Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Our Episopal Default Future is a Racket We Should Divest

The reality is that we, like all denominational churches, face our default future. This reality isn't unique to us.

A friend recently gave me a copy of Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan's book THE THREE LAWS OF PERFORMANCE. In it Zaffron and Logan argue that all humans typically face and receive the futures that they believe will pass. They argue that this reality illusion has more power of humans than actual facts or reasons.

It is like this, how a situation occurs to you goes hand in hand with your actions. This is amplified by the fact that what we see is all there is, and the world seemingly revolves around us as individuals. David Foster Wallace in his Kenyan College Graduation speech offered this understanding of our self-centeredness. He believed that we are deluded by the lens by which we experience the world – this is part of our problem and it hides the most obvious realities. He wrote, "A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded… [because] everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence... Think about it: There is no experience you've had that you were not at the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is right there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real” that it is difficult to hear the other voices. Wallace says, "As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head. In fact some of you are carrying on that conversation right now.”

Daniel Kahneman in his book THINKING FAST AND SLOW calls it "observation bias."

What these authors, economists, and business men are offering is the essential truth that we see the world as it occurs to us and therefore make actions that suit our observations.  We make our future - one way or the other.

The question that Bob Johansen, of Institute for the Future, is asking is what insights are you using to make your decisions.

So lets go back and think a bit about our Episcopal Church (or any denomination thinking about how to structure itself, judicatory, or congregation for that matter). This summer our Episcopal Church will meet in convention and ponder how to structure itself for mission.  It will ask the same questions it has been asking for two decades, and they are similar to all denominational churches in our time. In particular our church structure has spent enormous amounts of time and energy pondering what the future looks like - TREC. Now that TREC has returned with their version what structure could be the population of general convention is thinking - "no". There are other groups offering similar ideas as TREC. There are groups trying to amplify the work of all these people to convince the general-convention-going deputies that they need to vote positively to restructure the church.

But the deputies and bishops have not spent a lot of time on this. They have not spent three years reading and studying things, listening to consultants, dreaming about mission, and then attempting to build consensus in a wildly diverse group of people around common future scenarios of a mission church. This isn't to place a value on the lack of this work, but it is to point out that the deputy or bishop will vote based upon how the church occurs to them. And here is the rub.

The future is as it occurs and is already written by the deputies and bishops - and it isn't the future TREC or any other group is offering. The reason is that it is the default future. The deputies and bishops will vote, as all others have voted, and as of right now the vast majority of efforts towards restructuring will fail. The restructuring offers  a means to an end and that end is not how the deputies see the church; it isn't how it occurs to them. That is just the way it is.

70% of all change efforts fall short because those who are actually in charge of the change don't change but vote or act as the church has always occurred to them. 70% fall short despite our good intentions, sophisticated systems, we have put a great group of people in the room, we have a solid management plan, and good leaders who came up with TREC report (I am biased of course having been a member of the committee).

The reason is that what occurs to the vast numbers of deputies and bishops may be one of the following: a) all structure proposals fail b) I don't think our system is broken c) to change will remove power from me d) I like how things work e) our predecessors chose this system for a reason. Regardless of context, potential, crisis, problems, expressed concern about the continued loss of membership and money, or any other reason these 5 different ways in which the church occurs to the people will rule the day. The 5 different ways the church occurs to the deputies and bishops is not only a voting block to ensure no movement but it is an intimately strong web of occurrences that are not changed by reasonable argument, future forecast, power points, and graphs.

The traditional approach, Zaffron and Logan argue, is for us to make our case. Show our research. Offer a view of what is really happening. Look at the numbers. "See here it is," we might say, "it is clear." Current models for change management hold that people act based upon mental assets of skills, emotions, beliefs, values, attitudes, and knowledge. And the traditional approach is to use incentives, skill training, and motivation to manage the change. Zaffron and Logan point out that this is why the effort fails. None of this deals with how the actual church and future church occurs to the people who actually will be making a vote.

No matter how much money, resources, time we spend throwing at this problem we will fail because we have forgotten (as Simon Sinek points out) The Why.

