November 11, 2015
Last week I made a quick trip to Montgomery, Alabama, where Bishop Paul Leeland (a classmate of mine during our days at Duke Divinity School) invited me to lead a Clergy Covenant Day for the Alabama/West Florida Conference. This was their first time to gather their clergy for such a day, and so I shared much of what we have shared here in Indiana at our Clergy Covenant Days in the past.
One concept I mentioned/taught was the term I first heard from Bishop David Lawson: "the congregation of the clergy." Many, many of their clergy talked to me about how much that phrase spoke to them. I agree. It is much more personal and relational to talk about the "congregation of the clergy" than it is to simply say that we clergy are members of the Annual Conference and not members of our local churches. Talking about our membership is stiff and formal (although accurate), but to say that we clergy are a part of the "congregation of the clergy" better describes our relational connection to one another.
For those of you who do not remember Bishop Lawson, I want to remind you about him. David was from Indiana, was elected a bishop in 1984, and served as bishop in Wisconsin and later in Illinois before retiring in 1996. He retired the year I was elected and he was, in fact, my "consecration bishop" – the first of the bishops to lay hands upon my head and consecrate me as a bishop. That act is always followed by every active bishop of the Jurisdiction following suit and laying hands upon each of us new bishops, but David always reminded me, "I was your consecration bishop." More than that one act, David was a mentor to me. When I returned to Indiana in 2004, David and Martha had retired here, and David was a great encourager for me. Sadly, I presided for his funeral a few years later, but I have fond memories of David. His concept of "the congregation of the clergy" is one that I value personally.
So, on November 11th of this year, we will once again gather all of the clergy of the Indiana Conference together for our annual Clergy Covenant Day. This is for all clergy: active and retired, local pastors, provisional ministers, Deacons, Elders – ALL CLERGY. You can register for this gathering on our conference web site.
The focus of our day will be "Can We Talk?" and it will include a dialogue between Rob Fuquay and Greg McGarvey on the issue of human sexuality. Rob and Greg will model for us the best of "Christian conferencing" – and all of us will have opportunity to talk and share as clergy.
I look forward to this gathering of "the congregation of the clergy" of our Indiana Conference. See you there.
P.S. Some have asked why we hold our gatherings on Veteran's Day. The answer is simple: we are hoping many of our bi-vocational pastors might have the day off and be able to attend. It is also a day that is not typically very busy in our churches, so we hope it allows all of our clergy to attend.