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.
As 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,
Trackback from your site.