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.

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  • "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