The reality is that the unanimous vote in both houses to restructure was created by casting a vision of a future church that was involved in mission at all levels of the organization. People believed - even for a moment - that the possible was in fact, well, possible.

Over the last two decades the change efforts have failed at General Convention (not because they were bad ideas) because we never changed how the church occurred to those voting. Consequently, each effort that has failed has reinforced and strengthened the resistance to change. We are so focused on the what and the what has grown stronger and stronger and more resistant to change. Not only that - we benefit from keeping it this way.

We as a church, and General Convention (or any judicatory), have a racket. The first part of our racket is this: we have a complaint about how things work. Everyone is complaining. We heard it clearly at TREC, that everyone has problems with how things work - even if they denied publicly that this was true, we heard it privately over and over again. The second part of the racket is this: we write about it, talk about, speach-ify about it, call for change, we act hopeless and bewildered at how no one will change. The third element Zaffron and Logan offer is harder to see. We all see the above two behaviors of our Episcopal racket. The next behavior is the payoff. The payoff for our particular racket is that we get to be right, the depersonalized system is wrong, avoids the reality that we are part of the system, and we maintain control of our platform or place on the convention floor. The fourth behavior to our racket is the cost. The cost is that we remain hopeless to change anything, we continue to spend money and time with very little to show for it, we disenfranchise people across the church, and we harm the mission of Christ.

We have a default future and it is a racket that costs the mission of the church dearly and hurts the community and mission of Christ. We need to divest from this racket and this way that the church occurs to us. It is not what God intends.

Here is where that old maxim about the sea comes in, attributed to Antoine de Saint Exupery, "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."

Jesus offered us a vision of nothing less than the reign of God. Jesus offered us plenteous redemption. Jesus offered us healing and forgiveness. Jesus offered us a share in his harvest ministry.  Jesus invited us to come along and to meet an intimate transformative God.  This vision held up against the way we do things today brings about change.

The solution to bringing about change will depend on Jesus' vision of the church and the following behaviors of its adherents. 
  • We need to focus on the hopeful future potential of our church and our church's mission.
  • We need to speak about the future (not the current state of affairs, not the problems, not the racket - for that we need to go to confession and seek amendment of life).
  • We must paint a compelling and vibrant future together, speaking and listening one another into a conversion that seeks to be the community that Jesus inspired.
The challenge as we enter this season of preparation and debate will must be a season of inspiration and imagination. So I invite you to lift up your eyes. Take a look towards the horizon. What does a vibrant, beautiful, living, healthy and powerful church look like as it undertakes mission through evangelism and the service of neighbor? What does the future church look like as it sails into the contextual sea that surrounds you? Leave behind the vision of the church that occurs to you, and take up the future church that you are willing to work towards?

It will be those who can cast a vision of this future church who will win the day regarding the future shape of our organization. I believe it will be the bishop who can inspire us to imagine this future church who will be the next Presiding Bishop. We should demand inspiration and vision from our leaders. We should hope together to discover the open sea that is before us. 

I think that Jesus' vision of community is worth working together to bring to light. I think that vision, the one you have in your head right now, that church is worth the labor of change.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Great Invasion of Multi-colored Lobsters and Pentecost

Sermon preached on Pentecost at Trinity Episcopal Church in Midtown Houston Texas, Pentecost, 2015.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015


On Saturday my new book CHURCH launched.

This first book is a sizable text of over 540 pages; over 30 of them footnotes. It is a historical and futuristic view of the potential God has in store for the denominational Church.

Regardless of denomination, if you are a thought leader, clergy, pastor, deacon, theologian, missionary, a social communicator,or lay leader working on God's mission - this is a book for you. If you are trying to understand the changing context in which we find ourselves undertaking ministry I think you should read this book. If you love the history of the denominational church and are interested in how that history prepares us for our future you will enjoy this book.

You can purchase CHURCH by clicking HERE.

