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PROFILE FOR THE 11th BISHOP OF

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN VERMONT

 

INTRODUCTION TO “THIS BRAVE LITTLE STATE”

“Welcome to Vermont” and thank you for your interest in our search for a new bishop to join us in ministry. This profile has been prepared to help you learn more about who we are as the Episcopal branch of the “Jesus Movement” in Vermont, what our hopes and expectations are for the future (including our treasures and trials), and what personal qualities and leadership abilities we feel will be important from our next episcopal leader.

 

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you...” amazing things can happen. We persist and persevere together trusting Jesus’ example of radical love and trusting in the movement of the Holy Spirit among us as our ultimate grounding.  We seek a bishop who will abide with us—persevere with us—rely on Jesus’ word at work among us—and learn with us as we continue to discern together where the Spirit is leading.

 

Not only has this profile been put together with the facts, figures, and data describing things about our diocese, our profile also demonstrates our commitment to transparency and the wisdom centered in all of our congregations, regardless of size. Beginning in May 2018, the Bishop Discernment and Nominating Committee (BDNC), held an extensive series of 38 sacred listening sessions, focusing on four questions, with each congregation (even if there was only one parishioner), appropriate diocesan governing bodies (Trustees, Diocesan Council, Boards), and other clusters of people whose lives will be impacted by our next bishop  (Ministry Support Team, youth, summer camp staff, all clergy), as well as with our Bishop Thomas C. Ely, to gather observations, imaginings, concerns, and expectations for our next bishop. Approximately 403 Episcopalians participated in these sessions. The questions discussed were:

  1. What do you believe is the most special or unique thing about The Episcopal Church in Vermont?

  2. What do you believe is done well? Could be done better or differently? Should be added? Should not be continued?

  3. What sort of leadership do you believe would be most appropriate for The Episcopal Church in Vermont in the years ahead?

  4. Are there any other issues you believe the BDNC should consider that have not been discussed?

 

In these discussions, a number of common themes surfaced:

  • The needs and vitality of our many small congregations;

  • The tension between the financial burdens of our aging buildings and the aspiration to continue exploring new aspects of ministry in our communities;

  • The desire for the next bishop to continue the work of Bishop Ely, promoting the voice of Jesus as part of the Jesus Movement statewide and on the national social justice scene;

  • The creativity and boldness that is needed to help us move into a future that is alive in the Spirit and financially sustainable, and the courage to discern with us what needs to be changed, including leadership and administrative systems at the top;

  • The crucial ingredients of sensitivity, compassion and pastoral awareness needed to serve Vermont as an agent of transformation.

 

These conversations provided a penetrating and deep dive into the life of The Episcopal Church in Vermont and significantly shaped this profile by providing a living snapshot of a diocese alive and well with vitality, excitement for the future and a healthy wariness about the challenges that lie ahead.

 

A prevailing thread in this profile and for our congregations is how we think of ministry. For many decades now, and most recently through the tenures of Bishop Mary Adelia McLeod and Bishop Thomas Ely, we have been called to deepen our understanding about what it means to live into our unique baptismal ministries. Called by many names (baptismal ministry, mutual ministry, ministry of the baptized, total ministry, shared ministry) this theology, shaped in our baptismal promises, has shifted us  from a model described as “clergy leaders-around-whom-the-people-gather” to “a gathered people with whom clergy—and our bishop—join in partnership.”

 

The importance of this focus should not be overlooked or discounted in any way, for its distinctive melody hums through this profile as a practical and theological underpinning. We take this type of ministry seriously, especially now as we are on the unavoidable cusp of some important and daunting leaps of faith that will call for careful tending, creative ideas, and the willingness to hold onto each other in love.

 

As many Episcopal churches and other denominations face uncertain times due to many factors (changing demographics, a shifting culture, uncertain financial states, aging buildings, and aging people), we hope that what we learn along the way about where the Spirit is leading us will continue to add to the growing models of positive leadership in the church.

 

Perhaps it is the blessing (and not the misfortune) of this age that we are called and challenged to figure out where God is leading. We take heart in the Apostle Peter’s comment to the church in Jerusalem when his life-altering experience with Cornelius the Centurion led Peter to acknowledge that the Spirit of God was moving in a new and unexpected way—that of including Gentiles as Christians. Peter said: “If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?”  (Acts 11: 17)

 

Who are we, too, that we could hinder God in the uncertain future that beckons us forward to do the work we are called to do...and for which we seek a bishop willing and able to join us in this partnership of holy discovery?

Our profile includes the following:

     1. Beyond Our “Stained Glass Windows”

               ✟ A quick glimpse into the vitality of our small, medium and large parishes.

     2. A Deeper Dive

               ✟ Distinctive issues that impel our action as part of the Jesus Movement

     3. Properties and Real Estate

               ✟ Vermont is blessed with some remarkable land for which we are stewards.

     4. The Bishop We Seek

               ✟ The qualities of leadership that we feel are needed.

     5. And Still We Persevere

               ✟ Some reflections on budget, DEPO, deacons, and clergy quotes

     6. The Tensions of Shrinking and Growing

               ✟ Blessings and Burdens

     7. Where does Vermont fit in God’s trajectory for you?

               ✟ Why You Should Consider Vermont As Your Next Step.

     8. Appendix 1: Facts, Figures and Finances

     9. Appendix 2: Compensation for the next Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Vermont

     10. Appendix 3: Vermont: “This Brave Little State”

     11. Appendix 4: Map and List of Parishes

A Note on Terminology:

In recent years, fresh thought was given to what we call ourselves. The word “Diocese” did not seem to adequately reflect the common bond of faith we share as Episcopalians, as it was sometimes used to refer to some separate entity “out there.” The decision was made to call ourselves The Episcopal Church in Vermont, an inclusive term that reflects who we are – an identity we can all own and embrace. When the word “diocese” is used in this document, it most often refers to our geographic area.

Profile for the 11th Bishop of

The Episcopal Church in Vermont

Commissioned by the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Vermont

The Rev. Rick Swanson, President

The Rev. Cn. Dr. Lee Crawford, Secretary

The Rev. Thad Bennett

The Rev. Kim Hardy

Paul Harrington

Lars Hunter

Brett Murphy

Max Neal

 

Compiled and Written by the Bishop Discernment and Nominating Committee

Maggie Thompson, BDNC Chair | Christ Church, Montpelier
Valerie Abrahamsen | St. Michael's, Brattleboro
James Biernat | St. Mark's, Newport
Eric Davis | St. Stephen's, Middlebury
Ann Guillot | Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Burlington
The Rev. John Miller | St. James, Arlington
The Rev. Christine Moseley | St. Mark's, Newport

The Rev. Scott Neal | St. Paul's, White River Junction

Deacon Zarina Suárez  O'Hagin | St. John's in the Mountains, Stowe
The Rev. Lisa Ransom | St. James, Woodstock
Corrie Wilcox | Christ Church, Montpelier

The Rev. Carole Wageman | Chaplain for the Standing Committee,

Discernment and Transition Teams, and Candidates for Bishop