Rethinking the transition process

by

 

by George Clifford

  

The search processes for diocesan bishops, rectors, and vicars are broken. Little evidence exists, beyond anecdotes, to demonstrate that the current processes efficaciously select clerics who succeed in their new posts, regardless of one’s definition of success. Indeed, numerous anecdotes suggest that the processes result in calling unsuccessful leaders at least as often as the processes result in calling successful leaders. Furthermore, the current processes entail excessive and unnecessary delays and costs.

 

Significant improvements are easily identified and implemented.

 

First, eliminate the frequently intentional long interim periods in congregations (parishes and missions) and dioceses. Accumulating research on the effects of long interim periods between permanent congregational leaders generally shows that congregations decline or at best subsist in a holding pattern until the new leader arrives. The same is likely true for dioceses.

 

Other types of organizations generally avoid intentionally long interim periods between top leaders, e.g., businesses, non-profits, and governments. In The Episcopal Church (TEC) we already have no interim periods between Presiding Bishops and in dioceses that select a coadjutor who will become the diocesan bishop upon the retirement or departure of the current incumbent.

 

Second, dioceses and congregations should commence transition planning immediately upon an incumbent announcing her/his departure. Some dioceses already do this when the diocesan bishop calls for the election of a coadjutor. A bishop, rector, or vicar who announces her/his upcoming departure becomes in the eyes of many a lame duck. Members frequently adopt a wait and see attitude to determine their level of support for new initiatives and sometimes for existing programs. Visitors may opt to go elsewhere or, if they stay, similarly hesitate to commit, uncertain of the congregation’s future tone and direction. Commencing the search process as soon as possible minimizes this period of uncertainty.

 

A good leader inevitably shapes the organization s/he leads. Postponing the start of the search process for a new leader until the current leader has departed will not prevent controlling leaders from attempting to meddle in the process. Instead, organizations should insist that current leaders and search process participants maintain good boundaries.

 

The rationale that a trained interim can best assist a congregation or diocese in resolving serious problems (entrenched conflict, abusive relationships, etc.) is wrong. A newly called bishop, rector, or vicar may already have the skills to assist the diocese or congregation in working through its problems. Alternatively, the person may easily acquire those skills by attending training for interims, seminary courses, receiving mentoring or coaching, or through other means. An incumbent’s advantages compared to an interim include the stability and length of tenure that s/he brings to the diocese or congregation. Lastly, well-trained interims know that in spite of their best efforts, resolving many of a diocese’s or congregation’s most serious problems will require many years of consistent efforts by the new leader. People too often see an interim as just temporary help.

 

Occasionally, a diocese or congregation will require an interim. For example, an interim’s services are temporarily unavoidable when the incumbent dies in office, departs unexpectedly, or is precipitously fired. I have served as an interim in all three situations (one incumbent literally died in his office, another had a stroke, and a third was abruptly dismissed after the congregation discovered the married leader’s affair with a prominent choir member). Regardless of an interim’s best efforts, the pain, distrust, and other problems caused by the previous incumbent inevitably persist into the first few years of the next incumbent’s tenure. Interims unfortunately have no magic tools with which to make problems disappear.

 

Third, eliminate the preparation and distribution of diocesan and congregational profiles. Most of the information in those profiles is now available online from diocesan and congregational websites. Carefully perusing newsletters, photos, and other information reveals who attends (race, age, gender, etc.), what the congregation or diocese does in ministry and mission, and the organization’s self-identity. Supplemental information not on the website (e.g., not all dioceses and congregations have finances and membership statistics available on their websites) can be added to the website or sent to clergy who express an interest in applying for the position. Almost all of this information conveniently exists in digital format.

 

Instead, diocesan and congregational search committees should focus their efforts on preparing a short (optimally one page but no more than two pages) statement of the organization’s expectations and goals for the next chapter in its life and the gifts and skills they hope the next incumbent will have.

