On the Mind of the Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Jung-Chul Lee

May 19, 2023

On the mind of the Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Jung-Chul Lee 

Tomorrow, we will have a new bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.

At 11 a.m., at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Matthew Heyd will be ordained and consecrated “Bishop Coadjutor,” with the intention that he will serve one year alongside current Diocesan Bishop Andrew Dietsche, and then become the Diocesan Bishop himself in April 2024. The Book of Common Prayer says that the bishop is our “chief priest and pastor,” and is charged, among other things, with “guarding the faith” and “acting in Christ’s name for the reconciliation of the world” (BCP 855).

In other words, the job of the bishop is really important.

While standing for election as Diocesan Bishop, Matthew Heyd spoke often and openly about wanting to become bishop so that he could help heal and repair the deep brokenness he saw in our Church and in our churches. I confess, I’m still a relative newcomer to our Diocese, so I wasn’t always sure what he meant by this. But I do know a lot of churches are really struggling–were struggling before the pandemic, and are struggling even more so now–and that help, healing, and repair all sound pretty good.

Today, the clergy of the Diocese of New York gathered to hear from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, who is here to oversee the consecration. At the end of his remarks, he spoke briefly about what it looks like to be a bishop who helps, heals, and repairs.

“The crozier is the staff of a shepherd, and the walking stick of a traveling messenger,” Bishop Curry said. “When a bishop picks up a crozier, they must set down their sword and shield, and instead choose the path of servant leadership.” What that means, Bishop Curry said, is that the key to being a “healing” bishop is to embody, above all else, the virtue of “humility.” “Not feigned humility,” Bishop Curry said. “And not humiliation. But genuine humility.”

And then, with a twinkle in his eye, Bishop Curry added: “And that won’t just happen tomorrow.”

I ask your prayers for Matt as he is made bishop–tomorrow, and not only for tomorrow. For all of us in leadership in the church–and I’m speaking of myself, most of all, as a I say this–humility can sometimes be a challenge. We put on long dresses, wear fine linens and jewelry, and from time to time, even put on funny hats–almost as if we were royalty. And then we stand at the front of magnificent worship spaces, speak on behalf of God to God’s people, and invoke God’s presence in the bread and the wine. It can be heady stuff. Which means, we all need God’s help to remember that it’s only by the Spirit of God that any of us are what we are, and that anything good comes from the work that we do.

So pray for Matt, and pray for all of us–for the whole church–tomorrow, as Matt is made a bishop. Pray that the Holy Spirit would fill him, and all our churches, that the hallmark of our ministries might be “humility.” And pray that, in that humility, we might help, heal, and repair–or to say it again, that we might “guard the faith,” and be agents of Christ’s “reconciliation” in this world.