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