 

Fourth, dioceses and congregations should rely on the cadre of professional headhunters that TEC already employs to winnow through potential candidates expeditiously. These professional headhunters consist of diocesan staff responsible for the deployment process and the staff of the Church Deployment Office (CDO). The CDO, using its database, can identify clergy who want to move and whose profile seems to fit what a congregation what in its next leader. Diocesan deployment staff can supplement that list. Some dioceses, at least part of the time, presently utilize this approach, providing congregations the names of a handful of candidates that the deployment staff deem represent the best match of clergy skills and personality with the congregation’s aspirations, goals, and characteristics.

 

TEC’s Office of Pastoral Development in collaboration with the Presiding Bishop (PB) and CDO can provide the same assistance for episcopal search processes. The Office of Pastoral Development and PB know dioceses, their contexts, and their current situations. The CDO using its database can easily identify potential candidates whose self-identified goals, skills, and qualifications appear to meet a diocese’s expressed aspirations.

 

Once a position is adequately advertised, selecting and forwarding several names to a congregation or diocese will often require only a week instead of the months that congregations and dioceses now typically expend winnowing through possible candidates. Search committees after reviewing profiles/resumes and conducting phone interviews, as well as any personal interviews, may reject all of the candidates. In that case, the diocese or Office of Pastoral Development should use search committee feedback to refine their selection process and then forward the search committee a fresh set of candidate names and information.

 

Fifth and finally, teach the revised search process and transition management to clergy and lay leaders in diocesan forums. Initially, the training should emphasize changes to the process as well as how the changes will benefit both clergy and the Church’s ministry and mission. Subsequent training sessions can constructively focus on teaching dioceses, congregations, and clergy to identify their gifts, skills, relevant personality characteristics, as well as goals for the next chapter of their life. Training sessions can also teach transition management, a skill that I had to acquire as a Navy chaplain who received a new assignment every two to three years.

 

The changes to the search process outlined above obviously presume that we Episcopalians trust those who work in the deployment process. This trust is fundamental to Jesus’ command that we love one another. Demonstrating that we trust one another will also improve our witness to the world and the efficiency of clergy transitions, thus both saving money and enhancing organizational effectiveness. Our current process, centered around trusting a well-meaning but inexperienced search committee to weed through a stack of clergy profiles and resumes, seems much less likely to discern God’s will than does a process constructed around committed Christian leaders whose calling includes faithfully assisting other clergy to hear and to answer God’s call.

 

I am not so naïve as to believe that all bishops, clergy, and church employees are worthy of that trust. However, the preponderance of these individuals has chosen to serve Christ by working for TEC. While they, you, and I may assess clergy and job openings differently, I have rarely found a reason to question their motives. In the twenty-first century, few persons choose to work for the Church because it pays well, gives them significant power, or offers so much prestige.

 

TEC, struggling for institutional survival, badly needs to reduce the time and money expended in clergy transition processes. This requires a culture of mutual trust and respect. Arguably, the most important step that TEC can take to avoid perpetuating whatever culture of distrust now exists in its transition processes is to deal courageously, appropriately, and openly with those few persons who are untrustworthy. Ending distrust entails refusing to tolerate unacceptable behavior, breaking unhealthy cycles of co-dependence, strongly encouraging the mentally ill to seek treatment, etc. In other words, ending distrust means emulating Jesus’ tough love to bring healing to the broken.

 

 

 

George Clifford, a priest in the Diocese of Hawai’i, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years, has taught ethics and the philosophy of religion, and now blogs at Ethical Musings.

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33 Responses to "Rethinking the transition process"
  1. I think this article is brilliant. The current search process is akin to trying to drive on the Interstate in a car with square wheels.

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  2. Great insights. Another way surely is needed. Good people and good clergy deserve a process that makes it far more likely that they will find each other!

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  3. Strongly suggested this basic argument (not all the excellent parts of this) when I was leaving a parish in NH. One of the reasons I was told it was impossible was that my feelings would be hurt by some negative feedback. Trust me, I could have told them what negativesthey would hear & most clergy already know them. Hope this goes somewhere. Hard to think of a healthy organization or institution that keeps a major role on the organization chart for such a long period as we do.

