An Update from the Audit Committee

August 1, 2014

Dear Friends:

In February of this year, shortly after temporarily assuming ecclesiastical authority, the Standing Committee informed you that the members had discovered that no professional audits of the finances of the Diocese had been performed since 2007.  That letter also reported that an Audit Committee had been formed to oversee the completion of the missing audits by a CPA firm without delay in order to provide to the Diocese the financial accountability that is required by canon law.

In March the members of the Audit Committee wrote to you once again, this time to provide an update on the status of the audit process – that the Audit Committee, which oversees the work of the auditors, members of the Diocesan Staff charged with preparing the work to be audited, and representatives of Campbell Rappold & Yurasits, the CPA firm engaged by the Diocese, met to lay out a schedule for preparing for and completing the work of the audits for 2008 – 2013.

As with all previous audits, both the Council funds, money received through assessments and acceptances of parishes, and the Incorporated Trustee funds, those held by the Diocese in accordance with wills, trusts, and bequests along with all investment and escrow funds held on behalf of the various parishes, are being audited.  In April we let you know that the firm's accountants would be working onsite to examine the financial records of the Diocese from the first week of April until the third week of June. It was expected that then the remaining work needed to complete all the missing audits and produce audit reports would be completed shortly thereafter by the accountants in their headquarters’ offices.

We now realize that both the Audit Committee and the accounting firm underestimated the complexity of performing six years of consecutive audits, and therefore the schedule originally proposed appears to have been overly optimistic and therefore unrealistic. Because of the complexity of the multiple audits and the numerous problems the auditors have encountered, they continued to work in the diocesan offices past the original June end-date and until the third week of July.  Regrettably work for all six audits has not been completed primarily because cash reconciliations were not performed by the staff for six years.  Additional delays have been caused by the fact that other reconciliations were either not completed or were incorrect. These problems have been compounded by the fact that the financial records of the Diocese are kept in four different general ledgers, two of which are run on a software package that is outdated and requires a great deal of manual manipulation in order to close one year  and establish opening balances for the next year.

In short the financial records of the Diocese are in such poor shape, due to bad accounting and lack of management oversight, that it is taking much longer than was originally anticipated by the firm to complete the audits.  The auditors, as communicated to the committee from the outset, have previous commitments to clients that will prevent them from resuming the diocesan work until early in October. While much of the audit work for 2010, 2011, and 2012 has been completed, the auditors are not at a point where they can issue audit reports for these years. Therefore they will have only the 2008 and 2009 audits completed by the time of our Diocesan Convention in October. These audit reports and communications letters will be shared at the convention. It should be noted that the auditors have reported that, to date, in their examination of the financial records, they have found no wrongdoing.

Reconciliations to the general ledger are required for the auditors to proceed with their work. They have instructed the diocesan staff on how to properly make these adjustments. Shortly the auditors will provide staff members with a complete revised needs list for the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 audits that will be utilized by staff members in the intervening months to prepare for the auditors’ return in early October.  In this way, auditors will be able to begin examining the books for these remaining years without further delay.  As soon as the additional audit reports for the subsequent years are provided to us, they also will be shared with the Diocese.

In the meantime, the Bishop and the Audit Committee have already enacted some significant changes that will improve the quality and efficiency of the workflow in accounting activities in the diocesan offices. Payroll is now being outsourced to a payroll service and is now bi-weekly and not weekly (this means that the staff is no longer spending time processing payroll in house and every single week).  The decision has been made to consolidate the accounting software into ACS, a state-of the-art, integrated accounting system for churches. Bank reconciliations are now done monthly by staff members who have been trained by accountants from Campbell Rappold &Yurasits on how to do this work effectively. Also Charlie Barebo, a member of the Audit Committee, is working with the staff to streamline and modernize everyday business practices with the goal that the Diocese can get back to the important business of resourcing parishes.

A great deal of work has been accomplished, and while we regret that the original schedule for all the audits cannot be met, we know that the accuracy and true accountability we desire is essential and worth the extra commitment of time and effort. When all the audits are complete, the Diocese will then be able to take appropriate action going forward to bring its financial recordkeeping into compliance with generally accepted accounting practices and controls as will be recommended by the firm, and an accounting system that has been sorely lacking for decades will come up to professional standards.

Faithfully,
The Members of the Audit Committee
Raymond Arcario, Member Diocesan Council and Standing Committee, Cathedral Church of the Nativity

Charlie Barebo, Member of Diocesan Council and Incorporated Trustees, St. Margaret’s Church, Emmaus

Richard Guyer, Treasurer of the Diocese, Cathedral Church of the Nativity

Peter Hilgert, Member of Incorporated Trustees, Cathedral Church of the Nativity

Libby House, Member of Standing Committee, Cathedral Church of the Nativity


Listening, Prayer and Discernment

A news release
from the Standing Committee

of the Diocese of Bethlehem
A Period of Listening, Prayer and Discernment for the People of the Diocese Begins

Bishop Paul Marshall led the Diocese of Bethlehem for 17 years, and he leaves a considerable legacy. At the end of a long episcopacy or rectorship, Episcopal communities often take the opportunity to pause, reflect, celebrate what is good and acknowledge where they have fallen short. Accordingly last fall the members of the Standing Committee determined that it is imperative for the diocesan community to undertake a period of intentional listening, prayer and discernment in preparation for a successful search for the next Bishop Diocesan.

