Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Diocese of Bethlehem,
This means that we as a diocesan community will begin our own process of listening for God and each other as we discern God’s will and together decide how we will act on it. There are many questions and there is much to do. It is important that we do this process one step at a time.
In the Episcopal Church, the selection of a Bishop is a democratic process that requires, at various times, the participation of the whole diocese and is accountable, through the Bishops and the Standing Committees, to the whole church. During the absence of a bishop the role of “ecclestiastical authority” falls to the Standing Committee. Many but not all of the functions of a bishop go to the Standing Committee and it will be up to that group to provide for the pastoral ministry of a bishop when it is needed.
Please remember that until January 1, 2014, Bishop Paul will still be our bishop, even as he is on sabbatical. This time will allow us to organize and make some crucial decisions that will allow the discernment, search and election of the next bishop to proceed smoothly after Bishop Paul’s retirement. I am thinking of the Gospel for this coming Sunday when I suggest that we use this time to “set the table” for Jesus and listen for his voice as we prepare for the good work of transition.
As this process unfolds, it will touch in some way the lives of every Episcopalian in our diocese. At various points, the Standing Committee, the working committees of the Diocese, and the diocesan staff who serve you will invite and ask for your involvement in the hard work ahead. I know that you will cheerfully step up and take part in the hope-filled task ahead.
We have been given the chance to remember and imagine the ways of God. God has blessed this diocese with talented and gifted people. Our congregations do amazing things for God every day. We have tangibly brought new hope to people at home and across the globe. So we will do a little more of what we already do: We will hold each other in prayer, listen for God together, and as a community act for God’s glory to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ under the power and protection of the Holy Spirit.
During the rest of the year, we will also take time to remember and celebrate Bishop Paul’s ministry among us and his many accomplishments as our Bishop. Stay tuned for more information about that.
In the meantime, let us pray. Today I am mindful of the words spoken at Bishop Paul’s consecration in 1996 by Bishop Kathy Roskham who was then the Bishop Suffragan of New York. I have taken the liberty of adapting some of her words into a prayer:
Blessed Lord, your Son Jesus took small loaves of bread and miraculously fed multitudes and, in broken bread and poured out wine, gave us the Sacrament of His Body and Blood: In the days to come, feed us, nourish, and make us the house of bread for your people. Feed and tend the people of this diocese as we remember and give thanks for the ministry of Paul our Bishop. Make us, mold us and leaven us as we imagine your will and act upon it. Let Christ be bread for us in word and sacrament and in the community of faith. Finally, grant us your Holy Spirit so that we may know the joy of knowing that we are in exactly the right place and that we are daily being fed from the abundance of your grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
The Rev. Canon Andrew T. Gerns
Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Easton, PA
President, Standing Committee, Diocese of Bethlehem