The Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde, the new Bishop of the Diocese of Washington, had an unusual opportunity last week. She is the first woman to serve as Washington’s diocesan bishop, and was consecrated in the newly re-opened National Cathedral, and perhaps for these reasons, the media showed intense interest in her. She was interviewed by two network news affiliates, Telemundo, a public radio talk shows and two national publications seeking her views on some of the pressing issues confronting mainline Protestants in general and Episcopalians in particular.
All of which is wonderful. Visibility is generally a good thing. But what was especially helpful is that both The Washington Post and the Washington Examiner published articles in which Bishop Budde was able to spell out her vision of the Christian faith and the future of the Episcopal Church in detail seldom encountered in the mainstream media.
I’d ask you to read Michelle Boorstein’s story about the situation that confronts the bishop and the church, and then look at the Q and As in The Post and the Examiner. Several things struck me as I listened to her give these interviews. She is unabashed about the need to rebuild the church. Unlike some of our leaders, she does not theologize our decline. She is also clear in her opinion that the church does not lack a heart for mission. Rather, it lacks capacity because so many of its congregations are weak and struggling simply to keep their doors open. It makes no sense (this is my opinion, not hers) to tell these people that if they look inward they will flounder, but if they look outward they will thrive, because they may be in no position to look effectively in either direction.
Finally, the bishop speaks openly about the importance of Jesus in her life, and about what she loves most about the Episcopal Church. She is able to speak compellingly about the strengths of our faith without denigrating anyone else’s.
Bishop Budde’s first sermon in the Washington Post: What are we doing on earth?
Of the two questions — What on earth are you doing? and What are you doing on earth? — the latter is by far the more interesting. And it’s consistent with the kind of judgment that Jesus and all the great spiritual teachers before and after him would have us ponder from time to time. What are you doing on earth?