This is the product of my sabbatical and an essential piece of understanding the bedrock research from which our strategic plan has emanated and to where we are leaning. I believe as a friend says - leaders make the future. We must step into our future by taking action today that will help us find our way in world that is volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous. With the Gospel in hand, and the Holy Spirit within us, we are to groan towards the future of creation intended by God.

Where the church is not making headway or does not reflect the kingdom we must be willing to change. I find that the denominational church has a tendency to want to be resurrected before it is willing to die. Truly this is the characteristic of human institutions at their worst. But God is calling us forward into a new something that resembles more the kingdom God has in store for all of creation.

My hope is that this text will offer leaven to feed the Church's imagination around the work before us. It is an offering to God and the Church. It is an offering to all those who have lost hope in their denominational church over the last two decades. Most of all, it is an offering for those who deeply desire to be part of what God is doing in the world around us. It is you, the imaginative lover of Jesus, passionate missionary, and worldly pilgrim, whom I hope to engage in a discussion about the future. 

I am ever grateful to my pre-readers across the country, my reviews who have been excited about the text, and Virginia Theological Seminary Press for supporting my efforts. I am also grateful to the Diocese of Texas for the space and support to write the book. 

I hope you, as a thought leader in your denomination, read CHURCH (from VTS Press) then gather a small group of friends together and read GENEROUS COMMUNITY together (from Church Publishing which publishes in October of 2015). 

Together these two books will help create a cadre of leaders, conversation partners, that can help transform your congregation, lead you to plant new missional communities, help you transform the community and context in which you find yourself.

A GENEROUS COMMUNITY: BEING THE CHURCH IN A  NEW MISSIONARY AGE is a brief book of stories and reflections to help create an imaginative synergy between leaders and people who wish to ponder and act upon God's invitation to be at work in the world on his behalf. The book goes deeper with a set of questions, further reading, and opportunities for action which can make a vision of who we are becoming come to life in the midst of the community in which you serve.

I am grateful to Church Publishing for seeing the value of this book as a partner text to CHURCH and for the resources they put behind the effort. I am especially grateful to the Rev. Canon John Newton for assisting me in writing the reflection questions. I am also especially indebted to my new friend and editor Richard Bass who dreamed this dream with me and who did the laborious work of editing down CHURCH. Eager to keep the history and technical information in the hands of denominational thought leaders, Richard saw immediately the gift that A GENEROUS COMMUNITY could have for the parishes across the denominational church. He quickly became an essential team member and I am so glad that Church Publishing saw fit to attach him to the project.

You can purchase A GENEROUS COMMUNITY by clicking HERE.

The Bishop Richardson Society Speech

The Bishop Richardson Society is a group of individuals who have placed the ministry of Christ Church Cathedral Houston in their wills to insure the mission of the Cathedral into the future. A few fun reflections and thoughts were shared thanking those present for making a planned gift.

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Diocese of Texas Vision Presentation at Santa Maria Del Virgen

Presentation of the Diocese of Texas 5 year strategic plan for shared ministry with members of Santa Maria, May 2015

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Theories about Change, Growth, and Mission

Visiting with leaders from around the Episcopal Church working to support new initiatives across the church. Some interesting discussion on TREC, future church leadership models, and growth theories.

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Mother's Day Is Complicated

Sermon preached at Palmer Episcopal Church Easter 6b 2015

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

It Is Mother's Day and It Is Complicated

It is Mother's Day and it is complicated. 

Esther Cohen is an author and posted on Krista Tippet's website on Being here. She writes:
What unites us is that every single one of us — and I really mean every single one of us because it’s one of the few things we have in common no matter what in the world we believe or what we look like or where we come from — is that we all have mothers, complicated mothers who somehow or other got us here to Earth. Those mothers had mothers too. 
This fact, this simple basic fact, an indisputable universal truth is still hard to imagine.
The columnist Courtney Martin offers the paradox of motherhood in this article:
On the one hand, I’ve never felt so linked to the rest of humanity. When I birthed my baby girl ...I became a member of one of the largest, most powerful demographic groups on the planet: mothers. (This is not, of course, to suggest that only those who give birth to children are mothers, just that this was the “path in” for me.) While so much separates me from other mothers, there is this sacred something that we have in common, this awareness of the fragility and fierceness of humanity (another paradox), this knowing that everyone on earth is someone’s child... There’s an ineffable recognition there.
It is Mother's Day and it is complicated.