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  4. My whole career in the church was as an Interim (often after a breakdown of leadership - sexual, financial, bullying) and now supply. These are pretty much my observations as well. As an Interim I could get them talking to each other again but changing a church culture is mostly doomed. I could bring some stability and a listening ear (interesting that each person had different view of what had happened - like they had not been in the same place). The current expense of a bishop or rector search is crazy -- for bishop we could just do what the Lutherans do - anyone who wants the job- buts there name in - -we vote until one emerges. Finding clergy for rural or isolated congregations - better to go to mutual ministry and call from within.

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  5. "Little evidence exists, beyond anecdotes, to demonstrate that the current processes efficaciously select clerics who succeed in their new posts, regardless of one’s definition of success."

    These may indeed be good ideas, but the author provides little evidence of his own to back them up. Is there actual research or data that we can use to weigh various processes and options?

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  6. All good ideas but I don't see two of the biggest problems addressed here. First - picking the wrong replacement. Not sure there can be any real fix but the first transition I recall brought a low church priest to an Anglo-Catholic parish. Part of the new rectors agenda was to close the day school, which was actually doing well and brought families into the parish. When he closed the school many families left the parish as well. Of course being a low churchman, the liturgy and spiritual life of the parish suffered as well.

    The second is "canonizing" the last rector. This happened with the worst transition I've seen. It almost destroyed the new priest. It didn't help at all that, even though the old rector moved away, he maintained his ties with former parishioners who kept his presence alive in the congregation.

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  7. I think there are some good ideas here. Is the interim period too long? Why not start the work when the leaving clergy person announces instead of waiting for that person to leave? I have to say I draw the line at having the national church involved in a rector search. All church is local. I think this would be too much of a cultural shift. That being said, I don't think dioceses are as involved as they should be, particularly in challenging the parishes "goals" which frequently are not truly the goals of the parish. We want to change X (but really don't). I could see benefit of more diocesan involvement, who should already be somewhat familiar with the parish, than national church involvement.

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    • The National Church is involved -- through the Transitions Office data base and training diocesan search consultants, Canons, etc.

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  8. I would appreciate your comments on this piece. A number of his points make sense to me.

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  9. One size doesn't fit all. In 1996, the parish where I was Senior Warden started the search process as soon as the Rector announced his forthcoming requirement. The parish had strong lay leadership, had just completed a strategic plan, and had no significant conflicts. During the three months between the old Rector's retirement and the new Rector's arrival, we depended on Clergy Associates. The new Rector was the right fit and the parish thrived and grew. Fourteen years later, that Rector felt it was time to move on - both for herself and the parish. This time, the parish undertook a long period of discernment, looking at its many opportunities for ministry, understanding the multicultural dynamics of its community, and developing a vision. Again, there was strong lay leadership, but this time Interims were hired. After two years, the present Rector was called. This priest would not have been available had the parish repeated the 1996 process. She has a singular background and a unique set of skills to lead the parish as it continues to grow. These are both success stories; I wouldn't change either process. They do show, however, that there are conditions under which an accelerated process can be effective, and other conditions where a slower process can yield a superb result.

    As I've observed the failures of calls to the Episcopate and to Rectorship, I think a major cause has been the lack of understanding of culture. It's a two-way problem. Parishes don't think about the culture in which they exist and the immediate church culture they have shaped. And clergy don't think about the cultures that have formed them and how they are similar to, or different from the cultures in which the new position is embedded. One can't expect perfect fits, but major differences spell trouble.

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    • Thank you for this comment. I find it insightful and helpful. Indeed, one size does not fit all!

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  10. Oh my goodness, does George Clifford really believe that "in the 21st century few persons choose to work for the church because it pays well, gives them significance power, or offers so much prestige."??? Of course, many of us want the prestige we are afforded if we are the rector of a cardinal parish, or an endowed parish, or on a diocesan staff, etc. At least the white males I know want these things. Any white female clergy or clergy persons of color agree with his assessment?

