2018 Diocesan Leadership Initiative: Imagining the Future

September 20, 2018

“The Church at large is behind the curve in adapting to our fast changing world. We are required to do more than make technical fixes. It is transformation of the world (and thereby the church, too) we seek. We hope to glean tools, concepts, methodology and also community in this process.”

The Rt. Rev. Rayford Ray, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan, speaking about the 2018 Diocesan Leadership Initiative

One of the key blessings of the Episcopal Church Foundation’s Lilly Endowment National Initiative grant entitled “From Economic Challenges to Transformational Opportunities” has been to strengthen ECF’s role as an incubator, a facilitator, an innovator, and a gathering place for leaders throughout the Episcopal Church who are serving local faith communities, helping them to see what’s possible, what’s sustainable, and how to live into their mission. From September 4th - 7th 2018, ECF facilitated its first Diocesan Leadership Initiative (DLI) and gathered Episcopal leaders to envision a future Episcopal Church “that has yet to exist” (Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real).

In collaboration with the College for Bishops, the Office of Pastoral Development, and the Church Pension Group, ECF brought together bishops and their diocesan leadership teams from eleven dioceses across the country. Part of a year-long DLI commitment, this three-day residential event at Kanuga Camp and Conference Center in North Carolina was designed specifically for newer bishops, a senior diocesan staff person, and a lay leader with entrepreneurial potential, openness to change, and current or potential influence in the wider Church.

“As a pilot project the DLI has incredible potential to help transform the church. I am so gratified that eleven bishops and their teams are making a year-long commitment to reimagining diocesan and congregational ministry for a changing church and world. What a great beginning!”

Donald Romanik, ECF President

The DLI provided an intensive, holistic experience where dioceses could explore and plan new, innovative and sustainable models for diocesan and congregational ministry. DLI faculty member, Dr. Lisa Kimball, Professor of Christian Formation and Congregational Leadership at Virginia Theological Seminary, gave participants an in-depth look at changing demographics in the Episcopal Church and then lead a panel, with ECF President Donald Romanik, with several bishops who shared how these demographics affect their professional as well as missional lives. Melissa Rau, ECF’s Senior Program Director of Leadership, facilitated a panel titled New and Emerging Models of Congregational and Local Ministry where bishops shared innovative ways of doing ministry in their dioceses. From Bishop Scanlan’s Bishop out of the Box program in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania to Bishop Rice’s Helping Urban Bicyclists program in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, panelists spoke honestly about the ups and downs of doing ministry in new areas and often with limited resources.

Diocesan teams developed their own project plan to address change and to meet needs in their dioceses. Each diocese will be assigned a certified coach for eight months to work on plan implementation, and ECF will provide additional consulting support as needed.

Ultimately, ECF recognizes the reality that there will be no systemic change in the Episcopal Church around addressing the economic challenges of clergy and congregations without the active support, encouragement and direct participation of diocesan bishops. Through ECF’s 2018 Diocesan Leadership Initiative, diocesan leadership teams worked together to consider ways to collaboratively lead transformation, renewal, and positive change in their home dioceses and develop new approaches to Christian mission and ministry.