Fifth in the How Do Bishops Become Bishops Series*
As I take a break from preparing my application to be a bishop in a diocese I shant name, I recall my own thought process and the conversations I had with people in the church about me blogging during this Process. For clarification, I shall provide you with a cast of characters right now for said conversations: There is Michael, my husband. There is Vicki, my friend who gives me an office and who is a priest with far more experience than I have. There is Fran, my best friend from seminary who is a priest and keeping me sane in this process. There is James [name changed to protect the innocent!] who is the co-chair of the Search Committee, a priest and an acquaintance from seminary.
So, to recap slightly, the first thing that happened in this process is that Vicki pointed out I should be the bishop of this place and offered to nominate me and I did what I do sometimes – I got obliquely whiney on Twitter. Then when I thought some more, talked with Michael and Fran and a few others, I decided I would go for it and processed part of that out loud – which is to say I blogged it. (For the record, I did check to see that I wasn’t breaking some obscure canon law first. I’m not.) My rational was simple at this first stage – I blog. It’s what I do and how I communicate, and I, unlike so many, don’t have a parish that I need to keep this information from in the early stages. I can actually talk about it and not jeopardize my current career should I not get elected.
Then the second thing happens. Part of the application packet that is sent has this line: We request that all candidates in the search process agree to…avoid activities that would involve lobbying, politicking, or other forms of self-promotion. So then I start taking a good hard look inside of me. Because I had said before that I was only doing this for non-Episcopalians (or Episcopalians who really don’t know how their church works), but was I really being honest with myself? And even if I was being honest with myself, is this in someone else’s eyes very clearly one of the aforementioned activities to be avoided? And so I think. And I talk with Michael. And Vicki. And Fran. And Fran points out that if I want to, I could just lay my situation out to the Search Committee and put the ball in their court. So I do.
So I email the admin and James [name changed to protect the innocent!] emails me back. It’s a very nice email. He points out that it shouldn’t matter, but it might to some – but in the end, it’s my call. Now, to be clear, I was very direct in my email to the Search Committee. I said what I was doing, why I was doing it, and that I was willing to continue blogging, but schedule the posts to be released sequentially after the election, if they required it of me. I also pointed out that I would let my followers know why I’d apparently stopped blogging on the topic. (And yes, later I realize just now bratty that was. I have regret. :( ) But here James [name changed to protect the innocent!] has proclaimed that they will make no such requirement of me. (Yay! Forward Thinking Church!)
And now the ball is back in my court, though it’s nice to know what the Search Committee’s opinion on the subject is. So I tell Fran about this, as she also knows James [name changed to protect the innocent!] and might be curious and she says this: “Well, I guess it’s a matter of which is more important to you – your blog, or becoming bishop.”
This is something I had to think about for quite a while. Because that’s really not what it really is, though it could be understood that way. It’s all a matter of perspective, really. But I was happy she put it like that because it offered me the golden opportunity to fully examine my motives and get to the nitty gritty in a way I was having problems doing before. Actually, I think the beer I was having with Vicki also helped in getting down to the n-g, but definitely Fran’s point, too.
This is what I realized: My blog isn’t more important than any other responsibility I might take on. What my blog is, is one important outlet of my job/role as Digital Missioner, particularly in my attempt to translate theology/church/religion to those who feel outside of it. And really, if I sacrificed doing the best I could at my present job in order to attempt to secure the next – would I really be worthy of the next?
Further, I realized that ceasing to blog on this subject wouldn’t automatically make me a bishop, or ensure my election to one – and you know, I write that out and it seems obvious, but the Ego is awfully convincing until I realize that it makes no sense whatsoever. Anyway, moving on… What it would do is cater to the fears of people that I might one day be a chief pastor over. Catering to people’s fears isn’t good for them and it isn’t good for me. My job as a priest, if I understand it correctly, is to be sensitive to people’s fears, but to show them God even then. So it seemed, then, that the real question was this:
“Do I want to continue to be the priest God made me, or do I want to cater to people’s fears?”
You can imagine my answer. (I love it when the Holy Spirit makes it so blatantly obvious. It makes decision making so much easier.)
*This series is meant as an instructional commentary on how Bishops become Bishops in the Episcopal Church. The intended audience of this blogpost is not Episcopalians. This blogpost is not meant to be a form lobbying for me to become bishop.