I am the child of a mother, but I will never be a mother. There are still others who feel the pain of living without children. I am keenly aware that relationships between mothers and children are not all pleasant. Some have mothers we might not have chosen or children we might not have wished to have. (You can read Anne Lamott's negative take on Mother's Day here at Salon.) Sometimes our relationships with mothers are as messy as our relationship with God. And there are those who have lost their mothers - giving mother's day flowers and weeks later placing flowers on the coffin. Surely, we must understand the complexity of our relationships with mothers and the complexity motherhood brings.

Like all things there is a shadow side to mothering and motherhood as there is a shadow side in all things.

But let us not defend ourselves against this shadow by shaming others, by confronting, or withdrawing. For character and understanding is not found in these behaviors. Instead we know that by plumbing the depths of something I do not comprehend or pausing over experiences of others that I may not have had is important. It is, after all, in engaging this difference that character and wisdom is found.

There is something here for us as humans, regardless of our experience, something here for us all on mother's day.

Victor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor and Jewish psychiatrist in his famous 1946 book, Man's Search For Meaning, wrote:
It did not really matter what we expected from life but rather what life expected from us. We need to stop asking the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life, daily and hourly. (David Brooks, The Road To Character, 22) Frankl believed that life had given him an "assignment."
What then is this task that life gives us and from where does it come?

Let us return to Courtney Martin again:

[In motherhood] the lines of my individuality blur. The scope of my vision expands and contracts, again and again, ad infinitum. I’ve heard the idea that having a child is like having your heart walk around, outside of your body. For me, this doesn’t quite capture it. It’s more circulatory than that — perhaps the blood is a better metaphor ...A pregnant woman’s plasma volume increases by an average of about 1250 ml, a little under 50% of the average non-pregnant volume. [There is a] sense that the very thing that pumps through your veins has been altered, expanded, complicated, well, that never really goes away.

You see, we are connected. Like a mother to child, we are intimately connected. Here is truth, as children we are linked through motherhood itself. We are connected intimately together. This matrilineality of life, this common blood line of interconnectedness yoked through motherhood, this is life, this is reality.

It reminds us that there is no us or them. There is no righteous or unrighteous, no saint and no sinner - there is one family of God.

Jesus himself tried to teach us this very fact in his words and in his actions. He tried to gather us as a family like a hen to chicks. Jesus himself, friend of sinners, sought to connect, reconnect us. He ate with sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, religious leaders, the unclean, the leaperous and fishermen along with the pharisee and holy men of his time. This he said is love, to live as family, to be family together. This is what life asks of you. This is what God asks of you. This is what you are made for - to be family, brothers and sisters one to another.

This is the work of the love we call affection, the realization that we are connected beyond our friendship, passion, and our ability to give. We find that we are linked and in being linked - saint and sinner, sinner and saint - we understand our task.

Through the grace of Jesus who saves us all and who reconciles us to God and one another we understand not only our connectedness but what our connectedness is meant to accomplish. For her is the commandment of life, here is the commandment of love.

To love the one to whom you are bound. To love another spontaneously and without cause simply by our connection. To love and live with regardless and without the rule of merit. To love creatively outside the lines of connection. To build, grow, create real community with the good of the whole family at the heart of our common action.

This is something different than social justice where we call for change. This is life lived in mission to one another loving neighbor as self. This is a way of being made possible by our affection and connection. This is a way of being which transforms our actions.