Late in spring, in collaboration with Bishop Sean Rowe, the Standing Committee committed to begin that listening process by hiring a consulting firm, Episcopal Moment, to assist the community by facilitating conversations aimed at helping to achieve greater health and vitality. Fundamental to this undertaking is encouraging people from across the Diocese of Bethlehem to share their stories, ideas and concerns so that together the clergy and laity of the diocese can shape a hopeful future in which all are empowered to participate in God's mission.

Two Episcopal Moment consultants, the Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Johnson, Jr., D.Min, and the Rev. Dr. Robert K. Myers, PhD, both priests based in the Chicago area, will facilitate a series of listening opportunities, to be held across the diocese beginning in fall, at which everyone will be invited to discuss the challenges facing the Episcopal Church in northeastern Pennsylvania, how the diocese has responded to these challenges, and where the Holy Spirit might be leading this diocesan community. The goal is for everyone who wishes to participate in this process to have a chance to be heard.

To prepare for these sessions Alvin and Robert have interviewed individually the members of the Standing Committee and, as a group, the chaplains to the clergy. Additionally, they have also interviewed five clergy and five lay persons from throughout the diocese who have had diverse experience in diocesan affairs.

After hearing the voices of all who wish to be heard, Alvin and Robert will shape a report to the Standing Committee that will reflect on the listening sessions and offer suggestions on how to heal the wounds and divisions that may exist in the diocese so that the community can move forward whole, healthy and united. Additionally, Episcopal Moment will outline for Bishop Rowe and the diocesan leadership a process by which they can review the current vision and strategy of the diocese and, in light of all that has been shared, discern a renewed or new direction.

Information on when and where the listening opportunities to be held throughout the diocese will take place and how to participate in these sessions will be forthcoming.


Letter from the Standing Committee regarding the audit

Editorial note: This letter comes from the Standing Committee and will also be available on the web site. The President of the Standing Committee, Canon Gerns, has sent it to Vestry Officers and Bethlehem Clergy News prior to posting on the web site and newSpin blogs.

 

Monday, February 24, 2014

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Before we gather to elect a bishop provisional on Saturday, I wanted to inform you of an important piece of diocesan news that has just recently come to light.

Late last month, the Standing Committee discovered that the diocese’s finances have not been audited since 2007. This came as a shock to us because both our diocesan canons and the canons of The Episcopal Church require an annual audit.

Upon learning of this situation we moved quickly to respond, creating an audit committee that is chaired by Libby House, a member of the Standing Committee, and includes members of the Diocesan Council and the Incorporated Trustees, as well as another member of the Standing Committee and the diocesan treasurer.

On February 7, the audit committee met with representatives of Campbell Rappold & Yurasits, LLP, a reputable Allentown accounting firm and requested a proposal for audits to be conducted on an aggressive schedule of the years 2008-2013. We received that proposal last week, and will be reviewing it on March 1 after our diocesan convention in a joint meeting with the Diocesan Council. Assuming a successful election, our Bishop Provisional, the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, will also be present.

Because the funds originally allocated for the 2008-13 audits were held in reserve, securing audits for those will not affect the diocese’s annual operating budget nor in any way affect the Diocesan Investment Trust.

We are deeply concerned that these audits were never conducted, and that the diocese failed to provide its members and donors with the accountability that they deserved. We are determined to discover why the audits were not conducted, and to put procedures in place to make sure that such a lapse in the diocese’s fiduciary responsibilities does not occur again.  We will be reporting to you on these efforts and the findings of the auditors in the months ahead.

Please continue to hold the Diocese of Bethlehem in your prayers as we continue in our season of faithful change.

 

Faithfully,

 

The Rev. Canon Andrew T. Gerns
Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Easton
President, Standing Committee

rector@trinityeaston.org


Bishop Provisional Nomination and Special Convention FAQs

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem has called a special convention for March 1, 2014 for the purpose of electing a provisional bishop to serve our diocese. The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania, is the nominee for provisional bishop.

What is a provisional bishop?

In the Episcopal Church, a provisional bishop has all of the authority of a diocesan bishop but serves for a defined period of time. Bishop Rowe has been nominated to fill this role for the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem for three years while continuing as bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Why is there only one nominee?

The Canons of the Episcopal Church (III.13.1) provide that a diocese seeking a provisional bishop do so in consultation with the Presiding Bishop’s office, and her office requires that the diocese must use a confidential interview and selection process and present only one name to the electing convention. This is to enable bishops to consider provisional bishop positions without unduly complicating their current positions. The Canons of the Episcopal Church make it clear that a provisional bishop is expected to serve the diocese only for a limited time and can be removed at any time by act of diocesan convention.

How will the election work?

If at least two-thirds of all clergy entitled to vote and two-thirds of parishes entitled to vote are represented, we can elect our provisional bishop with a majority of votes in each order—clergy and laity. If fewer than two-thirds of clergy and laity eligible to vote are present, we must elect our provisional bishop by a vote of two-thirds. (Article XI of the Diocesan Constitution and Canons). It is vitally important that everyone who is entitled to vote attend the special convention at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem at 10 am on March 1. 

