It's the season of Lent, which means that many church leaders are busier than they typically are. Actually, I'm not sure if others are, but I certainly find myself with less time to wonder and talk about the upcoming bishop's election.
Still, though, whenever we talk about the appropriate qualifications for bishop, we almost always come up with at least a few basic models for how a bishop should operate.
On the one hand, some folks want a bold and visionary leader ~ someone who can challenge the pastors and congregations of the synod in the work they do. Some believe we need a bold and visionary leader who can be a voice of the church promoting justice in the public sphere.
Others believe that the primary role of a bishop should be as a pastor to the pastors of the synod ~ and some would say the bishop should be a pastor to the congregations of the synod. Under this model, the bishop would provide pastoral care to congregations and leaders of congregations in the synod.
Another easy model to fall in to would be for the bishop to serve as the primary administrator of the synodical business ~ to manage official issues like pastoral mobility, candidacy, budget, advocacy ministry, etc.
I'm not sure any of these are appropriate job descriptions for a bishop given our current time and location.
We live in a completely different time and society from when our current bishop was first elected. Eighteen years ago, very few people had cell phones, and even fewer used the internet. Now, people all over the world access the internet using their cell phone.
I respect our current bishop, and appreciate the work he has done. However, it's time in our culture and in our synod to re-think the role of bishop.
What if, today, the primary role of the bishop and the office of the bishop, is to get out of the way of ministry? What if the primary role of the bishop and the office of the bishop is to receive the stories of what's happening in congregations and among communities ~ and then to share those stories with communities who are involved in ministry in other places?
I believe that the synod would benefit from a bishop, and an office of the bishop, that would be primarily concerned with facilitating networks with the goal of problem-solving and strengthening ministry. Other than in the occasional role of public ritual and prophetic voice, the bishop should be mostly invisible, and instead should focus on highlighting congregational ministry.