Wednesday, November 14, 2007

To everything there is a season

It has now been four days since I returned from the Convention of the Diocese of Oregon. At the opening Eucharist, following the Peace, our bishop said the following:
Thanksgiving for a Season of Ministry

As a people of God we are always called to new opportunities for discernment and invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us into new directions. Thanks to God, as a diocese, amid all the challenges of our time and circumstance, during these past years we have made considerable progress in charting a new future. Thanks to God, many of our congregations are getting healthier, stronger, and more financially secure, although the rising costs do not always keep pace with available income. By God’s grace, our spiritual and financial house is in relatively healthy order and we have made some difficult yet prudent decisions about how best to further our mission and ministry in the wake of competing demands on our limited resources. By the grace of Almighty God, I feel confident that we are doing fairly well, although in the Lord’s vineyard there is always much more work to do. In this regard, I personally feel thankful that the tasks to which I have been called to tend to have been realized in some significant ways. There is much more to be done, however, I think we are in very good place to discern how we as a diocese need to be moving forward.

All of our ministries are part of a much broader continuum of service in Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church. Each season of ministry has its own rewards, challenges, and opportunities. It has been a blessing to serve as your bishop and to preside over this fifth convention with you. The Lord has been faithful and good and I feel that we have laid the foundation for a new direction and focus in missional thinking, reflection, and ministry. After some time of prayerful discernment, in recognition of personal, professional, and family needs, I feel that now would be the appropriate time to share news of my desire to begin the important work of electing my successor, the tenth Bishop of Oregon. I have shared this news with the Standing Committee and some key persons within our diocese so we can together work on bringing about a smooth and grace-filled transition in the future. There are so many of you here and throughout the diocese with whom I would have wished to share this news personally, however, given time, distance, and other limitations, this would have been most difficult to accomplish. Hence, I am using this time to share some of these thoughts with you as members of our diocesan family. In the months to come I ask that we prayerfully begin to think about our future and the needs and demands of a different season of leadership. Early next year I will be inviting the Office of Pastoral Development of the House of Bishops, to come and speak with the officers and Standing Committee of the Diocese about a process of transition. The details of this process will be clearer later, however, I am sharing this news with all of you now out of deep love, respect, and thanksgiving for our witness together in this vineyard of our Lord Jesus Christ. The process to call my successor, as I remain your bishop, will take some time; however, I am simply sharing this news in advance so we will not be overly surprised or alarmed when the transition happens, but know that we will be working together to continue to strengthen the wonderful ministries that are offered in Christ’s name.
Though there had been rumors, I can say confidently that this call for the election of Bishop Itty's successor stunned the Convention, including the clergy with whom I sat during the service. In the days since then, I have been asked the big question: "Why?" I currently have no real answer to that question, and decline to speculate. It suffices to say that this particular transition comes at a pivotal point in the history of the Diocese of Oregon, where we have discerned a Strategic Plan and will begin its implementation in 2008. I personally will be sad to see Bishop Itty go and will miss his passionate call to mission. May God guide the Diocese of Oregon in the choosing of his successor.

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