Why do we need an election if there’s only one nominee? 

Because the provisional bishop has all of the authority of a diocesan bishop during his term, the provisional bishop should be elected in the same way the convention would elect a diocesan bishop.

Why is the Diocese of Bethlehem electing a provisional bishop?

Late last year, the Standing Committee in consultation with the Presiding Bishop and the Rt. Rev. Clay Matthews, the bishop for pastoral development in her office, decided that calling a provisional bishop for a term of three years would be the best way for the Diocese of Bethlehem to discern its vision for the future. 

Across the church, other dioceses in significant transition—most recently the Diocese of East Carolina—have successfully made use of a provisional bishop to lead a healthy, productive period of reflection and discernment. 

How did the Standing Committee choose Bishop Rowe?

At our last diocesan convention, we held small group discussions with laity and clergy and the Standing Committee received input from clergy at a meeting in November. These gatherings indicated to us that members of the diocese are looking for a provisional bishop with strong pastoral and leadership skills to bring together the diocese and help us develop a vision for mission and a sense of common call. 

Based on this input, the Standing Committee chose Bishop Sean as our nominee because of his stable, forward-thinking leadership in Northwestern Pennsylvania, where he was ordained bishop in 2007, and because of his track record of building strong relationships with clergy and lay leaders and his skill at resolving conflict directly and effectively.

How will Bishop Rowe serve as bishop of two dioceses at the same time?

As bishop of two actives dioceses, Bishop Sean’s schedule will be busy, but we are confident that his command of technology and strong Standing Committee leadership in both dioceses will make the arrangement successful.  Bishop Sean will spend a week each month in the Diocese of Bethlehem from March 1 until the middle of August, with some provision for a previously scheduled sabbatical. Beginning in the fall of 2014, he will spend half his time in each diocese. He and his wife, Carly, and their one-year-old daughter, Lauren, will have a place to live in both dioceses. 

How will things change in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania?

Bishop Sean will continue to be the bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania and maintain an active schedule of visitations, meetings and other pastoral responsibilities. He will be in the diocese about half the time beginning in August, but will continue to be available for diocesan business regardless of where he is working on any particular day. In addition, between now and this summer, the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania will add a long-planned staff position dedicated to administration and congregational growth.

 


A Pastoral Letter to the People of the Diocese of Bethlehem

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Diocese of Bethlehem,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Our Lord Jesus Christ.

On the Feast of the Holy Name, January 1, we, the Standing Committee, became the Ecclesiastical Authority of the diocese.  While we had been functioning in that role since August 1st, Bishop Paul remained our Bishop and what we did was delegated to us by him.  Our role has now changed and the executive functions of the bishop under the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese have passed to the Standing Committee until a bishop is in place. There are of course some things reserved for only a bishop and we will secure such Episcopal ministry as needed. 

As stated at our Diocesan Convention in October and as has been communicated in the DioLight, we now enter into an intentional period of reflection, prayer, healing, and reconciliation as we work together to develop a hopeful vision for our future.  In consultation with the Presiding Bishop’s Suffragan for Pastoral Affairs, Bishop Clay Matthews, and after prayerful thought, we believe that the most effective way to do this is to elect a Bishop Provisional for the diocese.  A Bishop Provisional will have the full authority of a Diocesan Bishop and would provide the pastoral, mission and administrative leadership required for a healthy and productive interim period.  The Bishop Provisional would be a half to three-quarter time position and the person would be in residence in the diocese and serve until our new diocesan bishop is elected and consecrated.  Toward that end, we plan in late January to announce our nomination for Bishop Provisional to the diocese and at that time call for a Special Diocesan Convention under the terms of Episcopal Church Canon III.13:1, 3 to be held in early March for the purpose of electing the Bishop Provisional.

In the meantime, the ministry of the diocese continues as we work alongside your diocesan staff, Diocesan Council, the Incorporated Trustees and all the committees and commissions of the Diocese to carry on our mission in service to Christ. We ask your prayers and support as we begin this season of faithful change. We also invite your comments, concerns and ideas as we enter this new era of our common life.

Faithfully yours,

The Rev. Canon Andrew T. Gerns, President, Trinity, Easton (rector@trinityeaston.org, 610-253-0792)
Mr. Edwin Schatkowski, Secretary, Trinity, Bethlehem
The Rev. T. Scott Allen, St. Andrew’s, Allentown
Mr. Raymond Arcario, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Ms. Connie Archer, St. Anne’s, Trexlertown
Ms. Kate Fanning, Christ Church, Reading
Ms. Elizabeth House, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
The Rev. Canon Jane Teter, Retired
The Rev. James Rinehart, Trinity, Pottsville
The Rev. Earl Trygar, St. Mark’s, Moscow


2013 Convention Address: A Season of Faithful Change

This is the address to the 142nd Convention of the Diocese of Bethlehem on Friday, October 4, 2013 by the Rev. Canon Andrew T. Gerns at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity. 

