Thursday, October 25, 2012


My faithful Merriam-Webster dictionary tells me that to admire someone is "to marvel at; to like very much; to respect highly."

I have been thinking this morning about admiration. Yesterday I was asked a question about whom I admire. Actually the question was a little more specific: is there a bishop you admire? To be truthful, I had never really thought about this before. I stumbled through that question yesterday but have been thinking about it ever since.

I do admire the two bishops I have served with in my own diocese. I admire Bishop Porter Taylor for his amazing gift as a teacher and also his gift as a writer. He has a way of reflecting on issues and people that helps shed light and opens my mind to new thinking.  I admire Bishop Bob Johnson for his ability to remember your name, your husband's name, your children's names and to pick up a conversation with you right where you last left off--even if it was a year ago.

I admire our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori. She was ordained a Bishop only a few years out of seminary and was selected as the Presiding Bishop only 12 years after her ordination to the priesthood. I admire her for her courage (she is the first woman Primate in the Anglican Communion), her grace and her honesty. She is clear about her positions, even the sometimes controversial ones such as supporting same-gender blessings and same-gender civil marriage. Yet she has worked to remain in dialogue with those who do not agree with her or the Episcopal Church. I admire someone who is honest and transparent about their own position, but does not slam the door in the face of anyone who disagrees nor does she run and hide from disagreement. She lifts up what unites us instead of what divides us.

I admire Bishop Ted Gulick because of his immense pastoral care gifts. They are legendary among my clergy friends who served with Ted in Kentucky. While serving as a student sacristan I was present once at a wedding rehearsal and was almost moved to tears by the way +Ted made even a rehearsal (which so many clergy rush through) a holy event.

I admire Bishop Julio Murray of Panama because I will never forget arriving late, late one night with a mission group from VTS and there he was, waiting for us, sitting beneath a mango tree in Santa Clara. He is an immensely gifted preacher who can go back and forth between English and Spanish and never miss a beat or a theological point. But what I really admire is that he does not stay sequestered in his office--he goes out and is with the people of his Diocese. +Julio can always make me laugh and on occasion even make me get up and dance.

I admire Bishop Barbara Harris for her courage and her ability to tell the truth. She was the first woman ordained a bishop in the Anglican Communion. She is still a powerful voice in the Church.

I admire Bishop Marianne Budde even though I only know her through one brief encounter when she came to preach at Virginia Theological Seminary and through friends. I admire her thoughtfulness and her ability to be really present with people. I think the Diocese of Washington is one to watch for wise, prayerful decisions and growth, both in numbers and in spiritual depth.

I admire Bishop Sean Rowe, the youngest bishop in the Episcopal Church (ordained bishop at age 32). Sean and I share a bond as having both been VTS sacristans (that's a story for another post). I admire Sean for many reasons but one reason is for the bold and transparent way he handled a situation of sexual abuse by a former bishop in his diocese. He also spoke out against the child sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky at Penn State which is located in his Diocese. Sean makes it very obvious that God calls people of all ages and that chronological years are not a pre-requisite to make some people wise.

I admire my friend Jeff Fisher, newly elected Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Texas. I admire him because I know that Jeff is a good and loving human being and one who is not afraid to say how much he really loves Jesus--which, to some, sounds almost un-Episcopal! The Diocese of Texas is doing exciting work, especially with evangelism, and I think it will only get better with +Jeff.

I admire Justin Duckworth, the Bishop of Wellington, New Zealand. Who could have imagined a bishop with dreadlocks and bare feet? Obviously the people of his Diocese did and paid more attention to the work he has done reaching out to those on the margins of society than his hairstyle. Hooray for Wellington!

Until yesterday I  had never spent much time specifically thinking about bishops I admire. Bishops are often criticized for doing this or not doing that, for not doing enough or doing too much. The amazing thing is that once I got started...well, as you can see by the length of this post, it was hard to stop (and my mind keeps going on and on --oh yes, Bishop Mark Dyer, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Bishop Gene Robinson, Bishop Michael Curry......)

Bishops are not just about fancy vestments and pointy hats; there are really some amazing women and men who put themselves out there every day, loving God and loving God's people and tirelessly excavating hope in the world.

So, yes. Are there things wrong with the Church? Absolutely. Are there bishops who are arrogant and self-centered with a  terminal case of purple fever and pension fund max-out? Probably. But what this pondering has led me to realize  is that there are people--yes, even Bishops--out there in the world who work hard every day to live the Gospel, to love God's people and to try to inspire and lead others to do the same. 

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