Julia Ward Howe wrote in 1870 calling for a very different Mother's Day that radically called for the transformation of society.
...In this day of progress, in this century of light, the ambition of rulers has been allowed to barter the dear interests of domestic life for the bloody exchanges of the battle field. Thus men have done. Thus men will do. But women need no longer be made a party to proceedings which fill the globe with grief and horror. Despite the assumptions of physical force, the mother has a sacred and commanding word to say to the sons who owe their life to her suffering. That word should now be heard, and answered to as never before. 
Arise, then, Christian women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly : We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. 
...From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence vindicate possession. (read the whole poem here)
In this matrilineality, in this connection of blood, we find that we are the brothers to our death row inmates. We are the sisters of the 337,000 who are incarcerated in this country. We are siblings to the 1.5 million who have been deported in the last four years. We are the nieces and nephews of the 412 people killed by police this year. We are the mothers and fathers of the 42 police killed by civilians this years. Those 31,000 people who die from gun violence each year are our kin. We are family to the men and women struggling with mental illness and addiction of all kinds. We are related to the 578,000 homeless men and women in this country. We are the cousins to the 48 million people who live on less than $10,000. This is our family, here is our legacy.

Here we discover the accurate understanding of life's assignment. Here is our understanding of our connectedness. Here our wisdom becomes knowledge and our knowledge becomes action - life's work. Here is our commandment to love more than sentiment, chocolate, and flowers.

"Here is our work to reject our individuality, our tendency towards selfishness, our tendency to believe the world revolves around me. Here is an accurate understanding of our place in the cosmos." says David Brooks of the New York Times (262).

We are invited by Jesus to love one another, to live as sons and daughters of one maker God - here is mother's day and it is complicated. We are to live lives as siblings connected for ever and to build a community that resembles more the family of God and less the kingdom of individuals who offer the culture of this world.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Dude Abides

Sermon on Easter 5B 2015 at St Davids Austin and Trinity Marble Falls

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The Future of Connection

A talk given at the Invite Welcome Connect conference at Camp Allen in 2015. 

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No Childhood Good Shepherd Here

Sermon preached at Resurrection and St Michaels churches in Austin on Easter 4b 2015.

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Friday, May 1, 2015

A Presiding Bishop to Lead A Generous Community Amplified for the Future

With the Presiding Bishop nominations about to be released I wanted to share some thoughts from my new book entitled Church: A Generous Community for An Amplified Age. This is taken from the chapter on vocations. I believe this applies to the role of the Presiding Bishop as it applies for the local bishop. The community, the meetings, and the structure may be slightly different but the leadership skills needed will be the same.


As we look for these leaders, we will be challenged because in some ways they are not like us. Yet we know that the future Episcopal Church is beckoning and calling them into service. It is our work, our vocation, to help call them forward. To say out loud that we need individuals who have the characteristics of the second-curve leader. We must look at the church we have described, and believe lives in our positive future, and we must raise up leaders who are also representative of the great ethnic and social diversity that makes up our context. We need people who come from every kind of background with every kind of skill set. We are looking for mission-focused, entrepreneurial, collaborative, and adaptive leaders. We are looking for people who can see the church that we are seeing. These new leaders believe in and will do anything they can to work towards our positive future of a diverse people of God.

This means that we need leaders who are not only representatives of diverse populations but who are “cross-culturally competent.”[i] Leaders need to be adaptable to shifting ethnic population movement, customs, and social complexity. The younger generations are globally aware and global travelers – even just electronically. This will help them be leaders in the future church. It is important to speak another language, but even that is not as important as being able to be sensitive to the complex social customs of a particular ethnic group. Scott E. Page, director at the Center of Study of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan writes, “Progress depends as much on our collective differences as it does on our individual IQ scores.”[ii] He believes that crowds/commons that show a “range of perspectives and skill levels outperform like-minded experts.”[iii] Therefore the people we raise up for leadership will need to be able to illustrate in their lives some ability to achieve cross-cultural competency.

The future Church is looking for people who love God in Christ Jesus. They have a deep reverence for the sacraments at the heart of their own lives. They have a sacramental worldview and are able to tell the story of God by using many images and tools. They will be digital natives who are not afraid of the multiplicity of contexts and are able to move in and out of them seamlessly. These future leaders will already be connected and networked through a wide web of social media outlets. They will have an ability to “critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.”[iv] In other words, they will have the ability not only to navigate but also utilize constantly evolving media. They need to be “new media literate.”[v]

This will mean that we are looking for people who are “novel and adaptive thinkers.”[vi] New situations, new tools, and new cultural shifts in an uncertain world mean that the Church needs to have individuals leading it who can think and develop/create/innovate solutions.[vii] Rule-based solution makers are less effective in the VUCA world. Just as industry will need these kinds of people, so too, the church will depend upon them. In fact, no new church starter should be sent out if they are not novel and adaptive thinkers.