A Season of Faithful Change

A year ago, when we met in Scranton, it was my privilege to preside at this gathering and to 0read to you Bishop Paul’s words. This year, I again sit before you as President of the Standing Committee in our first convention since Bishop Paul’s resignation and his sabbatical. On January 1st, he will enter retirement and our diocese will begin the process

ATG picture in b&wof discernment to hear God’s will for us, to choose how to respond faithfully as we raise up a new Bishop and continue the important work of the Gospel in Northeast Pennsylvania.

Much has happened this past year. We give thanks to God for many good things and we also give to God the many things that have changed us and are challenging us.

We are beginning a season of faithful change. The Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel, has said “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” A transition like the one we are beginning is a magnificent opportunity that is what we must not waste. We are entering a time of transition that will prod us to grow as followers of Jesus and usher us to a new era in our diocesan community. God has given us what we need. We are in the right place. We are in the right time. We are a diocese filled with gifted, blessed people. What we are about to embark upon will touch every Episcopalian in this diocese. There is much to learn and much to do, and while there is much that is uncertain, and many feelings and stories to hear, I know that we will rise to the occasion. We will together make faithful change.

Actually, we are looking at a lot of transitions this convention. Tonight we will honor our friend and assistant bishop Jack Croneberger. Bishop Jack was formed and raised up in this diocese. We are glad that, after having “lent” him to our neighbors in Newark for a time, that he chose to return home and serve God and the people of this diocese with wisdom, grace and humor. I  hope that you will all join us tonight at Iacocca Hall at Lehigh University for our convention banquet where we will honor Bishop Jack as he retires again!

Bishop Jack: One of your favorite stories is about the guy who tied helium balloons to a garden chair and floated over a city with nothing more than a pea-shooter to control his flight. His whimsical flight is an image of a creative (and sometimes crazy) flight of faith. Thank you for being an example of faithfulness, a clear communicator of the Gospel and a good friend.

It is appropriate that tonight we will also take a moment to give thanks to God for the work of Integrity in the Diocese of Bethlehem. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Bethlehem Chapter and I am happy that we will be celebrating the good work of this group in our diocese and around the Episcopal Church. 

I am very grateful to another “graduate” of our diocese, Bishop Nicholas Knisely, the new Bishop of Rhode Island. He is giving us two days in November to preside at regional confirmations in our diocese. The dates are Thursday, November 21 at Christ Church in Reading at 7 p.m. and Friday, November 22 at Grace Church in Kingston also at 7 p.m. Up north, in a display of the kind of collaboration and shared ministry that is this Diocese at our best, some 12 parishes will send 55 candidates to Grace, Kingston for confirmation!

We are honored to have as our preacher today Bishop Anthony Poggo of Kajo-Keji. We are so grateful that you have come from across the globe to be with us today. I am particularly indebted to you both for your presence at this Convention and for the fact that you will preside at the first regional confirmation during this transition on Sunday afternoon in this Cathedral.

What began as a hot, dusty bus ride for Bishop Paul and Diana Marshall from Uganda to South Sudan in 2005 has turned into a relationship between the people of these two dioceses that has changed us all. Who could have imagined, as Bishop Paul went on that marathon of preaching, teaching and visiting villages ruined by war, that nine years later that would transform itself into a capital campaign that has so far raised over $4.1 million… all to be given away!

Who could have imagined how deeply connected we have become! Since 2006, we have together built five elementary schools, two secondary schools and a college, we have helped many people—mainly women—develop the means to support themselves through micro-loans and we have together educated and prepared people for the ministry of the Church.

Our relationship has changed us. Every picture from every school, every letter from every student that we hang up on our parish bulletin boards and share in our conversation remind us that Christ binds us together and builds us up. The lessons of New Hope will serve us well in this season of faithful change: that out of ruin comes new life; out of despair comes hope. We discover that faith, trust and vision are the tools of the Holy Spirit to change ordinary lives into extraordinary vessels of grace and power.

Bishop Anthony: Please tell the people of Kajo-Keji that God has richly blessed the people of the Diocese of Bethlehem in knowing and working alongside you and we are immensely grateful to you for all you have taught us. May Christ continue to bless and keep you in all you do. Please continue to pray for us.

Finally, as we begin this season of faithful change it is important that we thank God for the ministry of Bishop Paul Marshall and thank him for his seventeen years of leadership as our bishop. He has been for us an inspiriting preacher, writer and teacher. He showed his love and commitment to children and teenagers in his work on Bishop’s Days with Kids and Young People, his work for better schools in Pennsylvania and his work towards Christian formation for all ages. His work has made us more mission-minded in our care for the poor, our proclamation of the Gospel and in the stewardship of our resources. He has touched many lives. We thank God for him and Diana. Please join with me as we offer our thanks with applause.

Our Life of Faithful Change in the Diocese of Bethlehem

A year ago, Fr. John Major told us about the work of Episcopal Relief and Development in the Diocese of Bethlehem that began after floods hit the Wyoming Valley in 2011 and in particular in West Pittston and surrounding communities. Fr. Major and Janine Ungvarsky have worked hard, with the help of many people and Episcopal Relief and Development, to get the St. George’s Regional Disaster Recovery & Outreach Center up and running. They have shown us that sometime faithful change arises out of crisis and that God’s spirit moves through God’s people to shelter and tangibly become divine shelter from the stormy blast.

