"Keep watch over yourselves and over all of the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son."
Three and a half years ago, the Standing Committee of our diocese, facing a transition in Episcopal leadership, determined that our diocese was not in a place emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, or organizationally to enter into a search process for our next Bishop. Leadership had atrophied, committees were stressed and not functioning well, financial resources were in need of realignment and transparency. Relationally, some among us were hurt, and we were in need of healing. All of us were needing to re-connect with one another and share vision and purpose. An outside consultant was hired to help us begin a process of healing and a decision was made to seek a Bishop Provisional.
Upon the arrival of our Bishop Provisional, the healing process continued. Soon after, he called us to enter into Pilgrimage and an intentional time of re-connecting with God and with one another. The opportunities provided by our regional gatherings for further listening, deep conversation, and prayer have allowed us once again to dream about our future together. This has resulted in healing and forgiveness that has freed us to move forward to partner in healthy ways with our new Bishop.
What we learned from our journey so far is that we desire to be connected to one another, that we must communicate with one another and that we be effective witnesses to the Gospel through the Episcopal Church in Northeastern Pennsylvania. We learned that our witness needs to be connected and collaborative not just with each other, but to other faith communities and organizations as we boldly take our lead (as our Presiding Bishop says) in “The Jesus Movement” of the Kingdom. We are eager to talk with you more about what we have discovered and about our hopes.
What we would like you to know
We are a diocese committed to the mission of the Church. Wherever we are and however we are resourced, we Love God, and ALL of us set our minds and hearts on mission.
When we are together as a diocese, we are glad to be in one another’s presence, and together we have been part of some amazing experiences, such as our work in mission in South Sudan. We need leadership that brings us together relationally, inspires us, and challenges us to be more together than we could possibly be as individuals and parishes.
We, like the rest of the Episcopal Church, face shifting cultural norms about church, shrinking membership, changing demographics, and stressed economics. Yet there are parts of our diocese that are poised for growth. In all of our varied contexts, we need creative, imaginative and adaptive leadership to capitalize on opportunities and seek new ways to continue our presence and mission.
We have been making hard and faithful financial and organizational decisions that we believe have led to health and growth. We know there are more to be made. We need leadership that will join us in accountability in discerning and making the important decisions to ensure our vitality now and in the future.
Our Next Bishop
Over the last several months, the people of the Diocese of Bethlehem walked humbly in Pilgrimage and conversed about the future of our diocese and about the person who will partner with us as our 9th Bishop.
Drawing on four regional gatherings, 366 responses to an online survey, and a special listening session where clergy expressed their desires and hopes for new episcopal leadership, trends and expectations emerged about the person and the gifts necessary to realize our vision.
In general, our next bishop should live a life of godly love and reflect that in his/her respective ministry, possess skills in pastoral care for clergy and laity alike, and an ability to exercise the ministry of oversight in love. As another has said, "A bishop must ask in love what he or she could demand by right."
More specifically, the Diocese of Bethlehem seeks a candidate who:
One last thing we would like you to know
We hope our next Bishop will view this as a rich opportunity to build with us something we cannot yet imagine. We offer to our next Bishop gifted clergy and competent, dedicated, spirit-filled lay leaders devoted to the church and eager to get to work. We want to live in Christian love with our Bishop, one another, and our neighbors. We believe there is an exciting opportunity in our diocese to be a witness to the larger church; to try new things, take risks, and be a model for connection, communication, and collaborative ministry.