The future leaders will be people who are “socially intelligent.”[viii] Machines, even artificial intelligence (AI), will not be able to assess the emotions of groups.[ix] Teams and collaborations will be essential (even electronic team work now has video that enhances communication). People read people’s faces and situations in a way that today is unmatched by machines. The more we return to an age of living and working in groups/pods the more this social intelligence will become essential. [x]Leaders of the future must be literally able to read the room and use that information for leadership.

These leaders (lay and ordained) will share their story easily and be of interest to their peers and those they engage. People will want to listen and connect naturally – in part because of the three characteristics above. The future Church leaders are trustworthy and accessible. They communicate and collaborate across cultural and ideological boundaries as agents of God’s reconciling love in the face of cultural forces that polarize and divide. They are transparent, but manage to shape shift easily, as they hold to their convictions with clarity of faith, and show a capacity to stay in relationship with many different kinds of people.

The future Episcopal Church leaders are pilgrims. They are themselves making their way through life as seekers. They are authentically on a journey and are interested in their own growth spiritually. These leaders are self-aware of how they are perceived. They tolerate failure in others, they expect to fail themselves, and they are able to talk about failure because they know intrinsically that this is where growth occurs.

These leaders are conveners. They naturally are people who gather others for formation, learning, pilgrimages, studies, conversations, and storytelling. They are able to hand off leadership easily – they share leadership. They build their mini -communities with such diversity that they are always strengthening and gathering for the purpose of the overall health and vitality of the community. They are willing to share leadership but also willing to help do/experience all parts of community life. They do this in person and virtually. They are adept at figuring out the kind of collaboration that is needed, and then the means for making those connections happen. They have grown up in a world of virtual gaming, which mixes real-world parallel play with virtual peer groups. The digital native is accustomed to “immediate feedback, clear objectives, and staged series of challenges.”[xi] The new group of leaders is less limited by time, travel, and the economy, in accomplishing the task. The will naturally work better in groups and they will desire to connect with others for the sake of building stronger teams. They do not see a difference between doing this in person or online. Moreover, and importantly for all supervisors, they are not going to waste their time doing something in person if it can be done just as well digitally. They value their in-person and personal time, and want to use that for themselves.

The leaders of the future will be wise counselors, preachers and teachers. They are able to articulate the deep meaning of things. They do this for religious stories and sacraments. They also do this for secular movies, stories, and for city events. The future will need “sense-makers.”[xii] They are able themselves (before they ever go to seminary) to communicate the Gospel in ways that people and communities find engaging and relevant to their lives: in the pulpit and in personal conversation. Machines and technology will never tell a good story or be able to navigate complex sense-making. Thinking, contemplating, metaphor making, and the sacramental interpretation of life will depend upon the future leaders being gifted sense-makers.

Along with this sense-making skill they will also need “computational thinking.”[xiii] This does not mean that they need to be computers. The amount of information that is traded in a knowledge economy is huge. The complexity of the socialstructured world is illustrated by the variety and number of networked communities. The future leaders, as digital natives, will not see this as strange. They will also be able to “manage their cognitive load.”[xiv] They are able to “discriminate and filter information for importance.”[xv] While the digital immigrants are awash in a sea of competing information bytes, the digital native is able to assess importance quickly, take what is needed, and leave the rest. Those who are able to translate what they see, read, experience, and learn, into abstract concepts and new ideas are the ones who will rise above their generation in leadership.

