relationship with God--modeling ourselves on Jesus, who called God "Abba." And this closeness with God, this intimacy, cannot help but have an impact on our relationships with all of God's other beloved children.

We can talk about mission. We can strategize about mission. We can come up with great mission plans. But until we reach across the chasm which separates those within the church from those living in the equally real world outside our walls, we have not engaged in mission at all.

The problem the church has to fight is its own narcissism. It ceases its missionary work, its work with suffering humanity, in order to care too much for the institution. It becomes too protective of the institution, and the executives forget that the Church was created by God not as an institution at all but as the Body of Christ on earth

At these moments the reformers come along. People like the monks and nuns of the Middle Ages, the Franciscans, Luther and Calvin, Tyndale and Cramner, Elizabeth, and then the Wesleys. In our own time we know Martin Luther King, Jr., or in our own denomination Bishop John Hines.

These visionaries change things: but they often become new powers and then become institutionalized. We have continued to believe in this reformation model of doing things. After serving in my office as Canon to the Ordinary for four and a half years, I see the struggle. I see how protecting the church can become a full-time business. Except that isn't our business.

We must seek a more catholic, universal model of stepping out into mission. We have been given resources: they must be unlocked. We have been given diverse worshiping styles: we must use them effectively and not squabble about them. We must embrace different styles of church planting and mission work. Twenty years from now some of our churches will be the same, but many more will be transformed into places with missionary distinction. Where the people in their communities and neighborhoods will know and say, "In those places, those Episcopal Churches, you find God, a God that cares and loves you. That church is filled with people who make a difference in the world around them, they taught me God is with me fact they changed my life."

I believe that we need a Bishop who will protect our gifts, and make them work for us, while at the same time creatively and energetically helping us to do what we were created to do: practice our faith in such a way that it changes the world.

This is what I want to do, with God's help, and yours.

My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim, to spread through all the earth abroad the honors of thy name.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease; 'tis music in the sinner's ears, 'tis life, and health, and peace.

Charles Wesley

¿Qué es lo que Texas necesita de su próximo obispo?

Lo invito a que venga y vea que forma esta conversación toma mientras, juntos, decidimos como la Iglesia Episcopal en la Diócesis de Texas se moverá en el futuro. Deseo escuchar de usted: ¿qué es lo que le entusiasma? ¿A dónde desea que nuestra diócesis vaya? ¿Qué es lo que anhela de su próximo obispo?

Este es un blog moderado y solamente comentarios relacionados a las preguntas arriba mencionadas serán puestas y solamente si el autor incluye su nombre.

Yo creo que el asunto más importante que podemos hacer es ser fiel en preguntar las preguntas acerca de lo que Dios propone para el futuro de nuestra iglesia, y siendo fieles a la oración en este tiempo de discernimiento.

A partir del 3 de Marzo, 2008 comenzaré a poner los comentarios.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

What does Texas need from its next bishop?

I invite you to come and see what shape this conversation takes as, together, we decide how the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Texas will move into the future. I want to hear from you: what are you excited about? Where do you want our diocese to go? What are you yearning for from your next bishop?

This is a moderated blog, and only comments pertaining to the questions above will be posted and only if the writer includes their name.

I believe that the most important thing we can do is to be faithful in asking the questions about what God intends for the future of our church, and to be prayerful in this time of discernment.

I will begin posting Sunday, March 3, 2007.


  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball