Great conversation among the bishops of the ELCA–how will we use social media and related mass communications tools to advance the gospel? When it comes to issues confronting the church (and we’ve never lacked for those), how do we–clergy and lay leaders alike–walk the delicate line of fostering true dialog?
On one side of that line is simple declaration: “This is how it is. End of story.”
On the other side of that line is diatribe: “Until the church [insert desired change], it’s going to [insert calamitous assertion]. It needs to [insert opinion stated as fact and final word on the subject]. It’s that clear.”
Somewhere in the middle is dialog: “This is what the church is doing and why,” followed by “Perhaps it’s time for the church to consider [idea] so that [positive outcome] can happen.”
This is Lutheran territory–where we’re called to live in the gray and to hold one another accountable. It’s to perpetually traverse the road between Jerusalem and Antioch. So let’s let the dialog begin with some simple questions. What do you understand the role of bishop to be? What do you expect of a bishop? What do you need from a bishop?
I’ll show my cards first–I think the bishop continues to fill the primary roles of any parish pastor, except in a different (sometimes much different) context. She or he is Pastor, Preacher, Priest, Prophet, Professor and Paper Pusher (the last being the best alliterative expression I could give to all the administrative functions a pastor fulfills). But there are other roles, less easily defined. The bishop’s office is responsible for ensuring that leaders are well and responsibly prepared (through the candidacy process); that misconduct among rostered leaders is prevented or appropriately responded to; that congregations are supported and resourced for their ministries; that congregational transitions are handled timely and well; that congregations’ and synods’ voices and concerns are heard at a churchwide level, and vice-versa; and apparently, there are also a lot of meetings that require the bishop’s presence, though I’m often unclear about why that is.That’s what it looks like from the inside, six weeks into the office.
In the midst of all that, it’s easy to get isolated or simply too busy to be in conversation. Whatever shortcomings blogs and social media have, they at least hold the possibility of sustained conversation. So I’m giving it my best shot, waiting to hear from you. And again I’ll ask: What do you expect of a bishop? What do you need from a bishop?