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  11. I disagree strongly that parish profiles are a waste of time and energy. Saying that "all the needful information is available online" presumes that said information is actually up to date, and in many cases it is not, because - especially at the parochial level - this presumes that somebody has had the time and commitment to keep it up to date. I've lost count of the number of church websites I've looked at where basic information is several years old. Moreover, a profile exercise can be useful to a congregation that is coming to the end of a long incumbency. Basing a search in 2017 on a profile that was done in, say, 1997 doesn't sound like a prescription for success.

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  12. My parish has just selected our new Rector, after an interim period of 15 months. Yes, we had an Interim Rector, yes we did a parish profile, and yes, methinks we have almost certainly found the right person. During that same period, the ministries of the parish continued exactly as before, attendance did not fall off, the budget was fully supported and giving did not decline. How come? Strong lay leadership and an excellent church staff, that's why. It may be that other parishes have gotten different results. We didn't. Which means only that one size doesn't fit all.

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  13. I am just finishing up an interim at a resource size church and it has not been the case that we have stood still. It has not been solely about transition but what are we called to do as disciples. For forty-one plus years as deacon, priest and bishop the key matter when it comes to the vitality of a church is leadership. Clergy leadership is about inspiring and building up the whole of ministry. Policies will not make for better leadership in and of themselves. So rather than starting with what is implied "a broken transition system," let us start with what will enable the strongest leadership for congregations. How do we get excellence in preaching? How do we do the highest level of pastoral care and have lifelong formation? How do we enable the church to be a true witness for a just world? Polices and process will not give us this, but rather we need more attention to what it means to be the church and what that leadership needs to be. Once again we start, unfortunately, majoring in minors and not in what ultimately matters.

    John Rabb

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  14. I am an intentional interim priest in The Episcopal Church, currently serving as President of our Episcopal interim network, Interim Ministries in The Episcopal Church. I was trained for this ministry by the Interim Ministry Network and have been credentialed as a Professional Transition Specialist by that organization - one of only six in The Episcopal Church.

    My own experience in six interim appointments and that of many of my colleagues in this specialized area of ministry, is quite different than that of the article's author. I'll only speak for myself here. Attendance and member growth has remained steady or slightly increased in all six instances. Giving has also increased in every case. The new rectors in each place I've served are still in place, having fruitful ministries, and report that the period of transition made important positive differences that impacted the healthy relationships they are enjoying with these congregations.

    The groundbreaking studies of churches in transition that led to intentional interim ministry were commissioned by Presiding Bishop John Hines and carried out under the leadership of The Rev. Loren B. Mead in collaboration with the Alban Institute. The conclusions of that work remain sound and I am not aware of any legitimate recent studies that refute them.

    The author has spent most of his vocational life as a military chaplain, for which I give thanks. However, in a military organization, the rank and file take orders from those that outrank them. Likewise, people who work for corporations receive a paycheck from the company and are expected to follow the leadership of the CEO and other officers. The people in Episcopal churches do not have that sort of relationship with their clergy. Therefore, a reasonable period of self examination, followed by a time of prayerful and mutual discernment with potential candidates, leads to election by a vestry and appointment by the Bishop in whose jurisdiction the congregation lies.

    No, it does not always result in a perfect match. But changes in the process, its resources, and its guidance have resulted in important improvements that must be recognized.

    On the other hand, having participated in a few Bishop searches, which are vastly different from searches for Rectors, I agree with the author. While major improvements have been made in Rector searches during the last ten years, Bishop searches have changed little. This is largely the result of resistance to changing the way oversight in those searches and the consents process is given by the Presiding Bishop's Office. That is likely to change soon with the appointment of a new Bishop Suffragan in the office that is responsible for guiding Bishop searches.

