Tuesday, January 21, 2014

When I say Bishop, you say Deb!: What A Biblical Model of Episcopacy Ought to Look Like Through the Eyes of a Young Clergy (FL)

I've not been a United Methodist very long (about 6 years and 5 of those years under appointment), but long enough to know that not all Bishops are created equal. I mean yes they are made in the image of God and yada, yada, yada. What I mean is that not all of them posses the pastoral qualities that I think a bishop should have. Perhaps I'm treading on thin ice talking about our Bishop and such. I'm not even a provisional member yet (hopefully I be will in May). I'm just a FL (Full Time Local Pastor) who recently graduated from seminary and is serving in obscurity on the Northern boarder of the Saginaw Bay district, so maybe my opinion doesn't amount to much, but I've got to say...we in the Michigan Area are blessed to have one of the, if not the, most pastorally minded Bishops in the connexion.

In July of 2012 the North Central Jurisdiction assigned Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey to the Michigan Area, which is essentially a two point charge. It's composed of the West Michigan Conference and the Detroit Conference. This is an area of nearly 150,000 church members. Thats the size of many denominations in North America! She came to us from the Dakota's, perhaps serving in obscurity herself in a rather small episcopal area. There was a lot of hope and anticipation surrounding her assignment. Personally I attended seminary with a group of young clergy from the Dakota's and they all said great things about her. Particularly they said, and a concern of mine, was that she was very interested and responsive to young clergy and clergy families. I'm happy to say that I have found this report to be true and that all the excitement and energy surrounding her assignment was not smoke and mirrors, but very appropriate. One of the first things she did upon arrival was tour the area. I attended a gathering at Indian River UMC where she preached to and fellowship with clergy and laity. Thats when she told us we called call her, "Bishop Deb." Wow, I thought, she wants us to use her first name!? I think thats when I realized that we had been given a gift as an area, a truly pastoral bishop who is going to want, most of all, what's best for us. The following year in the summer  she spent a day and a night at camp with a group of young clergy families. She watched our corny talent show, sat around the fire as we told stories and asked questions. The next day she lead worship and followed it up with a 2hr question and answer session with both clergy and clergy spouses. She ended her time with us by eating lunch and giving us all a blessing as she departed. On top of those actions she has always responded to my personal e-mails, i.e. questions, invitation to preach and a welcome. 

Recently she has invited input on normally "top secret" discussions from area clergy, both lay pastors and ordained. She has opened discussion for all 150,000 Michigan Area United Methodists on creating a "new work in the Michigan area." A combined conference, not a merger, but a new work. Like I said, I've not been around very long, but I've been around long enough to know just how fortunate we are to have Bishop Deb as our Bishop and I, along with many other Michigan Area Clergy and Laity, are looking forward to a hopefully long relationship of leading by and following of Bishop Deb! 

Grace and Peace,

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