Friday, March 15, 2013

Episcopal Election Time!

The Diocese of Toronto is really big--some say the biggest in the world: 237 congregations spread across 26,000 square kilometres. It would be utterly impossible for one bishop to cover such a vast area, so the "Diocesan" Bishop (Colin Johnson) is assisted by four "Suffragan" bishops. In Toronto we also call these "Area Bishops" because they are each responsible for a particular geographic chunk.

One of these, George Elliott, is retiring, so an election has been called to replace him. Each active clergy person gets a vote, as do representatives of the non-ordained from each congregation. The number of "lay delegates" for the election depends on the number of parishioners on an average Sunday. Messiah gets one. They are elected an the Annual Vestry Meeting of each parish.

This will be my third episcopal election since moving into this Diocese seven years ago (the last two elected Linda Nicholls and Patrick Yu). With each election I find myself more and more invested in the process for several reasons. First, I actually know most of the people running--some of them quite well and some only by reputation. Second, I've become more engaged with Diocesan level projects that will be greatly impacted by the election. Third, I see how my particular parish will also be impacted by the decisions that this person makes (not so much directly, since we are currently in Patrick Yu's area and it seems unlikely that the Archbishop will shuffle the areas around, but indirectly as they collaborate with the other Bishops in a council known as the "College of Bishops"). And fourth, because I'm more connected than ever with my clerical colleagues, this is something we like to talk a lot about.

Incidentally, I was honoured to be asked to be an official nominator for one of the candidates: The Rev. Canon Dr. Isaac Kawuki-Mukasa. I know Isaac from when he worked as part of the Congregational Development Department of the Diocese. He came to Messiah a couple of times when I first arrived to facilitate some group discernment processes.

To help people decide their vote, the Diocese decided to produce a video interview which I will post below. I was not directly part of the team that produced this video, except that I provided some technical advice to Tim Harry (the Diocesan Videographer) as my church provides the space for his production office. (I'm hoping to expand this production capacity in the future, BTW, but that's another blog post). I've been working with Tim as a Producer, Executive Producer, video-geek, or dude-about-church for some time now, and it's been gratifying to see how his skills have been quickly increasing. He was under a lot of time pressure to produce this video quickly and at very little expense, and I think he did a fantastic job. I should also mention that he was assisted by Ian Ford on the shoot.

It's really neat to me to see how the production quality and turn around time of these video projects for the Diocese are getting better and better. But even more significantly, the culture around the use of media in the Diocese has shifted to the point that I think everyone just assumed that such a video would be created. It has become one of the many tools we use to communicate. There is also a facebook page specifically set up for people to ask their questions and for candidates to respond in a free-form social media dialogue. It's not much a step from this to honest-to-God evangelism with content intended for those outside the church family. I'm certainly advocating and working to make that a reality in various ways.

Anyway, back to the election! Here are the candidates:
  • The Rev. Canon Andrew Asbil
  • The Rev. Canon Allan Budzin
  • The Ven. Peter Fenty
  • The Ven. Gordon Finney
  • The Rev. Canon Dr. Isaac Kawuki-Mukasa
  • The Rev. Mark Kinghan
  • The Rev. Warren Leibovitch
  • The Rev. Canon Stephen Peake
  • The Rev. Canon Jennifer Reid
  • The Rev. Nicola Skinner
  • Major The Rev. David Warren
As I said, I know many of these candidates well, but part of the nature of church election, versus a straight-up civil one, is that it is not considered polite to be too forthright about your support. One is always supposed to couch their opinions about who would make a good leader in various pious nods to humility or God's will or something like that. But buy me a drink and I'll tell you what I think (as, indeed, I think most people involved in this process will). There are substantial differences between these candidates, more so than the video would even suggest since it was difficult to get into depth with 11 candidates, three questions, and 40 minutes!

I find this process fun. Major aspects of how we live out God's call are at stake--and that's fun to discuss and debate. No smoke coming out chimney's, perhaps, but it's still an eccentric and foible-filled way to choose a leader!

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