The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer [bishop], he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer [bishop] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. The infant of Krypton is now the Man of Steel: Superman! - Jackson Beck, Narrator
A few days ago I attended the final “walkabout” for the three candidates for the next bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. The event was held at St. Alban’s Church in Murrysville, and well attended by the clergy of the diocese. The preparations were superb – thanks to the local team and their rector, David Grissom, and the search committee team and their chairman, Eric Rodes. The evening itself consisted of a series of questions followed by answers from the candidates, as directed by the moderators. I was especially impressed by the calm and thoughtful demeanor with which each of the candidates handled themselves, but some of the questions made me want to stand up and protest – we are looking for a bishop, not Superman!
Some of the multi-part questions on theology, pastoral care, cultural issues, and mission strategy deserved at least a research paper or two and not a three-minute impromptu answer. They were questioned about how they would establish adequate boundaries to guard their own health and that of their families while at the same time being asked to take on challenges that a team of experienced professionals working 24/7 would find overwhelming. While unmentioned, there are also significant theological divides that your new bishop will be expected to bridge.
Having had the privilege of serving as your interim bishop for almost eighteen months, let me offer a few observations and warnings. Your new bishop will not be Superman, nor the Son of God, nor even the Apostle Paul. Instead he will be these things:
- A Forgiven Sinner - He will make mistakes. He will sometimes forget your name or perhaps the name of your children, or even worse, that urgent phone call that he was supposed to make to you. He will not have all of the answers, but he will have the assurance that he has been forgiven by Almighty God – I urge you to extend that same grace to him and his family. Pray for him in your daily prayers as well as in your corporate prayers. Forgive him quickly, and don’t share your gripes with others. If there is an area of significant concern, follow the admonition in Matthew 18:15 … go to him privately, but don’t publish it on social media. That way you have the possibility of building up the body of Christ instead of almost certainly tearing it down.
- A Family Man - Each of the three candidates has family obligations. Each of them is married. One has small children, another has a child with special needs, and the other has adult children. Their families deserve the best of them, not a few moments squeezed into an overloaded and under-resourced schedule. I urge you to pray for their families and demonstrate a genuine concern for their well-being. Make sure that they are provided for adequately. They should never be treated as collateral damage in the service of the Kingdom.
- A Student of the Holy Scriptures - Your new bishop will be expected to preach and teach several times a week and to be informed by Scripture in all that he says and does. He will not be able to sustain these expectations for long if he is not able to take the time to study and pray. He may even need the occasional study leave or sabbatical! Don’t be shocked or jealous. As he grows in his knowledge and love of the Scriptures, you will all be blessed.
- Not a Prophet nor the Son of a Prophet - He will have numerous spiritual gifts but will not be able to read your mind. It is vital that you communicate directly with him in ways that are easy for him to grasp. He may not always agree with you, but without meaningful communication, the opportunity for building community will be lost. When he comes to visit, let him know what is expected ahead of time and let him know if there are any hidden landmines to avoid.
- Finally, he is also a Bishop of the Wider Church - He will have responsibilities beyond his duties as your bishop. That is the way that we Anglicans understand church. We are part of a larger family of faith, and that not only broadens our horizons for mission and ministry but also brings accountability, because we all, especially bishops, need to be under authority. Encourage him in this wider ministry, and invite him to share the lessons and insights that he gains.
The bishop is coming. In a few weeks, you will, by God’s grace, be electing a new bishop for the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh. It is my prayer and sincere hope that he and you will all flourish in this new season of ministry.
The possibilities are immense, the needs are enormous, and the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh deserves a “man of steel” to fulfill the promise that is before you. By God’s grace, and with your prayers, love, and support, your new bishop will be that man.