    The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
    Interim Dean
    Saint John's Cathedral
    Denver, Colorado

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  15. Rethinking Transition Again
    I noticed George Clifford’s article on Episcopal Café with anticipation and interest – Transition Ministry in many forms is something that I have been actively engaged in for approximately 20 years, first as a Parish Rector, then Canon for Congregational Development (morphing to Ministry Development) and Diocesan Deployment Officer (morphing to Diocesan Transition Minster), and for the last 8 years, an Intentional Interim Minster. During that time, I have noted that Transition Ministry (in its many forms and applications) is one of the richest and varied in the church. For the purposes of this response I will restrict myself to The Episcopal Church, although our colleagues in many other denominations and faith groups are experiencing their own unique yet common versions of the same challenges.
    To be blunt, I find it difficult to characterize Transition Ministry as “broken;” in need of improvement, yes, but broken? No.
    Among the suggestions made in the article are to eliminate lengthy interim periods citing the familiar examples of cost, “momentum” and the example of corporate and not-for-profit leadership transitions, pointing to the solution of an immediate commencement of a search process as soon as the incumbent announces his or her intention to resign. While there are a number of areas in which this juxtaposition falls short, (disciplined planning process, depth of resources, forward looking strategic planning, the influence of compensated employment, to name a few) the unique qualities and ties that exist within a volunteer based emotional system (a congregation) are distinctly different from the United Way, most NGOs, or a major corporation. Calling a new Rector is more analogous to finding an heir or dear friend to manage a family business than it is about corporate succession planning.
    Occasionally, there are situations into which an Intentional Interim is especially called: in the aftermath of a very long or a series of very short pastorates, and in the instances of serious congregational conflict, misconduct, or trauma. As his article notes, he has himself worked as an interim in several such situations. Nevertheless, as he notes, “Interims unfortunately have no magic tools with which to make problems disappear.” This may be because the task of the interim is not to come into a broken situation and fix it, but rather to lead, encourage and empower the people of the congregation to be intentional about the choices that they make and the behaviors they permit and engage in. One of the advantages of an Intentional Interim lies precisely in the fact that s/he will not be around to see the full resolution, but is in place for a limited time to help and to guide the ongoing work of the congregation. It is one of the primary differences between settled and Intentional Interim Ministry.
    It was his third and fourth suggestions that most engaged my attention – the elimination of the parish (and diocesan) profile, and the delegation of the candidate identification, recruiting and discernment processes to a “cadre of professional headhunters that TEC already employs…” The principal value of the Parish Profile (now nearly always embedded within the parish web page) and the Office of Transition Ministry’s Community Ministry Portfolio is not these remarkable products themselves, but the engagement and reflection that is a necessary precursor to their production, and the disciplined engagement of the key questions taken from Holy Conversations: Who are we? Who is our neighbor?, and What is God calling us to do and to be? Especially at the beginning of the transition process, these are questions that “everybody knows” the answers to, except that they’re all different, and usually reflective of the interpersonal and political realities of the status quo ante. A Search or Discernment Committee, whether drawn from the vestry, assigned to a Search Committee, or done in some other broadly based manner is one key way that the congregation undertakes the strategic planning process that all organizations draw on in their succession planning, to identify the knowledge, skills, background, and above all the personal characteristics that permit an effective transition to new leadership.
    The characterization of the clergy transition organization within TEC is simply erroneous – The “Church Deployment Office” (CDO) was renamed sometime in the latter part of the last decade (largely because we don’t practice “deployment” in the manner that our Roman and Methodist colleagues do) , the computerized systems were completely overhauled from the discreet skills inventory that entered the 21st Century; I can’t think of a single Diocesan Transition Minister who would welcome the characterization of “Headhunter.” Assigning someone quickly and on the basis of their personal relationships with the Bishop or Canon would be a return to the much criticized “good old guy/gal network that the original CDO was developed (in the 1970s) to eliminate; Ours is a system of self awareness, discernment and call, and while not the fastest way to fill clergy gaps, it can be, and very often is a process of mutual engagement, with all the promise that that holds out.
    Lest it seem that I am being too hard on the suggestions made, I would welcome creative means of addressing the topic of Profiles and Portfolios, as well as new and creative ways to use social media, but these platforms must operate on a solid foundation of self awareness and clarity of shared vision.
    Finally, I am ALWAYS in favor of enhanced training, at all levels of the church; ultimately we are all in various states of transition, and the more familiar that we can become with ourselves as individuals and as communities of faith, the more faithful we can be as we accomplish that mission. The purpose is not to get to some new normal as quickly as possible, the purpose is to engage the journey, and by doing so grow in the depth and self-awareness that empowers ministry.
    I look forward to ongoing conversations among all of us who practice the many ministries of transition, as individuals, as congregations, as dioceses, and our beloved Episcopal Church.
    As a former professor of mine famously said, “Thank you for making me think!”
    Rev. John F. Keydel, Jr.
    Professional Transition Specialist
    President, Interim Ministry Network

