Dear Presiding Bishop nominee:
You are in a group of four fine bishops nominated to serve as our next Presiding Bishop. As a rather new, but very interested Episcopalian, I would like to offer my reflections to you, based on my pastoral experience dealing with people from every corner of the hemisphere, who are still wondering what "Espiscopal" or "Episcopalian Church" or "Presbypiscopal" means. By the way I've heard all of these used to refer to our church and many more variations are out there in English and Spanish... especially by folks in the mainstream media when they refer to our church.
As you read these points, keep in mind that the priest who writes this has a background in media -- secular and religious -- but is wholly motivated by a desire that all may come to know and experience the love of God, way beyond our denominational restrictions and boundaries.
Below are just a few "words from the pews:
1. Please be a passionate and committed communicator:
People need to know the basics of who we are. First they need to actually learn our name; which I've come to understand is a challenge for many. Then we must be willing to clearly answer a few questions on people's minds: What does it mean to be "Episcopal" and what will the Episcopal Church offer them in their desire to follow Jesus? How is this Church going to help them meet the demands of living as a Christian in the 21st century and what are our unique gifts available to all who join us? Are there any tangible membership rewards?
2. Make "Jesus" your top agenda item:
We all want to believe that as church professionals we are totally committed to communicating Jesus, but oftentimes, our own agendas and other areas of interests get in the way of that. Preaching and teaching about Jesus and the Gospel we are all passionate about must be deliberate and clearer today than ever. The clutter of our complex denominational agenda may be getting in the way of presenting Jesus to the world.
3. Give us the Good News - spare us the negative projections:
We spend too much time (and sometimes resources) making projections about what will happen to us and to other mainstream denominations if we just continue doing what we are doing. Please give us the good news of what is working and making church growth a reality here, and around the Anglican Communion, this will be the best way to motivate clergy and lay persons to continue striving to grow and persevere in ministry.
4. Make the BIG umbrella really big:
Let's not just talk about a "big umbrella", let's actually create that. May people on the left and the right, liberal or conservative, feel they have a spiritual home in our church. The bigger the umbrella, the more true diversity we will get. People should not feel excluded because they cannot or are not ready to embrace certain aspects of our church-wide agendas.
5. Get yourself "out of the box":
We already love you, but other people have no clue who you are or what you represent. Too many of the appearances of the Presiding Bishop and Primate are "church events". Maybe it is time to recognize the incarnational theology of our tradition by being present and more visible at secular (non-churchy) events and occasions. In other words, let's get the "Episcopal brand" out there by being more present outside of our own events and much more present in the general public.
Nobody will be able to do these things more effectively, than the person elected as our next Presiding Bishop.