I want to echo Fr. Major in congratulating Fr. Ed Erb and the congregation at Grace Church, Honesdale. They were recently honored by the Wayne-Pike chapter of the American Red Cross for their efforts during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The church served as a shelter during the storm.

Last year, we passed a resolution requiring that all parishes in the diocese have a disaster plan in effect. So far, one parish has a finished plan, 22 have trained and are writing their plans and thirty-five parishes in the diocese have yet to be trained in what to look for and how to prepare an effective disaster plan. There is still time. The final training session for this purpose is in three weeks. Run! Don’t walk! See Father Major or go to www.episcopalreliefnepa.org for more information.

We are blessed in this diocese with an active and creative Stewardship Ministry who for many years have been showing us the blessings that come from faithful change. Since we last met, the Stewardship Commission brought The Rev. Canon Keith Brown to the diocese to lead a workshop for our Diocesan Training Day in March. Then in May the Stewardship Commission partnered with the Evangelism Commission to offer a conference featuring the Rev. Dr. David Gortner from Virginia Theological Seminary. In July several members of the commission attended The Episcopal Stewardship Network’s annual conference. We also brought several sessions of that conference here to the diocese via a webcast at the cathedral. Members of that group and Stewardship Missioner Dan Charney travel all around the diocese to help parishes in their ministries and, most important, to help all Christians learn to use everything that God gives us for God’s purposes.

Evangelism is the effective communication of the Good News of Jesus Christ. We live in an age of amazing communication technology and we have barely scratched the surface of the potential these tools bring us. We are blessed with a great partnership with our web-host and e-mail provider ChurchPost, whose business is mainly with churches and whose founders are Episcopalians. Their email platform and for their ability to design customized WordPress web sites for our parishes are resources that are either “free” through your diocesan assessment or available to your parish at greatly reduced cost.  

Even though we Christians are in the business of telling “good news,” and even though we live in a culture defined by marketing, the Church has often been at best clumsy and often allergic to marketing. While we seek deeper connection, we often run away from that which draws  people into a deeper conversation. Maybe it’s shyness. Maybe it’s that we don’t know how to start the conversation that changes hearts. 

One way we hope to address that is through a marketing initiative to help our congregations tell our communities about us and to promote our ministries. You will find in the budget a new line item for marketing and evangelism. We are hoping that groups of parishes will advertise community shared outreach initiatives or perhaps have an ad campaign such as the one several parishes did on WNEP-TV a few years back. If passed, this budget line will provide some seed money on a matching grant basis where the diocese will pay half and the parishes involved will pay half. The parishes will work together and with the diocese to craft the message and to work out a way to measure the campaign's effectiveness. Our hope is that this will help with our evangelism and tell people where we live about us and what we do. 

In addition to Kat Lehman who has worked on these projects, Adam Bond is our new Communication Missioner. He helps us minister and proclaim the Gospel using social media and electronic news reporting. Most people who walk into a church these days will have first checked them out on the internet, and not just on web-pages any more but on social media where they will know how people respond to our parishes every day. Using all these tools effectively builds relationship, deepen connection, and shows us to be a Gospel people living Gospel hope.

They don’t call us the “House of Bread” for nothing! If you look around the diocese, you will be astounded at all the ways Episcopalians feed people. Just here in the Lehigh Valley, you see the oup Kitchen at Trinity, Bethlehem and at New Bethany Ministries, the Saturday Soup Kitchen at Trinity, Easton, and there are ministries like this repeated all over our diocese.

I’d like to take an informal poll right now. Can you please help me? How many of you belong to a parish that feeds people? [Hands.] How many of you have food pantries in closets and classrooms or holiday meals or free community meals? [Hands.] How many of you have connected this feeding to health screenings or after-school tutoring? [Hands.] How many parishes collaborate with other churches and agencies to feed people or fill back-packs for children or bring food to the homebound? [Hands.] God bless you all for your good work.

Look around. All of these hands tell about our activity as a people of God but beyond a show of hands, there are many examples of the incredible ministry in this diocese. In your small groups tomorrow, tell the story of the many great-small ways that God is at work in your communities and use that to begin to imagine a future of faithful change. We are doing amazing things for God in Northeast Pennsylvania. 

Living Faithful Change with Hope and Courage

Starting January 1, 2014, we will enter the formal period of transition towards electing and consecrating a new Bishop. We knew this was coming. When I sat here before you last year, we did not expect that Bishop Paul would be retiring quite so soon; but as the year went on, it became increasingly clear that the physical toll of this ministry was catching up with our Bishop. First, with his medical leave last spring and finally with news of his resignation this summer. I know that all of you are holding Bishop Paul in your prayers and in your hearts.

The Constitution and Canons of this Church are clear that in the absence of the Bishop, the “ecclesiastical authority” of the Diocese becomes the Standing Committee. But the situation we are in today is different than where we will be on January 1, 2014.

Bishop Paul is still our Bishop through December 31, 2013. So while we are the Ecclesiastical Authority, what we do has been delegated to us by the Bishop during the period of his sabbatical. During this period, some things are retained by the Bishop and some things the Bishop has delegated to the Archdeacon and other staff and the rest have been delegated to the Standing Committee.

