Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What a mess.

The Diocese of Rio Grande has lost its previous two bishops to other churches. That's not a good record. So now church leaders are setting up an assisting bishop so that episcopal functions can continue, if on a limited basis.
Retired Diocese of Colorado Bishop William Frey will become assisting bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande.
The Standing Committee said Frey will spend 10 days a month in the diocese "providing those sacramental ministries reserved for a bishop, making visitations to parishes, and providing counsel to the Standing Committee as requested."

Frey, 78, served as bishop of the Diocese of Colorado from 1973 to 1990.

The diocese has been without a bishop since shortly after its former bishop, Jeffrey Steenson, told the House of Bishops that he wanted to resign and join the Roman Catholic Church. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori accepted Steenson's renunciation of his ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church on January 14.

In its announcement, the Standing Committee said that it was aware that many people in the diocese were concerned that a search committee to develop a list of candidates to succeed Steenson has not yet been named.

"The Standing Committee is continuing to work toward this goal with a consultant for the visioning and reconciliation process as well as with a consultant for the search process," the announcement said. "After conference calls with potential consultants, it was decided to be prudent, step back, and prayerfully consider their advice."

The Standing Committee has asked the Rev. Ann Hallisey and Suzanne Foucault to guide a visioning and screening process as part of the bishop search. The details of the process are due to be worked out in mid-April, according to the announcement.

Hallisey is the director of Cornerstone, an Episcopal Church Foundation organization meant to strengthen the personal and professional lives of people who lead Episcopal congregations. Foucault, a General Convention deputy from the Diocese of San Diego, is a consultant who specializes in team building, strategic planning, conflict management, and training design, according to the website of the San Diego Regional Training Center.

At its March 3 meeting, the Standing Committee and the deans of the diocese "committed to a long-term process of visioning and reconciliation and to the beginning of the search process in tandem."

"We believe that the processes that will be designed will meet our short-term needs for a bishop to lead the Diocese of the Rio Grande and our long-term needs to be an effective and healthy diocese capable of allowing God's work among all of us," the announcement said. "The visioning/reconciliation process is of primary importance and will be a significant factor in the selection of a bishop who will guide the continuation of the process."

The announcement noted that Steenson's predecessor, Terence Kelshaw, has been received as a bishop in the Anglican Province of Uganda and "by his choice, he will therefore not be available for Episcopal services in any congregation of the Diocese of the Rio Grande."

The diocese, based in Albuquerque, encompasses New Mexico and a portion of Southwest Texas including El Paso.

So +Steenson left to become Roman Catholic. And +Kelshaw is now a bishop with the reactionaries in Uganda.

What IS it about this poor diocese?

Having spent many, many a day in the Diocese of Rio Grande visiting in-laws, I will tell you it's a strange situation to be Episcopalian in a place that is largely Roman Catholic with a smattering of Mormons just to keep things interesting. But thank goodness for +Frey being willing to step into the breach.

This is another diocese to keep in our prayers.

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