Someone stopped me in the hallway today and asked me, “Do you think God wants you to be a bishop?” The question took me by surprise. I have been endorsed by the delegation of my conference (Wisconsin) as a candidate for the Episcopacy. It is both humbling and an honor to know that others discern the gifts, qualities and characteristics in me that allow them to feel I could serve effectively as a bishop. The Episcopacy is not something to which I have ever aspired, and I realize there is a bell-curve — probably as many people think I would be a terrible bishop as think I would be a good one. But does God want me to be a bishop? What a bizarre concept to me. I don’t think God wants me to be a bishop anymore than God doesn’t want me to be a bishop. I am not sure God has an opinion one way or the other. Last week in Portland I met with members of delegations from across the North Central Jurisdiction. At the conclusion of one encounter, the gentle woman I was speaking with ended our conversation by looking me in the eye and saying, “You’ll be a bishop, if it’s God’s will.”
God’s will is a tricky matter. One the one hand, all that is and that ever will be comes from the creative Spirit of God. Nothing that is exists outside of God, therefore EVERYTHING that happens — good/bad, right/wrong, constructive/destructive, natural/human-made — is God’s will. What gets difficult is the extent to which God intervenes and interacts with the minute and mundane in daily living. Do we really believe, in good Calvinist fashion, that all is pre-determined and pre-destined and that God has a gold-stamped envelope somewhere in heaven with the names of all of the next class of UM bishops? Are we just going through the motions, God’s will be done, with no personal responsibility or influence in outcomes? I find that hard to believe. I am a firm free-will kind of guy. Actions have consequences and we have choices. I believe in a God big enough to conceive of every possible decision-tree of every person in every place and time, thereby aware of all possible outcomes, but I don’t believe in a god flipping switches and pulling levers to get specific outcomes to emerge from the vast range of possibilities.
It is not God’s responsibility to make me a bishop. I am a gifted and graced individual, called and ordained, offered wonderful opportunities to use my skills to serve God and the church. My rank, role, and/or position doesn’t change that. It is my responsibility to use all I have been given in service to God. This, I believe, is God’s will. God doesn’t NEED me to do God’s will; it is in desiring to know and do God’s will that generates faith and joins people of faith in Jesus Christ together to bring about grace-driven transformation. All the direction that life in the Spirit generates love, hope, kindness, mercy, unity, grace, compassion, patience, peace, generosity, self-control, forgiveness, respect, joy, gentleness, justice and reconciliation is the will of God. Ours is simply to do the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Would I make a good bishop? I don’t know. Would I make a faithful, committed, fair-minded, inclusive, even-handed bishop? I believe I would. And am I the “full package?” No way. I will be a teaching, equipping, motivating bishop. These are my gifts and my strengths. Administration? Not so much. Prophet? I have been told I am big-picture and visionary… An institutional preserver? No way! An apostolic evangelical outreach to the corners of the world generator? I am ALL over it. Peace and justice? You betcha! Bricks and mortar? Not so much. I am not capable of being all things to all people. What I will be is the best disciple of Jesus Christ I can be, seeking in every way to please, honor and glorify God. But I will do that whether I become bishop or not.