But on New Year’s Day the Episcopal Chair becomes “vacant” and all the pastoral, administrative and ecclesiastical authority in the diocese goes to the Standing Committee. We will delegate tasks as necessary, of course, and obtain Episcopal oversight—especially on matters that are specifically reserved to Bishops—and oversee the transition.

The Standing Committee started meeting monthly in August and together we are adapting to our new responsibilities. They are: Canon Robert Wilkins, Kate Fanning, Connie Archer, the Rev. Scott Allen, the Rev. Earl Trygar, the Rev. Canon Jane Teter, the Rev. Canon Anne Kitch, Elizabeth House, Ed Schatowski (Secretary), and me, the Rev. Canon Andrew Gerns (President). Bob Wilkins and Anne Kitch are finishing up their terms today and we are immensely grateful for their exemplary work and dedication.

When the news broke of Bishop Paul’s resignation, I said to you:

When there is a big change in life, it is normal to ask “what now?” or “who will take care of me?” or “what should I do?” Our feelings in this moment are no different. On the news of Bishop Paul’s resignation some of us grieve, while others of us are eager for something new. All of us seek the stability of God’s reign and long for the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Stability is a Benedictine value that also lives at the heart of Anglicanism. Among other things, stability means seeking and finding God in the present. Stability teaches us that while change is constant, faithful change means listening for God right here, right now. We assume that we are the place God wants us to be and that God has given us what we need right now to move into the next moment with faith, hope and courage.

That being said, I wish I could set out for you exactly what comes next, but much has yet to be decided.

In a little over a week, on Monday, October 14th, the Standing Committee will meet with the Presiding Bishop’s Suffragan for Pastoral Affairs, Bishop Clay Matthews at St. Anne’s in Trexlertown. We will spend the day learning about the process and practicalities of raising up Episcopal leadership for our diocese.

We will decide on a number of things.

First on our list is the shape of Episcopal leadership during the transition period.

We have four basic choices:

  1. We can, as a Standing Committee, run the Diocese as a Committee and only contract for Bishops as we need for specific events such as ordinations and confirmations, and go to neighboring Bishops for the things that the Canons state only a Bishop can do.
  2. We can have an Assisting Bishop—a Bishop, usually retired, who functions pastorally but who is not the Ecclestiastical Authority. This would be a part time Assisting Bishop who will do the things pastorally and canonically that only a Bishop can do, but the Standing Committee would retain full canonical authority.
  3. We can have an Assisting Bishop who is part- to full-time and to whom the Standing Committee delegates some or most of the elements of being Ecclestiastical Authority.
  4. We can elect a Provisional Bishop for a period of 12 to 24 months who would be the Bishop of this Diocese but only until we elect and consecrate our next Bishop.

There are pluses and minuses to each approach. Part of the decision will be driven by our budget. But most of it will be determined by the pastoral needs of the diocese. An assisting bishop is interviewed and contracted by the Standing Committee, while a Provisional Bishop is interviewed and nominated by the Standing Committee to Diocesan Convention, who then votes to elect that person. If we choose to go that route, we will need to call a special convention for the purpose. I invite your feedback and thoughts on which approach you think is best. Whatever happens, be ready…you could be back here for at least part of a day.

Whatever course we choose, it will require a vote of diocesan convention along with the consents of a majority of the Bishops and Standing Committees of the Church, to call for an election. We cannot formally begin our search until an election is called for because what we do here we do on behalf of the whole church. So again…be ready for a return trip! 

The second decision will be about time-line. It takes between 18 and 24 months for diocese of our size to raise up and consecrate a Bishop. You will notice that we are not calling for an election at this convention. This is on purpose.

These days, the typical tenure of an Episcopal bishop is ten to twelve years. Bishop Paul has been our bishop for seventeen. After a long, rich and complex term of office it is essential that we take the time to step back and take stock. We need to listen to each other’s stories, we need to listen, we need time to imagine our future and move together towards it. We may decide that we, as a diocese, need to take some to breathe, listen, and pray before we start our formal search.

Again, you will notice that we have not begun the process of vetting, selecting and appointing a Search Committee and a Transition Committee. This is also on purpose. We need to take time to pray, to breathe, to listen. My hope is that this coming Lent we will take time to earnestly for our diocese in a disciplined way, as a community as the essential groundwork of our discernment and common life. There is no faithful change without prayer.

Searching for a bishop will require a significant chunk of our leadership and volunteer energy. All of you, and all of your congregants will at some point have a part in the process. Like having a good interim pastor for a parish, the ministry of an assisting or provisional Bishop will help us listen to one another, listen to our hearts, and most important of all, listen to the movement of the Holy Spirit in and through our common life.

This is what differentiates our task from a mere executive search. Sure a bishop has a ton of executive responsibilities, but most of all we are discerning as a diocese for who might be called to the office of Bishop in this place; and, we are listening for God to determine what kind of Diocese God is calling us to be, what kind of ministries God is calling us to do and who will equip and encourage us to go in that direction.