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  16. Wow, as chairman of a parish search committee that is coming up on the second anniversary of our previous rector's departure, I concur with the key points of this article 100%. The time our committee members have spent has been equivalent to a part-time job. The time commitment makes it difficult for younger, working people to participate, thus losing essential perspectives. I hope this article will get some traction among those in a position to make changes to the way it's done.

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  17. This article is most timely.

    First, for the sake of discussion, let's take multi-year intentional interims off the table for the pastoral and transition size parishes. They are not affordable.

    For these smaller parishes, just after the current rector leaves, our diocese usually quickly supplies the parish with a few names of available priests, who then go through an interview process. One is called to the parish as a "priest in charge," usually with a 2 year letter of agreement. It's a fairly rapid process, with a new person in place within a few months

    Sometimes this works out really well. Sometimes it does not. When it does not, a nasty downward spiral can result that can take years to pull out of, and the diocese may suffer credibility damage.

    What I want to focus on, however, is the timing for getting a new rector when a small parish is basically healthy, happy and stable-perhaps even growing a little. If the rector knows they will be leaving, why not do what is done at the diocesan level (though perhaps not for as long)? While the rector is still there, the leadership begins to identity both the current culture and the future they want to create. Healthy rectors know their limitations, and have a pretty good notion of the strengths the next rector will need to have. For example, I am a redeveloper. Someone with different gifts than mine will be needed when I go do the next thing with my life.

    I wonder what it would look like if the parish could do a search while I'm still around, call a new priest, develop a firm transition plan, and let them have the benefit of a mentoring period to learn the culture, practices, and history of the congregation.

    Before objecting to this based on the assumption that the rector will just try to create a "Mini-Me", let's further assume that the rector can be clear on things that should be changed for the health of the congregation, or that are so peculiar to their personal charisms that the new priest will be supported in ending them. A "Fresh Start" type of structured program would be helpful in making sure stuff gets dealt with. When the full transition happens, it's likely to be relatively smooth.

    I'm not suggesting this model for all situations; as has been noted by several, there could be different models for various contexts. Yes, there is the problem of paying two priests for a while. I have some thoughts about how my parish might address that.

    My point is that I'm pretty sure that the response to this idea will be the Seven Last Words. It would be interesting, however, to explore some new models.

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    • Becky - new ideas and new approaches are not only interesting, they're essential, especially in the instances of Pastoral and smaller congregations - the real trick is getting the pieces and the players to align; I LOVE the idea of a "Fresh Start" type of program for those congregations contemplating transition!
      John Keydel

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    • In my earlier post about the parish where the search process began just after the Rector's announcement of his retirement (about eight months in advance of his retirement date). The lay leadership had an agreement with the Rector that he would not participate in the search process in any way. To the best of my knowledge, he only strayed over the line once, inadvertently I think, and backed off immediately when this was pointed out to him. The agreement protected the integrity of the search process.

