What We Seek
In preparation to receive applications for our next bishop, our diocesan Nominating Committee spent several weeks listening to the laity and clergy of our diocese. And we’ve spent many hours in prayer asking for God’s guidance.
We’ve been humbled by what we heard and by the challenges and opportunities, dreams and aspirations expressed for our future.
More than 900 people answered the survey distributed both online and through our parishes, and some 400 people participated in 15 in-person and online sessions held throughout our diocese. Additionally, we conducted special sessions for the diocesan staff, our governing bodies, including the Standing Committee, Diocesan Council and Foundation Board. And we had a clergy-only session and an essential reflections session with Bishop Howard as he shared thoughts about his time as our bishop and what he saw as opportunities to come.
Here is what we found:
What We Want in Our Next Bishop
We are a gospel people.
As such, we want our next bishop to have a strong relationship with God and a ministry rooted in the love of Jesus.
Our next bishop should be prayerful, compassionate and an active listener to the clergy and laity of or our diocese.
We’re seeking a bishop who is open-minded, receptive to new ideas and willing to hear a variety of viewpoints before making decisions. We want someone who is welcoming of all people; someone who is approachable and respectful; someone who is a strong communicator and who is personal and transparent; someone who is present and visible throughout the diocese; someone who is an energetic, inspiring visionary and who can lead us into a fearless future as God’s people.
Our next bishop should be pastoral and supportive to our clergy, active and retired, and willing to empower their ministries.
And we seek someone who has executive skills, who delegates well and hires staff with strengths in areas of his or her weaknesses. Someone who uses our governing bodies effectively to achieve the mission of our diocese and the vision brought by a new episcopacy.
Mostly, we seek someone who serves with humility and grace. Someone who is a bishop for and with all of us.
What We Want Our New Bishop to Embrace
We have a number of active ministries in our diocese that we believe embody God’s call to us, and we hope that our next bishop will see them as important and valuable.
• Our youth and young adult ministries that encompass a variety of programs such as summer camp at Camp Weed and Cerveny Conference Center, Happening, New Beginnings, Vocare and our campus ministries at the University of Florida, Florida State University, Florida A&M University and the University of North Florida.
• Daughters of the King, Episcopal Church Women
• Our chapters of the Union of Black Episcopalians
• Bishop’s Institute for Ministry & Leadership and continued lay empowerment and training
• Our Prison Ministries
• Outreach programs, including urban ministries, and urban and rural feeding ministries and health initiatives
What We See as Opportunities for Our New Bishop
While our diocese has much to be proud of, we’ve identified a number of areas that we believe provide great opportunities to enrich our ministry together.
As we exit the restrictions of a pandemic, we believe that growth is a top priority for our next bishop. Our diocese has many rapidly growing regions that we believe are ripe for church planting, but just as important is the need to develop creative ways to grow our existing congregations, increase attendance and provide support to our small, rural parishes that are challenged with smaller population pools and financial resources.
We also see attracting and retaining young parishioners and young families as a prime opportunity for our next bishop. The people of our diocese have strongly stated that we want to be seen as welcoming to all people including diverse communities, whether characterized by ethnicity, race, sexual and gender orientation, language differences, age or economic circumstances.
The people of our diocese state the importance of being more inclusive and open to minorities, both clergy and lay, being open to active conversations about racial reconciliation, of embracing the Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE) and Hispanic congregations and being open to prayerful conversations about LGBTQ+ community in clergy roles and same-sex marriage.
How we approach these issues leads to some disagreement. For many of our
diocese, this openness includes closer alignment with the wider Episcopal Church. Others focus more on a closer relationship with the worldwide Anglican Communion. Regardless, our next bishop should listen to the different opinions of our diocese and be committed to help us maintain unity in our diversity.
We have an aging clergy base and a need to attract more youthful and diverse priests, either migrating to our diocese or encouraging and supporting people within our diocese to seek holy orders.
There is a strong desire for active leadership in expanding fellowship between parishes and for collaboration in programming and common resources.
Diocesan financial transparency is a prime opportunity to educate our members about the role of the diocese and how we support each other. Information on stewardship, budget decisions and the stability of our diocese are cited as important components of financial transparency.
Our next bishop has a great opportunity to increase the quality and frequency of communications from the diocese. Many people expressed their desire that communications like Connect, Faithful Fridays and the Bishop’s Institute newsletter continue, but they want more communications about what the diocese does, how it supports parishes and our relationship with the National Church and Worldwide Anglican Community.