An important part of living faithful change will be pastoral care to the clergy of our diocese. The Standing Committee has asked Canon Jane Teter to work with me, in consultation with the Canon the Ordinary and the Archdeacon, to develop a team of clergy to serve as chaplains who will see to the ordinary pastoral care of the priests and deacons of the diocese during the transition. In addition to Canon Teter, the clergy who have so far agreed to serve are the Rev. Nancy Packard, the Rev. Elizabeth Haynes, the Rev. Andrea Baldyga and the Rev. Maureen Hipple. In addition, we have asked the Rev. Dr. Jane Williams of Moravian Seminary to provide clinical supervision to this team. At the next clergy retreat, we will lay out the details of this ministry to the gathered clergy.

So this period of faithful change has many elements: listening and discernment; healing and reconciliation; encouragement and experimentation. It is the job of the Standing Committee to facilitate not only the practicalities of a search, but to provide for the pastoral care to and leadership for the Diocese.  

Because there will not be a neat hand-off from our current Bishop to the next, our task will look a little different. It will be essential that we provide opportunities to listen to one another, create a renewed sense of community, and to heal the hurts and minister to the grief that are normal in with this kind of change. Again, it is very important that we hear from you about your thoughts, ideas, concerns and vision. The small groups tomorrow are an important taste of the kind of work we will be doing together as we move together into a season of faithful change.

But first, it’s time to say “good-bye” and to celebrate the ministry of Bishop Paul Marshall that is now wrapping up. 

All of you are invited and encouraged to come to St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral in Wilkes-Barre on the Third Sunday of Advent, December 15 at 3 pm when we say “farewell and Godspeed” to Bishop Paul and Diana Marshall. There will be a festive Holy Eucharist in the place where BishopPaul was consecrated and a reception afterwards.

I also invite you to give generously towards a gift in thanksgiving for the Bishop’s ministry. In addition to a fitting gift to Bishop and Mrs. Marshall, we also plan to give a special gift to the New Hope Campaign for a tangible memory in the Diocese of Kajo-Keji, both of which will be presented at the reception. Please go to diobeth.org and click on the link “Make a Gift.”

An important part of saying good-bye is making memory. We are creating a memory book and I also invite you to participate. Please send your greetings, your memories of Bishop Paul’s ministry among us and, best of all, photographs to us at Diocesan House c/o abond@diobeth.org. These will be gathered into a memory book that will be presented to Bishop Paul at the December 15 reception.

Conclusion

Blessed John XXIII told another gathering of Christians during a remarkable season of faithful change that the Church is "… not on earth to guard a museum, but to tend a blooming garden full of life."

We are 13,000 Episcopalians in 14 counties who gather in 60 mission outposts (also known as congregations) to follow Jesus and do his work. We are tending a garden of marvelous richness, variety and life. In a season of faithful change, our challenge is to prune, tend, cultivate and harvest. God has blessed with everything we need to succeed and grow as a community of God’s people. Together we will listen for God’s voice, imagine God’s future, and discover how we will share God’s love, telling what we see and hear.

Thank you for all your prayers and your support. Thank you for all the ways you serve Jesus every day. May God go with you in all you do.

The Rev. Canon Andrew T. Gerns is the Rector of Trinity, Easton and the President of the Standing Committee.


Canon Andrew Gerns: Regarding the resignation of Bishop Paul and the work of transition

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Diocese of Bethlehem, 

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The Rev. Canon Andrew Gerns
Yesterday Bishop Paul announced that effective January 1, 2014, he will be retiring as Bishop of Bethlehem after a seventeen year episcopacy. He will, starting August 1, begin a time of vacation and sabbatical that will allow him time to pray, rest, wrap up some things and begin to imagine how he will serve God in the next phase of his life.

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.

Faithfully,

The Rev. Canon Andrew T. Gerns
Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Easton, PA
President, Standing Committee, Diocese of Bethlehem




Election Results for Diocesan Convention

The following are the election results for the 140th Diocesan Convention

The Commission on Ministry - Clergy (3 year term)
The Rev. Frank St. Amour, III
The Rev. R. Jane Williams

The Commission on Ministry - Lay (3 year term)
Virginia Falzone
Carolyn Tolley

Diocesan Council - Clergy (3 year term)
The Rev. John R. Francis
The Rev. Daniel Gunn

Diocesan Council - Lay (3 year term)
Richard Evans
Joan Flint
Joe Jackloski

The Incorporated Trustees - Lay (3 year term)
Charlie Barebo
Cynthia Phillips
Bob Romeril

The Standing Committee - Clergy (5 year term)
The Rev. T. Scott Allen

The Standing Commitee - Lay (5 year term)
Elizabeth House


From risk to opportunities: Congregational renewal in the Diocese of Bethlehem

[Editor’s note: This is the first of a three part series focusing on congregational renewal within the diocese. If you would like further information please contact Fr. Charles Cesaretti or one of the members listed in the article.]

From risk to opportunities: Congregational renewal in the Diocese of Bethlehem

By Ty Welles and Canon Andrew Gerns
A group of laity and clergy are working to create a process to assist congregations with renewal and development in rapidly changing times, based on utilizing inherent strengths in local communities and networking parishes with similar situations in creative and collaborative ways.

