By Martin Loring, Chair, 11th Bishop of Oregon Search Committee
An enjoyable, informative time was had by everyone participating in the first Diocesan Listening Session, Saturday, August 10 at St. Luke’s, Grants Pass. Heidi Pitts, diocesan Director of Communications, and the Ven. Canon Carter Hawley, Archdeacon and Canon for Administration, did a good job organizing the session. The Rev. Ernestein Flemister and the parishioners of St. Luke’s provided a lovely facility as well as exceptional hospitality. Thanks to all for a good opportunity to hear what people think about three important diocesan issues.
Twenty people from at least six Southern Oregon and South Coast congregations came to hear about the Vision Committee, the Relocation Committee, and the 11th Bishop of Oregon Search Committee.
Heidi led off with an introduction on the history and findings of the Vision Committee. She was joined in this presentation by the Rev. Roberto Arciniega, Canon for Latino Ministries. Heidi also asked for input on alternatives to the current diocesan logo.
Carter followed with an update the work of the Relocation Committee and the process of developing criteria for the relocation of the diocesan office. She was followed by Ernestein+, who provided a summary of what is happening with the Search Committee to call the 11th Bishop of Oregon, and a timeline for this process.
Ernestein+ began by introducing her fellow members of the Search Committee present. These included: the Rev. Deacon Allan Miles, St. Martin’s, Shady Cove; the Rev. Timothy Hannon, St. James, Coquille; the Rev. Brandon Filbert, St. Timothy’s, Salem; and the Committee Chair, Martin Loring, St. Paul’s, Salem.
After the introductory overviews, the most exciting part of the session took place. Areas were assigned to each of the three committees, and the twenty people attending from local congregations circulated among them for 90 minutes asking questions, discussing issues, and offering insights on what should be done.
I sat in on the Search Committee discussions and attempted to capture the high points of as many contributions as I could (in chronological order). A summary follows:
- Retired priest – The best people are not necessarily the ones who apply to be Bishop. He has a friend that he would like to see apply or nominate.
- Person from Trinity, Ashland – People at the opposite end of the state feel left out (politically). As an ex-Roman Catholic, she recently got to spend two Sundays with Bishop Michael, and very much enjoyed being with a bishop she felt is a human being. She has real passion to be part of a community, and believes we need a bishop who is part of all of our communities – a bishop who looks at all of us as brothers and sisters. Her key word for a new bishop is “Community.”
- Another person – Love what the previous person said, but would take it one step further. What metro area families are dealing with is different from what smaller and more rural areas are dealing with. Her key word (for what she wants in a bishop) is “Diverse.”
- Person from Brookings– Her key word for what she would like to see in a bishop is “Relational.” She would also like to see a bishop who relates well to the ministry of deacons.
- Person from St. Luke’s – Would like our new bishop to be immersed in new ways of Christian Formation and to be multi-lingual. “Communication” is her key word, but wants it to be two-way. She wants to know what is going on, but to have input as well.
- Person from CA new to diocese – Where she comes from, the bishop not only visited parishes and missions, but met with deaneries as well. She liked that.
- Another person – Agree on the importance of communication, but it doesn’t always have to be the bishop. There are clergy who work with the bishop who can help.
- Working priest – Communicating and consensus building is an important part of the bishop’s job. In our diocese, this is made more difficult by the unofficial motto of Oregonians, “You can’t make me”. You have to get people on board. The diocese is diverse. You have to make all people feel like they are an equal part of the diocese. Video message might be used to identify, in general, what it going on.
- People were asked who reads the weekly Diocesan Digest, and nearly everyone said that they did.
- Person – She reads it but has a friend who stopped taking the Diocesan Digest. For that person, it has too much about clergy and not enough about what is happening in congregations.
- Person – Her the key word is, “Imagination” – has to be more than, “Communication.”
- Person from CA new to Diocese – She wants a person of “High Energy.” Health and energy matter more here than in some dioceses given our size. She would like to have a bishop who would show up at a convocation meeting.
- Retired priest – Cited diocesan statistics. Over the last ten years, Sunday attendance is down 2,000 people, and membership is down 4,000 people. This is a reduction of about 2% per year which would have disastrous long term consequences. We need a bishop who can help us deal with this challenge.
There are two more opportunities to participate in Diocesan Listening Sessions next Saturday, August 17, 2019: 9:30 – 11:30 am at St. Barnabas, Portland, and 2:30 – 4:30 pm at Church of the Good Samaritan, Corvallis. Please participate. We need to hear from as many of you as possible in order to get these three important activities right.