been an extraordinary year of transition.
A lot of
things are shifting.
thing, we are in the midst of a lot of clergy turnover.
Grace in the Desert, Christ Church, St. John’s, St. Mark’s,
St. Patrick’s, Epiphany, and St. Paul’s Virginia City
have all been
in transition this year.
time and money,
and they elevate anxiety.
cannot move forward
while they are preoccupied with choosing
Saints, Grace, and St. Mark’s have now extended calls
We hope to have
good clergy leaders in place
at all of these congregations very soon.
church governance front,
we have streamlined our leadership structure
board Standing Committee
has vastly improved diocesan leadership.
more, communicate more,
gather the information they need,
and make timely decisions.
had good people on the Standing Committee,
but the tangled web of our organization
Committee has appointed
working and advisory committees to deal with
finance, investments, and property.
provided guidance on real estate issues,
and helped us balance our budget,
redesign our chart of accounts to reflect what we actually
and invest our savings in more profitable ways.
Last year I
emphasized our relationships around the diocese.
We are not fighting
but that’s because we aren’t speaking.
retreated to our neutral corners after
– perhaps even forgotten – battles.
I said then,
and I say now, there is no a silver bullet for relationships
and it isn’t going to change over
year our priests and deacons
have been communicating more.
around the diocese gathered in Tonopah
to discuss how parish ECW’s might support each other.
they organized themselves into a Diocesan ECW.
seem to be becoming more relational.
some people are beginning to talk to each other.
tone of out diocesan relationships
can make a difference for parish relationships as well.
several congregations in Level 4 Conflict
the fight/flight kind of conflict
where somebody has to leave.
cases where members of a congregation are seriously
is at odds with the diocese
or their neighbors in the diocese.
I don’t know
which comes first.
a chicken and egg thing.
But our internal
and external relationships go hand in hand.
If we form a
of personal relationships in the diocese,
that will help parishes contain their conflict at healthier
among churches and church members is crucial.
But they are
not the only relationships essential to our health.
to people outside the church walls
All over the
diocese, I see that churches
connected to their communities flourish;
This year we
have made encouraging moves on that front.
Vegas, we have formed Nevadans for the Common Good,
an interfaith community organizing effort
to combat child sex trafficking,
speak out for immigrants, and improve
for the vulnerable elderly.
congregations led the way.
Then 7 of
the 9 congregations in this Valley
turned out in force for the founding Convention.
ACTIONN is a
parallel project in Northern Nevada,
focusing on jobs and education.
St. Paul’s, Sparks led the way by joining ACTIONN, and
every Episcopal Church in the Reno-Sparks-Carson area
was present to support ACTIONN’s founding convention.
In terms of Church
growth, we are jump-starting evangelism
after a no-growth stagnation that persisted
for at least 20 years despite Nevada’s remarkable
population explosion during that time.
growth during that boom too some work.
ago we began to address this stagnation in two ways.
invested in Latino ministries.
began a small, underfunded evangelism program
a sign here and an ad there.
Sunday Attendance for the diocese
in 2010 rose by 12% over 2009.
Sunday Attendance in 2011 went up over 2010
was in Latino congregations;
but congregations that did not have Latino ministries,
like Grace in the Desert and Holy
growth in Nevada is naturally disconcerting.
So, when I
released these numbers,
people tried to help me find where they were wrong.
blame them a bit.
People of my
generation remember Paul Simon’s lyric
“I can’t get used to something so
And folks a
little younger recall the immortal words of Garbage,
“I’m only happy when it reains.
their skepticism was rooted in facts.
that nationally mainline denominations are shrinking,
that our congregations with Level 4 Conflicts were losing
that some of our larger churches were in transition
and attendance always goes down during
that in 2010 Nevada’s population
went down for the first time since
rebounded by only half a percent in 2011,
add that all up and statistics showing growth rates
of 12 and 22% sound wrong.
We failed to
include the numbers
from our 2nd largest Latino congregation
and from one of our smaller Latino congregations.
growth was even larger than reported.
of our diocese depends on calling, training, licensing,
and ordaining people for ministry in the church.
lost the Regional Vicars about 7 years ago,
that essential part of our life has
been a challenge.
It still is
– but we are beginning to regroup.
This year the
COOL & MDC revised and clarified the training criteria
for most licensed lay ministries.
establish will get to deacons and priests next year.
the MDC provided training for Basic Discipleship presenters
and facilitators so that we can offer
the foundation course
for lay ministries anywhere in the
The MDC also
for Gifts Discernment Workshop leaders.