The group was called together in response to Bishop Paul Marshall’s address to the Diocesan Convention in October, 2009. Bishop Marshall said the  following concerning congregations in the diocese:
“The problem with help [for parishes] from the outside is that it can look and feel imposed. Therefore, to help less endangered parishes reclaim their vitality I have been meeting with the Congregational Development Commission in order to reorganize their activities. . . . It is very important to me that parishes in similar situations talk with each other and as far as possible, work together.”

Soon after Convention, Bishop Paul invited the Congregational Development Commission, and a group interested laity and clergy together to talk about how the congregational development process can be reoriented. Instead of providing resources to assist congregations from “above” as it did in the past, the goal will be to facilitate parishes to work together for renewal. The goal will bring together diocesan and congregational resources in a network to assist both troubled and stable congregations move from mere survival to a sense of Christ-centered vitality and world-focused mission.

The new group is chaired by the Rev. Charles Cesaretti and consists of Bishop Paul, Archdeacon Howard Stringfellow, Fr. Cesaretti, Canon Jane Teter, Canon George Loeffler, Canon Andrew Gerns, Fr. Bill McGinty, Fr. Scott Allen, Charles Warwick, Ty Welles, Rachel Bartron, and Dean Tony Pompa. Some of these people were already members of the Congregational Development Commission, and others represented both parishes and other programs or oversight committees of the diocese.

The group designated a drafting team tasked to develop a report about the current state of congregation development and support as well as the needs, hopes and vision of the various groups and parishes in the diocese. The group convened four mini-consultations with representative focus groups from across the diocese to seek out information, background and suggestions. One consultation was with a joint meeting of Diocesan Council and the Standing Committee; a second was with diocesan staff; a third was with representatives of a number of parishes exhibiting growth; and a fourth was with representatives of a number of struggling parishes.

The report, titled From Risks to Opportunities: Congregational Renewal in the Diocese of Bethlehem was the result. The paper describes the standards, practices, and resources that will foster faithfulness of ministry in every congregation of the diocese. The writers suggested that the mission and instrumentality of the committee should be to strengthen all parishes, especially those that have exhibited vitality; provide resources to those congregations “at risk”; and provide self-realization and eventuality to those congregations that have lost their sense of purpose or vitality.

After being presented to Diocesan Council, the Standing Committee, the Incorporated Trustees, and various program committees of the diocese, the outline in From Risks to Opportunities will be brought to the diocese at large through Diocesan Convention this fall. These three articles provide the background for the decisions we will make together in October.

At the heart of the findings described in From Risks to Opportunities is the definition of mission found in the catechism in the Book of Common Prayer: “the mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. The mission is pursued as it prays, worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love. This mission is carried out through the ministry of all its members.” This understanding of mission proclaims that our first and primary relationship is with God; the second relationship is in the worship and proclamation of the church; and the third relationship is with the community and the world. From Risks to Opportunities suggested that this should be adopted as the mission statement of the committee.

A second suggestion was that the committee be renamed The Committee on Congregational Renewal. This would align the committee with the mission statement, and with both the goal and process.

A third finding in From Risks to Opportunities was that the Committee on Congregational Renewal should become the catalyst and agent for a multi-year program to shepherd all congregations of the diocese to renewal and transformation, and to move from risk to opportunities.

Out of the meetings held by the committee there developed a number of assumptions:
1. The bedrock of Christian action is a spiritual life, which must start, direct, and sustain all congregational life.
2. Congregations must focus on their strengths rather than on their weaknesses.
3. Congregations can greatly strengthen their witness when they link up with neighboring congregations in cooperative ventures.
4. Congregations do better when they do not become dependent upon outside sources.
5. Many clergy are ill-prepared to lead a small rural or village church.
6. Every congregation in the diocese must be included in the renewal and transformational process at the appropriate level.

The Committee on Congregational Renewal is developing a process for the diocese and congregations to move into a new era of renewal for parishes in the Diocese of Bethlehem. The vision also includes improved collaboration between the several commissions of the diocese.

As we move towards Diocesan Convention this coming October, the next two parts in this series will describe in more detail how this process will be laid out and frame the discussion and decisions before us. We will spell out the ways in which parishes in the diocese can move into the renewal process beginning at the convention, and how every Episcopalian in northeast Pennsylvania can support a renewed, re-vitalized sense of mission and Christian community.


Standing Committee: Why we chose not to consent

At the June 4th meeting of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Bethlehem, the Committee unanimously voted not to consent to the election of the Rev. Kevin Thew-Forrester as Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. As with our decision in December 2006 not to consent to the election of a bishop, we believe it is important to explain our decision to the diocese.

The Diocese of Northern Michigan elected the Rev. Kevin-Thew Forrester, Rector/Ministry Developer of St. Paul's Church in Marquette and St. John's Church in Negaunee, on February 21, 2009. He was the sole candidate on the ballot at the electing convention. He was to succeed the late Bishop Jim Kelsey, who was killed in a car wreck in June, 2007.

Our decision not to consent was not made lightly. We first met to discuss the question in April. We decided to table the issue until our June meeting so all the members could thoroughly read, think and pray over the issue before making a final vote.

Continue reading "Standing Committee: Why we chose not to consent" »