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  18. Nice to see John Keydel, George Werner, and other friends here.I was trained for intentional interim ministry in 1990 by the Mid-Atlantic Training Center. That training was based on the work of Loren Mead and his colleagues. What was most helpful to me, and continues to be, is an understanding and appreciation of the developmental process that marks the interim period. Some congregations find their way through it with little need for guidance, but others get stuck, or want to leapfrog over an uncomfortable stage. To my mind, if we aren't assuming or talking about a developmental process we aren't really talking about interim ministry but something else. Some of the suggestions here might speed up the process, but at some cost to the ministry of the parish and the new rector. I haven't seen any indication that facilitating the process isn't a best practice.

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  19. As a member of a tiny parish, I strongly disagree with some of the premises of the article. My experience is that a well handled long term interim can be very healthy for a congregation. A lot depends on the strength of the organization and the kind of leadership needed.

    Our church needs to develop its lay leadership. Our church needs to teach the people in the pews how to do the things which we hire the Rector or Vicar to do (Such as leading worship, preaching, anointing the sick, teaching and preparing people for confirmation). Our church needs to teach the people in the pews how to read the bible (Such as that there are many alternate readings of most passages and there is no "correct" reading of any passage). Our church needs to teach people how to lead discussions about reading the bible and how to apply the biblical study to changes in society.

    (In talking to clergy in other denominations, clergy are afraid of leading intense bible discussions because it will adversely impact their employment!)

    In small parishes, when the office of Rector or Vicar is open, lay people start doing those things "they hire a Rector or Vicar to do." Such things as leading worship, preaching, visiting the sick (including unction), and teaching and preparing people for confirmation can all be done by trained lay persons. If lay persons do not step up, then the parish dies. When the Rector or Vicar is hired, they let the ordained person do it.

    The primary ministry that requires a priest or bishop is to consecrate the Eucharist, pronounce absolution, and to bless marriages. (Non-lawyer lay persons, and even supply priests, who hear confessions may face issues of authorities claiming that the confession was not privileged because the priest "does not regularly, as a vocation, teach and preach the principles of religion and administer the ordinances of public worship as embodied in the creed or principles of his or her church, sect, or organization" [See Kan. Stat. Annot. 60-429, available on the web at: http://www.kslegislature.org/li_2014/b2013_14/statute/060_000_0000_chapter/060_004_0000_article/060_004_0029_section/060_004_0029_k/]. As a lawyer, I establish that the person is primarily asking for legal advice and after hearing the person and giving legal advice, we may pray for forgiveness.)

    Our seminaries need to train current and future clergy to be teachers of ministry. What works in tiny and small parishes can work in large parishes.

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  20. Unfortunately, most people take their culture for granted. Most people cannot think in terms of another culture. It is like trying to think about four dimensional space.

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  21. George, I wholeheartedly agree. Extensive transition processes with long interims typically stress congregations, and I have seen some spectacularly bad outcomes as a result.

    It's also not necessarily bad to have an outgoing rector be part of the process. My observation is that involvement by an outgoing rector typically reflects his or her overall skills. If their focus has been on empowering others and building a positive, loving, environment, they typically seek that during a transition. If they are controlling, then the transition process can quickly break down, even if they have no direct role in the transition.

    At the same time, Michael is right--a strong interim can be wonderful, particularly if there have been challenges with a predecessor.

    This really is an area where dioceses can do more to help congregations understand their strengths and weaknesses, and to help guide discernment.

    My final observation is that parishes should appreciate the work that goes into serving on a transition committee. I have served on only one, the outcome was good and, on some level, I really enjoyed serving. That said, it was one of the most arduous processes imaginable, and we kiddingly referred to ourselves as the "Forty Years in the Wilderness Club." Kudos to anyone willing to take on that job!

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  22. Thank you. We are employing this at St. Andrew's. I do not have a retirement date yet but we formed a Vitality Team to ask questions of the parish and her identity as well as what is specific only because I have been here (22 years.) Most of the years have been creative in missional forms of following Christ.