This means they will also need to be “transdisciplinary.”[xvi] In every axial age, the key people have been those who were not specialists in any one thing, but able to navigate across specialties, piecing seemingly divergent ideas into holistic life strategies, new sciences, and new philosophies. Howard Rheingold, and author, writes, “transdisciplinarity goes beyond bringing together researchers from different disciplines to work in multidisciplinary teams. It means educating researchers who can speak languages of multiple disciplines – biologists who have understanding of mathematics, mathematicians who understand biology.”[xvii] This means we need people who understand church, sociology, culture, history, business, and accounting. It is not that we are looking for people who are experts in everything. We do not need that. Remember these leaders work in commons, networked relationships, and groups. They will build teams of depth. It does mean that we are looking for leaders who are “T-shaped.”[xviii] The people we want to engage will bring a deep understanding of one field but have the ability to speak the language and culture of a “broader range of disciplines.”[xix] It will not be enough to know a lot and be able to put it together in a novel way. In order to truly engage sense-making, the future transdisciplinarian will be able to put the pieces together in the right way so as to make them work. Computational thinkers and transdisciplinarians are the kinds of people the Church will need to help navigate the future mission context.

The future leaders will be people who have a “design mindset.”[xx] The future leader will need to be a person who can look at the task and create a strategy, plan, or ministry to reach the desired outcomes of the mission. It is not just about planting a Christian community. It is about creating a mission in a particular context with a unique combination of people, language, and culture, then after assessing and making sense of it, putting together the pieces to accomplish the goal of a new service ministry or Bible study. They will do this as a secondary act of designing, based upon what they experience and see as needed. The present church simply does what it does. The future Church will depend upon individuals surveying their mission context and then designing the mission to fit it, rather than believing they have the answer to questions that are not being asked or a healthy church for people who do not know they need one. A design mindset looks first and then designs.

Leaders of the future will be humble. They have to be humble in order to tolerate the failure necessary for learning. This will also breed in them a tenacious spirit. Tenacity is not doing the same things over and over again until you accomplish the goal. Tenacity is the willingness to try everything until you are successful. This group of leaders is willing to work hard and spend their own capital in order to achieve their goal. They will use their cognitive surplus to bridge the gaps between where they are and where they believe they (or their community) are heading. This will be seen by many as a deep and abiding sense that they are entitled to very little, but will work hard to experience the creative process. This adventurous, almost frontier spirit, will mean they are vocationally flexible. They enjoy new things and participating in different exchanges and experiences. The future Church leaders, and their families, are willing to move to and go where their interests lie. Meaning, if they are devoted to a missionary opportunity, and there is no full time position, they are more likely to get a secular job so they can make the vision happen, than they are to take a job of less interest because it pays.

These leaders will reshape the nature of the ordained ministry. What seems essential to say is that, as a bishop, I know that looking for all these qualities in any one person, is like looking for the messiah. And, if the leaders of today can raise up such a person, the future Church needs her! Here is the big news though, for Commissions on Ministry, and those who are going to participate in this raising up of future leaders: we are not looking for a person - we are looking for a group. Remember the digital native is a creature of the pack. What we have to do is raise up T-shaped individuals with those Ts fitting together to form a group that will bring all of these skills to the new church. T-shaped leaders are people who have a broad variety of skills with one or two skill expertise. When you put T-shaped leaders together in a group you multiply expertise and cross over skills. The present past Church looks for leaders who are specialists or who can become specialists, and will be solitary leaders. The future Church looks for team members who help build a team that will have a depth of these skills and the ability to scale their other talents with their fellow missionary leaders. This is how the future Church will build its cadre of leaders.


The bishop in the future Church will continue to guard the faith of the church, but will be more of a hub, than a person who polices the boundaries of the Christian community.[xxi] They will be a unifying figure; at ease with their own beliefs and willing to listen and bring others along. The bishop will be a person who redefines the continuing discipline of the Church. They are wise enough to hold quickly to tradition, but transparently and honestly know that things have not always been any one way. The bishop of the future Church will be present in their communities – churches and wider culture. They will be known more by their geographical area than where their office is located. They will have a see and cathedra[xxii] but they will sit in the midst of their Christian communities and sit within the wider cultural context. They will no longer be associated only within their own church but as a community member who desires the best for the people who live within their diocese – and I don’t mean only the Episcopalians. The people of any given area and of any given denomination will know the Episcopal bishop of the future Church. The bishop will be a celebrant of sacraments in the world and within the community. The bishops of the future will be bishops of the people, and go about with and among their people. They will not be one to stay in an ivory tower or diocesan center. No matter what the administrative call might be, the bishop of the future Church remembers that he or she is to be out and going (as an apostle) to God’s people where they are.

