March 29, 2022
Commemoration of John Keble
Dear friends in Christ,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It has been too long since our last update from the Standing Committee to the diocese. We regret the long absence of updates, and we will offer more frequent updates over the coming months.
Since our last update, we bid farewell to Larry Hayes and Phil DeVaul with our gratitude for their hard work and committed leadership. We welcomed newly elected members of the Standing Committee, Lissa Barker and David Kendall-Sperry.
Over the last few months, we have continued to attend to the regular work of the Standing Committee, and we have also been engaged in work related to the transition time in our diocese. Very importantly, we have established a cordial and productive working relationship with Provisional Bishop Wayne Smith, in which he regularly receives our counsel and offers his counsel to us. We currently meet once or twice each month for our work together.
As we work toward greater diocesan health, we know that congregations, leadership bodies, staff, and our provisional bishop are striving to do their part in the exercise of their ministries in an increasingly healthy manner as members of the Body of Christ. We on the Standing Committee are listening to constructive input and are working to ensure that we are carrying out our duties with increased health and effectiveness.
We continue to discern the best time to move forward with the next major step in the process that will lead to the discernment, call, election, consent, and ordination of our next diocesan bishop. In some sense, nearly every aspect of diocesan ministry is now part of our transition work, but we are mindful that the appointment of the search committee will be the next major and visible step.
As we hear from members of our diocese, we notice a variety of views on the best timeline for our search. As a reminder, the typical search takes 12-18 months once the search committee is appointed. Some believe that we should have already appointed the search committee, and others believe that we need many more months’ work until we are ready for that step. We are listening to everyone’s input, and we are seeking a wide range of data from across our diocese.
Last week, the Standing Committee held an all-day work meeting at the Procter Center with our search consultant, Anne Schmidt. Ms. Schmidt reviewed with us the best practices for bishop searches and transitions. And she led us through a discussion in which we considered our readiness as a diocese to proceed.
In 2021, the Standing Committee held listening sessions, conducted a survey, commissioned a report on staff morale, and received much communication from members of the diocese. It was clear then that we were not ready for the search committee to begin its work. Our diocese faced issues of lack of trust, insufficient transparency, regionalism, systemic racism, low clergy morale, and concerns over our ability to support leaders struggling with addiction.
While these ongoing challenges are all interrelated, we perceive that the chief question for us now is whether there is sufficient trust of our diocesan leadership to proceed with the search. If people trust the leaders – Standing Committee, staff, provisional bishop, and soon the search committee – enough to proceed, we can continue to work on the important related issues while the search committee does its work. If establishing sufficient trust is impeding our progress, then we must work on that issue before we begin to appoint members of the search committee.
To that end, the Standing Committee is going to gather some data from the whole diocese this spring. We will conduct a very brief email survey to see what may have changed since the survey we conducted about a year ago. Second, we will host some conversations on video and in person to hear your thoughts on our readiness as a diocese for the next step in our search process.
To some, this will seem like a needless delay. We are as eager as anyone to attend the ordination of our next diocesan bishop! But we also know that rushing the process in a climate of mistrust is not setting up our next bishop and our diocese for a thriving ministry together. We believe that if we have a basic level of trust, we can do all the other work we need to do together.
Stay tuned for details on the email survey and conversations. We hope to gather all our data in Eastertide, so that shortly thereafter we can assess our readiness. Meanwhile, the Standing Committee will be busy doing work that prepares us for our search. We are working to address our identified challenges as a diocese. We will be working with our chancellor and others on any necessary updates to our canons and rules of order. We will be in communication with our search consultant and with churchwide officials to receive guidance on the exact timeline of our search process once the next step happens. If you have questions, suggestions, or concerns, please write to StandingCommittee@DioSOhio.org.
We invite you to pray for our diocese and especially for us on the Standing Committee. Pray also for Bishop Smith as he continues to lead us in this time.
Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
We wish you every blessing of this Lenten season. We are,
The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Southern Ohio
Dr. James Allsop, vice-president
Dr. Elizabeth Barker
The Rev. Dr. Ellen Cook
Mr. Barry Feist
The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, president
The Rev. David Kendall-Sperry, secretary