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  23. I'm a bit confused. As a person recently received in to TEC, I was under the impression that one can only preach if one is licensed to do so. We have recently come through a transition and, in the process, learned how to minister to each other. Can the laity administer sacraments? Is unction a sacrament? We certainly can lead prayer services. Also, Sunday School teachers should be able to prepare candidates for confirmation. Any clarification you could share would be appreciated.

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  24. What's the old saw about democracy being terrible, except for all the others? (Churchill I think, or at least attributed.) First response...to the title...yes, the search process causes pain and potentially confusion, and ultimately some bad decisions. 2. there are no problems identified first that the process would fix; rather they are implied in the text of each 'fix,' and the problems I discern are not those I'd raise up. From a clergy standpoint I'd say that the process is bruising, and of the past three calls I responded to, one was a mismatch more than the right fit. having said that, I'm not sure what a good fit would have looked like 3. the solutions are business world oriented, with a bit of spiritual thrown in at the end with the interesting application of loving one another. In none of the comments or article (which I'll admit I didn't read with a fine tooth comb, so I might have missed something here) do I find reference to Jesus or the Spirit, which is par for a business model. Last, often rectors can not change the DNA of a parish, let alone expecting interims of any length to do so...see first observation of problems/challenges not readily identified at outset; I believe this is a faulty identification of what the current model intends to address. To that end, one keen unstated and 'sliding' standard for all the challenges of the process, identified here or not, is the role of clergy and that of laity in a parish.We are in an extended period of asking, empowering laity, to take on more of the leadership, claim baptismal role as we often refer to in short hand, at the exact same time their lives are becoming exponentially more complicated, with greater time demands, and every other organization tugging at attention of an increasingly shrinking pool of possible people. Until we sort out those implications we'll remain in a muddle regardless of how we structure a calling process. My biggest take away from previous comments is that 'results may vary,' or resorting to another cliche, all politics are local.

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  25. Well, I'm not sure that the Rector SHOULD be hands off. That seems artificial, and it certainly isn't how it's done in a functioning, viable corporation. Why would keeping out the one person who can answer some of the potential candidates' questions NECESSARILY make the search process better? Again, I get that a "Mini-Me" scenario must be avoided, but in a healthy parish, where the rector and people are doing this intentionally and together, I think proper facilitation would take care of that.

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  26. As an intentional interim priest, also trained through the Interim Ministry Network, my experience in 8 parishes echoes Ron's. My interims have lasted from 11 months to 3 years - each situation a bit different. Of the rectors called, 5 are in place, two retired after more than 10 years, and one moved to another position after 6 years. All parishes experienced growth in membership and giving during the interim.

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  27. In reply to Marianne Wilburn's question:

    Please understand, I am not being critical of your questions. Your questions are common questions both for new Episcopalians and for those who have been members of this church for many years. The following is the best way I know to answer your questions.

    If you will look on page 313 of the Book of Common Prayer you will see rubrics for Emergency Baptism. Note that any baptized person may in an emergency administer baptism.

    If you will look at page 861 of the Book of Common Prayer, under Other Sacramental Rites, "Unction of the Sick" is defined as a sacrament. Next, on page 453 it states that Part I of the Ministration to the Sick may be lead by a lay person. Further, on page 456 the rubric states: "In cases of necessity, a deacon or lay person may perform the anointing using oil blessed by a bishop or priest." Under the national canons, Eucharistic Visitors may be licensed to take communion from a celebration of the Eucharist to a person or persons who is unable to come to the celebration of the Eucharist and the Visitor administers communion to that person or persons.

    Under the national canons, lay persons maybe licensed by the bishop (or ecclesiastical authority in the absence of a bishop) as a "Pastoral Leader, Worship Leader, Preacher, Eucharistic Minister, Eucharistic Visitor, or Catechist." Obviously these ministries require training. Not everyone has the gifts required of these ministries, even with training.

    I believe that this church needs persons, both lay and ordained. who are trained to train persons for these ministries. Also, parishes need to be trained to accept these ministries from lay persons and deacons.

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