Posts Tagged ‘diocese’

New Bishop for New York

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Last Saturday, the Convention of the Diocese of New York elected a new Suffragan (assistant) Bishop, the Rev. Allen Shin. Shin is rector of St. John’s Church in Huntington, Long Island.

Few people seem to have anticipated this result. Two of the women candidates had strong records of leadership within the diocese; the African-American male in the race also had impressive local credentials. In a diocese where identity politics have always played an important role, the selection of a Korean-American immigrant is surprising. One of the candidates was a lesbian, yet despite the gender and sexual politics of recent years, a straight male was elected–and the gay issue was not mentioned publicly the entire day.

Maybe the diocese is pulling back from the divisive issues of the past. Or, maybe, diversity has become the new normal, and we New York Episcopalians are growing up. —J. Douglas Ousley

Bishops Get What They Want

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

I have been collecting notes for a series of sermons next year about Christians that I have been fortunate enough to know.

One of these was the Rev. Canon Edward West, Sub-Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Although an eccentric, mystic, and altogether unforgettable character, Canon West was also shrewd in the ways of the world.

Particularly in the ways of the Church in the world. He once remarked to me, “Bishops always get what they want.” At the time we spoke, I was serving in a very successful parish whose rector seemed to be able to function with great independence from any higher authority. And I knew that in the Episcopal Church, great power also resides in local vestries, which control their money and have the lion’s share of authority in appointing their rectors.

Yet we are seeing in our own diocese the truth of Canon West’s observation. The indaba program of dialogue would never have gotten started without a powerful and sustained push from the top. In the near future, I imagine parishes in New York and its suburbs will be closed or merged that seemed to be immortal. And whoever happens to be elected Suffragan Bishop of New York on December 7, the diocesan Bishop’s policies will prevail.

“Episcopal” comes from the Greek word for “bishop.” It is no wonder that this is the name of our church. —J. Douglas Ousley

Here we go again…

Monday, November 4th, 2013

I am sorry to have been delinquent in posting, but I do have a rare solid excuse: I got married!

Anyway, my honeymoon is over and the church political scene has become very active locally. I haven’t been following closely the Suffragan Election slated for December 7, because the candidate I have wanted from the beginning is among the finalists. I’ll report soon on how the election is proceeding.

Meanwhile, the first regular Convention of the Diocese of New York is on for this Saturday, November 9. So far, budget and clergy compensation seem to be the only issues (nice, outward, evangelistic subjects, those.) Plus small group discussions called “Indaba,” which will provide another alternative to doing something about the church-wide decline. May the Good Lord inspire us, nevertheless. —J. Douglas Ousley

New Election Season

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Proposals of names for Suffragan Bishop of New York close this week. The Nominating Committee will spend the summer sifting through the suggestions, interviewing some, checking references and background, and submitting a list of five or so final candidates to be considered at the December 7 election. As the short list should only be out in October, the most intense campaigning won’t begin until then.

It will be interesting to see who is proposed–especially since the current Bishop of New York was not nominated by last year’s committee and had to be proposed from the floor. My guess would be that the nominees will be all over the diversity spectrum but that the strongest candidate will be: female (to balance male bishop),minority in some way (to balance straight white bishop), and older (so as to be retiring relatively soon if she turned out to be a problem!)

More substantially, I would bet that the winner will be someone with a track record of congregational development and church growth. Politics very definitely aside, that is what we need in this diocese. —J. Douglas Ousley

What is Wrong With This Picture?

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

At a recent meeting of diocesan leaders of outreach projects, those attending were placed into small groups to discuss their experiences. We were particularly asked to evaluate whether our programs were contributing to the growth and development of those we served, or whether we were simply creating a culture of dependency.

One woman in my group has worked in a large church dinner program for 16 years. A three-course meal is served, carefully cooked and planned to provide maximum dietary benefit. Recently, however, some guests have been asking for vegetarian options–even though only one of the many items offered on a given evening would be meat, there was always salad, etc.

The woman recognized that her program wasn’t serving the starving, of whom there are very few in America. But she wondered how hungry these people could be if they could be so demanding of their free cuisine. She asked, “What is wrong with this picture?”

Food for thought, as we try to serve the poor in Christ’s name. —J. Douglas Ousley

Legal, Civil, Religious

Friday, July 20th, 2012

The Bishop of New York and the Bishop Co-Adjutor have just decreed that same sex weddings may be celebrated in church and, provided that the couples have obtained the proper New York State marriage licenses, these marriages will be legal in the eyes of both church and state.

I have written about this issue many times for many years and will not go on further now. Bishop Mark Sisk held back where other bishops allowed such ceremonies because he was hoping for some global Anglican compromise–or at least, an agreement to disagree. Meanwhile, anti-gay bishops, especially in Africa, seem to moving toward separation from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and they give no indication of any reasonable compromise that would allow them to stay. In other words, there is nothing to gain by diluting our own convictions.

One final comment: both bishops note that not all Episcopalians agree with same-sex marriage in church, and they recognize that this reflects a novel development of doctrine. Those of us who favor the change would do well to remember that fellow church members may still be struggling with the issue. Triumphalism in this area of church life, as in others, is not to commended. —J. Douglas Ousley

In Favor

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Both bishops of New York have quickly endorsed President Obama’s support for gay marriage.

While this statement is hardly a surprise and will likely not change anyone’s mind, it is one more step toward making gay and lesbian rights the social default position.

In that case, however, does this summer’s General Convention really need to spend vast amounts of time discussing the issue? In particular, do we really need special liturgies for same-sex unions when we have already have a perfectly good marriage liturgy? If gay marriage is marriage of the same import as straight marriage, the sacramental blessing should be identical. —J. Douglas Ousley

Cardinals Flying the Coop?

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Yesterday, another Manhattan rector announced that he is resigning to look for a position in a small upstate parish. This will make at least seven parishes in this borough who are looking for rectors.

I love my job and try never to complain; most days, it hardly seems like work. My job is certainly easier than the work most of my parishioners do. But the early retirements and resignations of so many of my colleagues recently makes me wonder if being a “cardinal” rector is not what it used to be. More demanding parishioners may be a problem, as well as less money. Or this may just be a generational blip. Time will tell.

But for one parish, a sobering announcement on Palm Sunday. —J. Douglas Ousley

Mainline Sidelined

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

When my first boss in the church was installed as rector of a large church on Fifth Avenue, a photo of the event appeared the next day in the New York Times. In 1972, no one thought much about this publicity; it was taken for granted that the Episcopal Church was important news.

Last Saturday, the new bishop co-adjutor of the Diocese of New York was installed at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. As far as I know, the Times offered no coverage. One local television station referred to the new “bishop co-agitator,” but that was about it. Many commentators have noted the declining media attention paid to the mainline Protestant churches. Here is an example–all the more striking when the Cardinal Archbishop of New York recently received days of front page attention. —J. Douglas Ousley

Costs of Discipleship

Friday, February 10th, 2012

A recent mailing to parishes in the Diocese of New York asked them to “share in the celebration” of the consecration of the new Bishop Co-Adjutor by contributing to the purchase of new vestments for the bishop. Clergy were asked to pass the invitation along to parishioners “to encourage participation by everyone who would like to contribute.

This is hardly an unusual or unreasonable request. What seems unusual to me is the dollar amount needed: “about $10,000.00.” Admittedly, purple cassocks and other episcopal garb are surely expensive. And the total is equivalent to around 25 cents per New York Episcopalian.

Still, at a time when so many parishes are struggling financially–a point stressed by the new co-adjutor during the election process, putting the dollar amount out there could be off-putting. —J. Douglas Ousley