How can we support a new bishop?
Thoughts from Interim Bishop Marcus Lohrmann
In July I retired from the ministry in the Northwestern Ohio Synod after 18 years in the office of Bishop. In a few weeks I will move on from my ministry as interim bishop for the Florida-Bahamas Synod. As I have reflected on these years and how the community can best support a new bishop to fulfill his call with joy, I put together a list of ideas of how individuals, leaders and congregations can strengthen the ministry of the bishop and synod staff. A new bishop, once installed, might be asked to add to this list. As both parish pastor and as bishop, I have seen the whole body of Christ, called in baptism and strengthened through the Holy Spirit and through faith in Christ, bearing witness to the work of God through Christ for the sake of the world. Based upon my experience in the office of the bishop, I offer the following:
- Keep the bishop and the synod staff in your prayers and let them know it. The knowledge of such prayers is a source of humility, comfort and encouragement.
- Respect/encourage your bishop’s need to tend to his family life and physical, spiritual, and emotional health. It is important for your bishop (and for you!) to minister out of “fullness” and a sense of the abundance of our life in Christ.
- Keep yourself and the ministry to which you are entrusted centered in God’s promises in Christ Jesus and the confidence that the Holy Spirit will empower and renew that ministry. One of the greatest gifts you can give your new bishop is to tend to your own Christ-centered wholeness.
- Realize that your new bishop will have a different set of strengths and weaknesses than your past bishops. The synod will be enriched through distinctively new gifts in this office. Give space and time for the new bishop to form a leadership team and discern and craft a vision. Be open to the Spirit’s movement in this time.
- Manage your expectations regarding the presence of the bishop or synod staff in your congregation. Invite your bishop and staff to occasions of celebration, as well as to be present on an ‘ordinary’ Sunday. Be gracious when they are not able to attend, and extend hospitality and care when they are.
- Be proactive about building up and supporting the ministry of the Bishop and his staff. You will not always agree with your bishop or his representative. Resist the inclination to demean your bishop or the ministries of this church when he does not meet your expectation. In such moments, invite your bishop or his representative into conversation and prayer for resolution that will build up one another and glorify Christ.
- Help your congregation/ministry to know that it is the church; but, it is not the whole of the church. Healthy pastors, lay leaders, and congregations know the value of nurturing collegiality, ecumenical, and global relationships. The ministry of your congregation will be enhanced when people are caught up in the work of the Spirit through the broader expressions of church across your conference, synod, nation and world. Your bishop will praise God for your ministry’s growing awareness of the whole of Christ’s church.
How is that for the start of a list? What would you add to it?