Discernment is the second step in preparing for ministry,
and it is now available in most of the
The COOL has
begun clarifying and simplifying,
our discernment process for ordained
be done all at once.
year we began the work.
consider what we might accomplish together next year,
let me reiterate, it’s all about the
We can set
all sorts of marvelous goals.
they amount to a hill of beans
depends 100% on our relationships.
year I plan to introduce our clergy
to new processes for building relationships.
We can build
relationships and learn conflict management skills
at our Small Church Workshop this November.
I hope we
will find new ways to connect with each other
Only if we
make those connections, can we generate
the synergy it will take to overcome
our historic areas of weakness.
Growth & Stewardship
has historically been anemic on two counts
missionary diocese living off the national church dole,
we got into a habit of passivity.
So we were
weak on evangelism and stewardship.
to double our investment in evangelism next year.
segregated the rental income
from the old St. Stephen’s property for a new church plant.
Committee has authorized one grant and made several
accommodations on parish assessments
strategically designed to invest in
instead of church maintenance.
came out of the Great Depression stronger
exception, they followed this simple strategy:
costs and invest in growth.”
we have done – cutting our rent in half,
cutting travel costs, reducing
churches in transition have clergy leadership in place,
If the Churches
in Level 4 Conflict learn to work together,
congregation is a prime example.
Grace was stagnant
for years because they were mired in conflict.
stopped fighting and got on with the mission.
the past five years,
they have been one of our fastest growing congregations.
visible signs of the gospel in our communities
is part & parcel of evangelism.
Where I have
served before, Churches were leaders
in Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding
and MLK Day service projects.
Day, I volunteered at a community center.
There were identified
groups of volunteers
from banks, Starbucks, and fraternities
volunteers learned I was from a church,
they said “Where is your church.
If a church actually serves
I’d want to be part of it.”
But I was
the only Episcopalian in sight and I don’t have a congregation.
sparked the BBHAG.
My goal for
next MLK Day is to have 300 Episcopalians
at work sites around the state
wearing our T-shirts and hats.
preaching: just admit you are an Episcopalian,
and serve your community.
grow our congregations.
I will need
coordinators in each of our parishes
to organize that project.
If we choose
to grow next year, we can do it
just for the sake of our institutional vitality
because there are people all over Nevada
If we extend
our church growth rate for a 4th consecutive year,
we can say we’ve turned that one
is almost as important as evangelism,
not just because it takes money to
but because failing to instill
spiritually infantilizes our people.
This year our
Diocese joined The Episcopal Network for Stewardship
and made their resources available to all of our parishes.
A few parishes
have begun solid stewardship programs
in the past four years -- though most have not.
Next year we
will begin a small tentative stewardship program,
just as we began evangelism 3 years
If we steadily
improve our evangelism and stewardship,
we can reduce the parish assessments
and still fund a diocese.
I do not
have the authority to make this promise.
But I can
and will state this goal.
I want to
reduce the percentage of the parish assessment
by at least 1% each year for the next 5
adjust the formula for the assessment all we want.
But the real
burden is the 25% rate.
cannot flourish with that lodestone around their necks.
burden from one parish to another is not the answer.
just shifting the load, we need to lift the load.
My goal is to
reduce the assessment to 20%
within 5 years regardless of what happens in the national
restructuring may lower the assessment on dioceses.
If and when
we may be able to reduce the assessment faster and more.
the 1st 5% is up to us.
It takes two
things: evangelism and stewardship.
to our relationships is weak communications.
years, we have tried experiments,
with some hits and some misses.
But we have
never developed a comprehensive communications plan.
communications questionnaires you have received
are part of that planning.
coming year, we will implement
a new communications package.
Finally, we need a vision of and a plan for
our life together.
To that end,
I have asked Jim Koehn
to form a Strategic Planning Task Force
to help the Diocese draw its
own big picture.
asset mapping, Canon Chuck McCray’s 4T
and studies of the 5 Marks of Mission,
are all part of finding our
cannot be a strong diocesan vision or plan
unless it percolates up from the plans
of any diocesan plan is to support
parishes in their mission strategies.
have a plan or vision for the diocese
unless parishes first discern their own
cannot tell a parish what its mission is.
must find their own missions, make their own plans,
so we can weave those ideas into a
When I ask
some of our parishes about their mission,
they say that it is just survival.
But what is
the point of surviving?
Max in the Princess Bride
shouting to the comatose Wesley,
“Hey you in there, what you got to live for?”
Each of our
congregations needs an answer to that question.
I hope the
Task Force will develop a strategic plan for the diocese,
but more importantly I hope
their work will prompt
parishes to do their own planning,
form their own visions, figure
“what they got to live for.”
I hope we
will not rush to an answer.
I hope this
will be a process that lasts several years
it can keep dreaming, keep thinking,
and keep working out how to be the Body
of Christ together.