Bishops will see the different kinds of ministers that are needed and will raise up people from every walk of life, and of every profession, to take on the mission of the church. This future bishop will ensure that there are many paths to ministry. They will send people to all kinds of programs and courses. The bishop of the future will place the highest priority on the mission – the criteria being the growth of the kingdom of God and the transformation of the world through the reconciling power of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore they will make the measure of success not one of degrees but on how well the life of the future Church leader accomplishes the work we have discussed throughout this book.

The bishop of the future church is a bishop who is himself or herself a second-curve leader with all of the criteria and characteristics we have already discussed. They are people who work with other bishops of the same kind to move the future Church and its vision forward. The future bishop represents well the best of leadership throughout the ages and is always willing to be a prophetic voice. Yet the bishop of the future is not one to shake his fist at the wider world. No. The future bishop is willing to offer leadership to change those institutions that must be changed. This kind of a bishop is willing to work hard to make change happen in those areas of the culture where change is needed. Words without deeds will be a foreign concept to the bishop of the future Church. This bishop is a bishop of hope.

The future bishop believes in the positive future of the Church they serve. They believe that life and vitality are present and they offer a living vision of a living Church to their people. The bishop is willing to work towards that vision, making hard decisions along the way. The bishop believes. The bishop joins God on God’s pilgrimage to reconcile the world. The bishop is always willing to serve and figures out ways in which the most good can come from the church’s presence in any community. The bishops find joy in upholding and supporting the many ministries of their diocese. These bishops of the future love their work and would do nothing else. They thrive in a sea of challenge and are excited (which shows) by the prospect of making a difference.

The future bishop lives a particular and disciplined life. He or she is faithful, and continues the practice of studying. The bishop knows the scriptures and the life of Christ and the saints well. The bishop is also willing to seek revelation and vision from other sources because the bishop knows that God in Christ is present in the world too – drawing the world into communion. It is important for the bishop to study the world and to know and understand the forces at work and the people behind them. The bishop is therefore willing and able to speak the language of their mission context. They are able to proclaim a vision of the Gospel of Good News of Salvation to their people, in a language and using symbols and images they understand. The bishop speaks as one of the people and is able to move the hearts of men and women for the work of ministry.

The future bishops will accomplish this work because they will support all the baptized to be sure. This bishop, though, must be connected in ways unseen since the early days of the Church. They are known, and they know their people, and those who minister to them. They are able to be continually in touch, and through this connection, build-up the wider community. The bishop is a unifying pastoral presence for the people entrusted to their care. Through the network of relationships, with the bishop as the hub, the internal life and ministry of the church, its members, the secular leaders, and those who are seeking are all connected into a much broader family of God which is greater and stronger than any particular group that gathers on any given Sunday morning. It is in this way that the bishop is able to marshal support for those who need it, those without a voice, and those without a community. The bishop of the future Church will no longer be given authority or be considered a prince of the church because of station. The bishop of the future Church will be the chief servant of all, the friend of many, and will receive leadership because of her humility and careful guiding hand. The bishop of the future Church is seen as the shepherd and spiritual guide of her people. This will all be done, not by lording power over those in their care, but rather by working with them.

[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Ibid.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Ibid.
[viii] Ibid.
[ix] Ibid.
[x] Ibid.
[xi] Ibid.
[xii] Ibid.
[xiii] Ibid.
[xiv] Ibid.
[xv] Ibid.
[xvi] Ibid.
[xvii] Ibid.
[xviii] Ibid.
[xix] Ibid.
[xx] Ibid.
[xxi] BCP, 517ff. Adapted.
[xxii] A cathedra is the bishop’s chair in the cathedral


  • "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