Dear Beloved Christ Church Family,
I’m writing today to share with you a surprising change that has come to Lauralee and me that affects Christ Church. It is a change that I’m still processing emotionally, one that brings with it some shock, much sadness, and great honor. When I was ordained decades ago, I took a sacred vow to go wherever my Bishop, led by God’s Spirit, believed I could best serve Christ and His Kingdom. I deeply believe that the church is the Body of Christ and that the Spirit guides and directs the church, and I deeply believe in our “apostolic sending” system of appointing clergy. My heritage as a fourth-generation member of the clergy (with our son Ian a fifth in our line) put such service and obedience deeply in my family’s spiritual DNA.
Even with those deeply held beliefs and fine heritage, our world was rocked unexpectedly the last week in March: Bishop Leeland called and honored me by choosing me as the first District Superintendent selected by him to serve on his Cabinet (all of the others were appointed by his predecessor). He will be appointing me to serve as a District Superintendent beginning July 1. I shared with him why I should not be appointed to that role, for numerous reasons I believed important regarding timing, both personally and in terms of Christ Church; however, in the end, it is not within me to refuse my Bishop. So, with sadness, much fear and trembling about a new challenge at this age and stage in my life, and a sense of honor, I of course concurred. My dream had been to serve Christ Church through the end of my active duty and then even retire in Greensboro, as we love it so. Yet I fully believe that God’s hand is at work—in our lives, in the life of Christ Church, and in the discernment of the Bishop and Cabinet.
The Bishop and Cabinet have not made an appointment to Christ Church, and they will not do so until they prayerfully process the leadership needs of Christ Church. Dr. Nancy Rankin, our District Superintendent, met with your Staff Parish Relations Committee last night to engage in conversation around the strengths and needs of this wonderful congregation. She will take the results of that conversation back to the Bishop and the Cabinet for further prayer and discernment. They would appreciate your prayers during that Spirit-filled process.
My deep faith is that God will take care of us all and that God’s love, goodness, and grace is in our tomorrows! I believe this is a reality for both Christ Church and my new and different ministry moving forward. I am a realist about our apostolic system of appointment making. I know many will be saddened by this news, many will be neutral, and some are always ready for a change. In the words of Susan Norman-Vickers, “It’s all good.” We shall move forward with dignity, trust, and faith that for us all, the best is yet to be.
On a personal note, especially for those who are long-time United Methodists, let us live in this time in a manner that honors the “Methodist way” of doing things! Our liturgy reminds us that the “church is of God and shall be preserved until the end of time.” The church is its people, far more than a single person or pastor, and Christ Church is blessed with a depth of leadership within its laity, staff, and pastoral team. We’ll work diligently and carefully to formulate smooth transition plans, so that this great congregation will move into a new day with strength and vitality.
With much love,