The next Episcopal bishop of New York is, among other things, a cartoonist

I’ve been too busy with massive education projects and way-complicated education stories of late to think about my old God-beat.

So time to do a little catch-up:

The Episcopal Diocese of New York on Saturday elected a bishop-coadjutor elect. This means that the fellow in question, the Rev. Canon Andrew Dietsche, is in line to become the next bishop when current Bishop Mark Sisk retires in 2014 (he needs the consent of other bishops and standing committees from other dioceses).

Dietsche, who lives in Poughkeepsie, is already on the staff of the NY Diocese, serving as canon for pastoral care. Interestingly, he was not one of five candidates put forth in August by a special committee of the diocese. But he was one of two candidates nominated from the floor and was elected on the third round of balloting.

His resume includes these responsibilities in his current position:

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• Coordinated medical, mental health, spiritual and financial resources for clergy well-being.
• Liaison to the Clergy Critical Needs Committee, the Executive Committee of the Mid-Hudson Region,
and the former Clergy Wholeness Committee;  Member of the Liturgy Committee.
• Member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation for the Relief of Clergy Widows and Orphans.
• Cartoonist for the Episcopal New Yorker.
• Keynoter for diocesan and regional conferences in New York and New Jersey, particularly priests’ and
deacons’ conferences.
• Workshops and Presentations, regionally and parochially, on Pastoral Care in Parishes, Spiritual and
Pastoral Issues of Death and Dying, and Clergy Stress and Self-Care.
• Vestry Retreats, Vestry Training, and Vestry Consultation.
• Stewardship education and preaching, and conflict resolution.

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Dietsche, 57, will become bishop at a challenging time for the diocese and for the Episcopal Church. Membership has been falling for decades. Many churches in the Lower Hudson Valley have small, aging congregations. The denomination has, of course, faced all sorts of internal conflicts over homosexuality. And the profile of the Episcopal Bishop of New York is much lower than it was a few decades ago (despite Sisk being a really smart, level-headed and respected guy).

After his election, Dietsche said this:

“I believe that it is especially a privilege to be the church in uncertain times.  It is the greatest gift to face challenges which surpass our ability and understanding, for it is only then that we learn what it really means to trust God.  We are in a season in which so much of our common life, the life and health of so many churches, and the resources on which our ministries and our mission have depended, can no longer be taken for granted.  The particular challenges with which we will contend in this next chapter of our life will test us, but I am certain that, God being our helper, we will prevail over fear and doubt and by the witness of a courageous faith give glory to God.  I thank the clergy and people of New York for inviting me to lead them into that wonderful future, and I ask God’s blessing on this, our great Diocese of New York.”

NY’s mainline Protestant leaders support proposed downtown Islamic center

It’s taken a while, but New York’s mainline Protestant leaders have issued statements about the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero.

No great surprises here. The NY bishops of the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church all gently support the project, while acknowledging the pain still felt by so many.

I’ll paste their full statements below.

United Methodist Bishop Jeremiah Park declares his support for the project, writing that “denying the fundamental right of a religious community, as long as it fulfills the same legal requirements applied to all other religious communities, by singling it out for the wrong reasons, compromises the integrity of who we are at our core.”

He also writes: “Our hearts break over the sacrifice of the dead from 9/11 and the pains and sufferings of their loved ones and our country. However, to truly honor them, to truly preserve the historic significance of the Ground Zero, and to truly triumph over the evil force of 9/11, it is necessary to stand firm on what America believes in and be willing to pay whatever the price to protect and preserve freedom and equality for all.”

ELCA Bishop Robert Rimbo doesn’t offer the same outright pledge of support, but concludes with this: “There is much pain very near the surface of our emotions with regard to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. But how will preventing this center from being constructed help us to deal with that pain? There is great fear driving our lives today. How do persons of faith respond to that fear? We commend ourselves to the reliable and merciful arms of the God of Abraham, the God whom Jesus calls Abba, the God whom Muslims and Christians in various parts of the world call Allah. This God promises a reign in which all shall be well. Our faith is bigger and stronger than all our fears.”

Italics mine. Sure sounds like he is in favor getting beyond the fear and building the place.

Finally, Episcopal Bishop Mark Sisk, as I noted last week, wrote a public letter supporting the Islamic center. It includes this: “The plan to build this center is, without doubt, an emotionally highly-charged issue. But as a nation with tolerance and religious freedom at its very foundation, we must not let our emotions lead us into the error of persecuting or condemning an entire religion for the sins of its most misguided adherents.”

Of course, Archbishop Tim Dolan has offered to be a conciliatory voice, but has stopped short of taking a position. In a recent blog post, he wrote: “Although I have no strong sentiment about what should be decided about the eventual where of the Islamic Center, I do have strong convictions about how such a discussion should be reached: civilly and charitably.  The hot-heads on either side must not dominate.”

Here are the full UMC, ELCA and Episcopal Church statements… Continue reading