News & Messages

Update from the Standing Committee: October 19, 2020

Dear Friends,
 
We realize that it’s been a while since you have heard from us, and we’d like to offer an update regarding our ministry on behalf of the diocese. Following our recent diocesan convention, we’ve been receiving some questions about the transition, leading us to believe it would be a good idea to share where things are at this point. We will do this in a question and answer (Q & A) format. We plan to communicate with you more regularly moving forward.
 
Q: Why are we going to have an Assisting/Provisional Bishop instead of continuing the search for a new bishop as originally planned?
A: When the pandemic first hit the search committee needed to take a step back because of all the restrictions and we had not yet come to a point where technology was as widely used as it is now. As time went on, we realized that as we searched for our next bishop in that landscape, it would be increasingly difficult to find people who would be in a place to discern along with us whether Milwaukee was a fit for them. Once we decided to bring in an Assisting/Provisional Bishop, we also began to see the possibilities that having this interim time in between Bishops would allow the diocese to do some intentional work to discern who we are and what we want and need in our next Bishop.
 
Q: Are you talking with people now about fulfilling the roles of Assisting Bishop and Provisional Bishop?
A: Yes. We are talking to several people, and once we have Letters of Agreements signed and their permission, we will announce their names to the diocese.
 
Q: When does the Assisting Bishop start?
A: Our plan is to have an Assisting Bishop begin ministry with us on January 1, 2021.
 
Q: What does an Assisting Bishop do?
A: The Assisting Bishop will be a resource for the Standing Committee, offering us advice and guidance in a variety of ways. This person will check in at our monthly Standing Committee meeting and lead special processes that are reserved for a bishop. These include specific issues related to the clergy. This person will also be available for “episcopal acts” — meaning roles that are reserved in our Church for a bishop. This will largely be an on-call position. The Assisting Bishop will already be a bishop prior to working with us.
 
Q: Is the Assisting Bishop the ecclesiastical authority in the diocese?
A: No, the Assisting Bishop, as the name suggests, assists the Standing Committee for the few months that we are the ecclesiastical authority in the diocese.
 
Q: When does the Provisional Bishop start? 
A: The Provisional Bishop designee will begin ministry with us on or very close to April 1, 2021. We use the word “designee” because this person will need to be elected as Provisional Bishop in a special diocesan convention for that purpose. The Provisional Bishop will already be a bishop before working with us.
 
Q: What will the Provisional Bishop do?  
A: The Provisional Bishop will serve in many respects like any diocesan bishop. They will engage in episcopal acts such as visitations, confirmations, ordinations, etc. They will be a “Shepherd to the shepherds,” working with our clergy. They will engage in the ministry of administration, overseeing diocesan staff and the entities within the diocese. This person will also do some of the work that an interim rector might do in a parish.
 
Q: What kind of work do you mean?
A: Well, following two bishops with very long tenures (Bishop White was with us for 19 years and, more recently, Bishop Miller was with us for 17 years), now is a good time for us to step back and take a “diocesan inventory” of sorts. We want to give our parishes and their members a chance to reflect on our common life together and share the stories, heartbreaks and joys that have marked our shared mission and ministry. We want to examine our diocesan culture, organization, priorities and goals. We may also want to enter into dialogue with the other dioceses in Wisconsin and talk about how we might share mission and ministry together. Looking at all of these issues and others that may arise will better equip us to call our next bishop. During the time that the Provisional Bishop is with us and involved in all of this important ministry, we intend to call together a Search Committee to begin the process of calling our next bishop.
 
Q: Will the Provisional be full-time?
A: The Provisional Bishop will most likely work part-time, at 50%.
 
Q: How long will we have a Provisional Bishop?
A: We’re thinking two years, maybe a bit longer.
 
Q: Is the Standing Committee currently the ecclesiastical (church) authority in the diocese?
A: No. Bishop Steven Miller is our diocesan bishop until he officially retires on December 31, 2020. After the bishop’s formal retirement on December 31, 2020, the Standing Committee will be the ecclesiastical authority in the diocese. We’ll have the Assisting Bishop to help us, as well as diocesan staff and the leadership in our diocese, lay and ordained. When the Provisional Bishop is elected, then that person will be the ecclesiastical authority and Standing Committee will resume its more traditional role in our diocesan life.
 
Q: If we have more questions for the Standing Committee, how can we get them to you? 
A: Contact Fr. Scott Leannah, the President of the Standing Committee, or Sara Bitner, diocesan Communications Officer.
 
Q: Is the Standing Committee a faithful, hopeful and dedicated group of people?
A: We hope so! By the grace of God, we feel blessed to serve in this way at this time.

Standing Committee Members

The Rev. Scott Leannah (President)
Ms. Tammy Prather
Ms. Celia Fine
The Rev. Andrew Jones
The Rev. Jana Troutman-Miller
Mr. Marcus White
Ms. Margaret Done
The Rev. Dave Mowers

Call for Submissions: Daily Advent Reflections 2020

As a diocese, we are pulling together a resource of Daily Advent Reflections for 2020. We would like to have as many churches represented as possible. We ask that these daily reflections be 500-800 words and based on the Daily Office readings. Clergy or talented laypeople are invited to write a reflection. We will be publishing this resource in two ways. First, we will make a pdf file available that contains all of the reflections for those who do not have electronic access or prefer paper copies. Individual churches would be responsible for printing and sending to their shut-ins or those without technology. Second, we will be able to send these reflections out daily by email. Individuals or churches will subscribe to receive the emails. If your church would commit to submitting a reflection, please fill out the form here by October 15. We will assign dates for the reflections by October 20 and the end products will be due for light editing and compilation by November 5. If you have questions, please contact Rev. Mindy Valentine Davis at  .

Update from the Way Forward Task Force: September 24, 2020

The Way Forward Task Force met this week and considered changes to our guidelines based on questions asked and comments from you all.  This was done in the face of spikes in the COVID-19 case and death numbers, especially in rural counties as schools and universities reopened. Though the spike was anticipated, it still places all of us at greater risk. Wisconsin has the dubious honor of having many cities in the top 20 in the nation for cases/100,000 people.

The Task Force considered two things in the wake of these numbers: 1. Increasing the number of people allowed at outdoor services in ‘green’ and ‘yellow’ counties and, 2. Changes to restrictions on music.  Both of these items required an extensive review of published research data on aerosol spread of COVID-19.  The current published research does not support loosening the  guidelines for either at this time. Many of the references are studies that are due to be complete later this year and may result in changes.

Therefore, the  number of people allowed at outdoor gatherings will not change at this time. Many of you have taken advantage of the online services in the guidelines including Temporary Communion Under Special Circumstances. Currently, these services are one of the safest ways to navigate these times. 

Additionally, we have updated guidelines for music to reflect the recommendations in the current research available. The guidelines for music had been recommendations, but, as a result of the review, we made them requirements.  You can find the updated Frequently Asked Questions here.

We are just past the six-month point in of our journey through COVID-19. We are tired of the restrictions, the loss of our ability to gather and to worship as we please. This is a critical time in mourning those losses, and it is occurring as we enter fall and winter. It is a time when we need to tend to our wellness as individuals and communities, and to do those things that keep us well.  Whether that is prayer, exercise, cooking, calling a friend or being involved in online gatherings, we need to find those parts of our garden that need watering and bring new life to our gardens.

This coming week the Way Forward Task Force will provide an update to the clergy on COVID-19, and that update will be available in the ENews next week. As always, please don’t hesitate to ask questions and to pray for a safe end to this pandemic.

Rev. Bill Dunlop ( )

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