Rector, All Saints’ Episcopal Church
South Hadley, MA
Founding Director, Lawrence House Service Corps
Dear ones in the Diocese of Oregon, I greet you as one who has been loved into being through The Episcopal Church. Many faithful and diverse communities have formed me as the priest I am now, a bridge builder, courageous in leadership and unswerving in partnership. My mid-sized hometown parish nurtured and raised me up, and taught me to value the power of questions. The Washington National Cathedral became home for a service year after college; there I learned both how to engage in the ministry of social justice, and that The Episcopal Church can and must take the lead in proclaiming the love of God to all persons. I was loved into ministry and raised up for ordination by a tiny and mighty rural parish, now combined in merger, that showed deep faithfulness and care for each other, and was shaped by a diocese unafraid to take a stand for the sake of the Gospel. Two city churches became places of learning as I moved into priesthood; one, a parish devoted to full inclusion of LGBTQ+ Christians, developed my passion for good, intentional liturgy, while at the other I was thrust into vital and life-changing crisis ministry in the midst of 9/11. My identity as an educator and preacher was solidified at a cathedral, as was my passion for helping parishes become courageous leaders in the communities they serve. And my current college-town parish has challenged, loved, and grown me into being a true leader who listens deeply, loves boldly, welcomes radically, leans into transformational conflict, and is convinced that anything is possible when we dream with God. With the abiding love and support of my spouse Kathy and our daughter Rebecca, I am blessed and grateful, a follower of Jesus and beloved of God.
Why do you feel called to be Bishop of Oregon at this time?
Respondents to a diocese-wide survey identified Spiritual Leadership as one of the most important characteristics of our next bishop. What are the hallmarks of spiritual leadership and how do you embody them in your life and ministry?
The ministry statement from my résumé was not edited for the Diocese of Oregon; it already summarized who I am as a spiritual leader. I am drawn to partnering with you in ministry precisely because of the striking similarities between who I am and the spiritual leader you seek.
I am a follower of Jesus. Loving Jesus, we learn throughout the Gospels, is more than a feeling; it is an action word. Following Jesus means knowing the profoundly life-changing love of God in the One who leads us to share that love, through the counter-cultural practices of reaching across difference, lifting up the least and the lost, sharing what we have, proclaiming peace and justice.
I am a bridge builder, bringing together seemingly disparate people, groups, or understandings, inviting God’s connecting presence, encouraging healing, growth, and transformation. I am not a top-down, drop-in priest, nor am I called to be that sort of bishop. I am called to show up in all sorts of contexts, to talk and listen with all sorts and conditions of people, to reach across barriers, engage hands-on in ministry, and proclaim the life-giving love of God through Jesus. I am called to walk with the people I serve, courageous in leadership, yet unswerving in partnership.
I am a pastor and educator, with a heart for ministry balancing innovation and tradition, pastoral care and prophetic challenge, while holding my background in Christian formation at the heart of all that we do.
I am passionate about growing Christ-centered communities gathered in radical love, sent forth with faithful courage, engaged in building up God’s kingdom of justice and peace. We are called to gather at the altar to be sustained and challenged, forgiven and fed, and equally called to go into the world, helping to realize God’s realm in the world around us.
Our Diocesan Profile outlines some of the opportunities for growth we face in the Diocese of Oregon. How would you exercise episcopal leadership in addressing one or more of these opportunities?
I love the way your profile sees each challenge facing the diocese as an opportunity for growth. Having led in Vermont with similar challenges, and now in Western Massachusetts with exciting transformation, I offer some ideas, which could be expanded together:
Lack of Cohesion calls for a ministry of presence. Oregon’s bishop needs to be where the people are, and I would consider creating more than one diocesan center, perhaps by holding regular “diocesan days” throughout the diocese, with time to worship, learn, serve, and meet together with the bishop and staff. I love travel, and am called to lead in partnership.
Lack of Resources calls for a ministry of abundance. I believe that God provides all that we need, and I would consider building networks of ministry to increase support and share the load. We can consider granting opportunities from outside and within the diocese, stewardship education, shared outreach projects, and new ideas based on my experience of transforming challenges into opportunities for mutual support and growth.
Lack of Authority calls for a ministry of transparency. In order for leadership to be understood and trusted, the bishop will need to share not just decisions, but process. I would increase communication sources and consider each moment of connection with the diocese as an opportunity to teach, share, listen, and invite.
Lack of Growth calls for a ministry of courageous vision. In a world that hungers and hurts, I would invite the diocese to become a people who embody unconditional love, radical hospitality, deep meaning, brave witness, and transforming justice. We have a call, and an opportunity, to be known as the hands and heart of Christ throughout western Oregon.
It would take courage to call a woman from the east coast, married to a woman, who is relatively young and struggles with weight, as your bishop. It would also embody your desire and demonstrate your commitment to reach beyond the typical Episcopalian, and together, with God, we won’t be able to help but grow.
Describe a time when you had a cross-cultural experience. Please share with us how you responded to it, what you found challenging, and what you learned from it?
Leadership of Lawrence House has allowed not a response to, but the intentional creation of, cross-cultural communities of young adults. A recent cohort included a white woman whose parents had both died and was exploring becoming a nun, a black lesbian poet from the deep south, a transgender Indonesian international student who was passionate about the environment, a white working-class midwestern conservative Bible scholar, a white former foster child who aged out of the system and struggled with mental health, a gay, latino, undocumented man who dreamed of being an educator but ultimately was deported to Mexico, and a Korean woman with no family in the US who was led to Uganda to work for international peace. These are people we intentionally recruited for the program; these are people whose lives were changed by living together for a year.
The challenges that arose from this cross-cultural experience included creating a common starting point for building community (beloved of God), learning to listen deeply to each other’s lived experience, naming and confronting the sin of racism and other -isms, bridging the initial disconnect between this community and the less diverse sponsoring parish, and supporting each individual in their own challenges in a world that doesn’t yet fully treasure who they are. It was a year of pain and growth, of tears and support, of loss and deep meaning.
Working with diverse young adults, the population least likely to be part of church, has taught me that authenticity and risk-taking are essential, that anti-racism work and a commitment to honoring difference must be ongoing, that radical welcome needs to be at the heart of all we do, that everyone comes to Jesus differently, and that church needs multiple on-ramps. Cross-cultural work is as essential, blessed, and life-giving as it is challenging.