Exposing Vulnerabilities…

Written by patrick. Posted in Bishop's Blog, Leadership, Mission

As a third generation Asian American, I still find it rather difficult to share my personal feelings in public. We are taught to keep such feelings private, and not bother other people with one’s own emotions. This cultural trait makes sharing in a public forum like this one especially difficult. But what I am learning by people such as Brene Brown (see her book, Daring Greatly) is that by sharing vulnerability, we model a form of leadership that allows for a culture of risk, experimentation and failure. Nothing is more important to the future of our church than creating this culture of innovation and growth, and this means leadership that is transparent and vulnerable.

Bishop-Hagiya-018As our United Methodist Church downsizes, one of the critical mistakes, in my judgment, was the removal of one Bishop in each of the Jurisdictional Areas. Actually, this General Conference action was motived politically more than economically or strategically. The Commission to study the Episcopacy in 2004 discussed the idea, but did not bring it forth in legislation, and it seemed that General Conference was not going to act on it. Near the end of General Conference, a large church pastor from Texas made the motion to move to one less Bishop for each jurisdiction, and it did pass and was to be enacted two quadrennium from that point. That large church pastor confirmed that he made the motion in order to punish the Western Jurisdiction for costing the general church more money than it brought in. However, this action affected the whole church, and we Bishops that have had to take on huge territories and numbers all believe it was a foolish action.

I have to publically admit that this transition in the Greater Northwest has been a very challenging one for me. I underestimated how difficult this assignment would ultimately be, as taking on the complexities of a whole new annual conference while continuing to oversee two other annual conferences has been taxing. Please don’t get me wrong: I love our three annual conferences, and ultimately, it makes more sense to put us together than other areas of our Western Jurisdiction. However, the time and energy drain in overseeing such a large territory has been more than I anticipated, and over the long haul, I’m not sure it is sustainable for any one person.

After the first year of overseeing our Greater Northwest Area, the drain became apparent, and I kept complaining to myself how difficult it was. My New Year’s resolution that year was to stop complaining about it and accept it for what it is. I have tried to be faithful toward that resolution, and I’m holding steady with the incredible workload. My concern is for the sustaining of this over the next three years. I’m positive I’ll get through it, but at what cost? Might the time and energy stress get to me, or the quality of the leadership to our Area laity, churches and clergy be harmed?

Before the new Area assignment, I was able to be in local churches for anniversaries and special occasions, but now I am often traveling during the weekends and unable to fulfill those types of visits.

As a systems thinker, I am trying to think of creative and proactive ways to overcome the challenges. I think I will be okay for the short term, but my concern is for the next Bishop assigned to our Area. I am trying to find ways to cope with the incredible complexities and crises that occur on a regular basis in such a large assignment, so as to put systems in place that will make it bearable for new leadership.

However, the one life-giving source is the sustaining power that God provides. Through prayer and spiritual disciplines, it is the Triune God who continues to sustain, undergird, invigorate me, and make it possible to carry out the work of ministry. In living in this web of life-giving force, I know that any challenge can be overcome, and ultimately, it is through the Grace that God continually gives us that any of us survives, let alone thrives.

I also realize that many of you face similar pressures and challenges. I think of most of the world that worries about acquiring daily food to keep their children alive, and the daily chore of simply staying alive amidst war and poverty. I think of those who are facing huge personal crises in declining health, loss of jobs, and keeping hope alive.

Through this all, God is there as a source of strength and hope. Our great privilege is to enable people to tie into this source of power and might. We have a grand narrative where evil, depression and sin does not rule supreme. Rather, it is goodness, hope, and new life that wins the day.

Thanks be to God for our faith! May you be the light that brings this ever more brightly into our world!

Be the Hope,

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Bishop Grant

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Comments (8)

  • Larry Fox

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    Grant: Thanks for being vulnerable and for the truth-telling. Your are in my prayers as is the UMC. Be well.

    Reply

  • Donna Pritchard

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    Dear Bishop,
    Thank you for this courageous and honest posting. Please know you are among many who similarly think the decision to reduce the number of bishops was short-sighted and damaging to the overall health of the denomination. Please also know that your health and vitality is what we most need in your leadership; let us help you find ways to protect that and do this work in as sane a way as possible.

    Reply

  • Kevin Witt

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    Thank you for sharing your heart and the realities you face as a spiritual leader with a great number of responsibilities. Many of us wrestle with the difficult choices about how to move forward in complex situations and expanding responsibilities trying to put into place systems that will nurture faith and spiritual leadership in our varied settings. It is inspiring to know that you understand and face your own challenges, and at the same time continue practices of listening to and trusting in God’s presence and guidance. Thank you for being open and honest about your journey and our journey together. I, also, am praying for you, your family and our the great gift of our UM connection and ministries as we move forward together.

    Reply

  • Dean Yamamoto

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    Thank you Bishop. I echo what has been posted, especially Donna’s comment on us needing your health & vitality in leadership. I’m sure creativity and shifting can only get us so far, but I do hope that you can let go of some of the prior structures or ways of leading and incorporate more of the technology at hand to bring your leadership into locations, perhaps “virtually” so [facetime, skype, etc]. I do love how your “systems” mind keeps challenging us to innovate!!!

    Reply

  • Dave Hurd

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    Thank you for sharing your balanced approach to leadership, of vision and vulnerability. I am encouraged by your example. My church and I are keeping you in our prayers.

    Reply

  • April Hall Cutting

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    When I heard of the one-bishop/three conferences plan, I was just starting my one pastor/three churches appointment. That appointment was not sustainable for me — or the congregations. It was seen as a strategy to save money and allow me to share my ministry gifts with more small congregations. It did not work for many reasons. it might have if we had done more planning and restructuring before the appointment started.
    Likewise, I am sure there was no way to anticipate the many ways you would be stretched and asked to respond to your incredibly increased areas of responsibility. Please continue to share your challenges and vulnerabilities. Ask for support. And may the Church not crush your spirit.

    Reply

  • Mike Lamb

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    Bishop Grant, our thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time.
    The message you gave to us at our 2013 Annual Conference was very powerful and validated the NEO Cluster group approach that we are engaged upon with leadership from Pastor Steve Wolff. There is an urgent need for us to take the work of Christ out into our local communities, or face collapse of our many smaller churches. I feel blessed that with the total leadership from our Conference, we are seeing that drive take hold in a vibrant way..
    No matter how others may bluster and obstruct, I know that our focus is the one that will ultimately succeed.
    My blessings and sincere thanks for all that you are doing. God will help us to stay the course.

    Reply

  • Matthew Crandall

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    Bishop Grant–

    I recently reread this, and found it to refreshingly candid several weeks later. Know that not only does our church pray for you regularly, but you remain in my personal prayers as well. Yours is not an easy task-but God will give you strength and clarity as you do the work God called you to. Grace and peace to you!

    Reply

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