Hi. This is Bishop Brian. In a few moments it will be quite evident that the artwork I will be sharing with you, I did all by myself. I want to talk to you today about how as Episcopalians, we connect communities in Christ.
Now, in a place like Tennessee, I’ve often heard it said that even the Catholics are Baptist. What that saying is trying to convey is the idea that in a place like Tennessee, that deep Baptist ethos of local decision making and local authority overwhelms the ways in which maybe other churches make decisions. So we all kinda function as little “b” Baptists. So, to think about, if one congregation makes a decision and it’s right for them they go with it. So, as Episcopalians, that’s not what we do. But again, we live in that environment in a place like Tennessee, with such a deep Baptist and deep congregationalist based ethos. So that’s not us. But that’s one way that believers make decisions led by the spirit in this region.
As Episcopalians however, I think some folks think we do this. They think we make decisions from on high. That the Bishop comes up with something and simply conveys it to parish churches for them to execute. Again. It’s not how we function. While we are a church with hierarchy and shared authority of a various sort of levels of leadership. The idea that it just comes from on high and go straight down to parishes. It’s not how we function. Or if we find ourselves functioning this way, it’s not how we’re intended to function. This again is a poor understanding of our way of being. Of our way of making decisions. And I hope you never experienced us making decisions in this way. Coming simply from on high down to local communities. Not how we intend to function as Episcopalians in the region.
For me. And what’s really helpful is we’re learning this from our Bishop and council. Our Bishop and Council are made up of lay folk and clergy from around the diocese who give leadership as a convention between the convention. And give us leadership around the use of our budget and how ministries are fleshed out and how our work gets done. Bishop and Council has recently been in conversation. It really began during COVID. Conversation with parishes. Finding out how they are doing financially, how they’re doing their work, how they’re worshiping. And it’s been an opportunity to learn from each other. And it really helps us see, this is how we’re intended to function anyway. Not simply in COVID. You think about the Bishop not from on high. Maybe the Bishop centrally located in the diocese. In the case of this, the Diocese of East Tennessee is located in Knoxville. In the center of a geographical region. The cathedral here in Knoxville. The diocesan house here in Knoxville.
So, a Bishop is centrally located. And in communication with parishes. But it’s not simply one way. It’s not simply me speaking to others, it’s folks speaking to me. And what’s really important, and I think this is where you would say the real gift of our tradition takes off and gets truly animated. It’s not simply the Bishop talking to parishes, but it’s also shared ministry. The ministries going around the Bishop as well. So that if it’s all depends on me, that’s where the log jam can happen, right? That’s where the things can break down. That’s where something can stay on my desk for too long. But to realize those networks that allow parishes to think about their work together. Be it clergy, clericus work, or shared ministry around particular networks around recovery ministry, around camping ministry, campus ministry. All those ways in which people find their gifts and find each other. That’s the kind of ministry, Episcopal ministry, we want to foster in East Tennessee.
So, in the weeks and months ahead, you’ll hear more about what it means to connect communities in Christ. what it means to foster and to encourage networks. To give people permission to find folks with similar interests. It’s how with our past conventions, with affinity groups. We’ve come up with work around evangelism with Christian formation. That came from folk gathering together and expressing a need, expressing a desire for help or to share what they had learned. And in giving folks space to do that we grow and ministry grows with us, and we are deepened by that. So this is how we want to function. We want to function as a series of networks. With the Bishop very much in it with you, serving with you. But serving with you. And serving with parishes in East Tennessee. And the model of mutual support, of mutual learning, of oversight that involves my work, but also the work of clergy, of wardens, of lay leaders, of diocesan staff, of Bishop and Council.
So, pray for your Bishop and Council. We’re in a moment of real ferment and real growth around how we want to be a church that is deeply rooted in the ancient tradition but also deeply deeply open to innovation. Not simply driven by COVID, but driven by the spirit that continues to call us into the future where God will meet us.