Story Highlights

The Big Question

On Tuesday, August 21, diocesan leaders participated in An Exercise in Visioning and Practical Strategy Development facilitated by Donald V. Romanik, president, Episcopal Church Foundation.

By the end of the day, the group had identified the Big Question and had divided themselves into task forces to achieve specific goals designed to “answer” this question.

The Big Question is What is the role and responsibility of the bishop in this new, developing and emerging entity known as the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth?

Here’s how the group arrived at this Big Question:

The Process

Donald Romanik asked that participants not sit with others from their parish, and then began by asking each participant to introduce himself/herself and to share his/her expectations for the visioning session. The comments included the following:

  • To develop a list of goals and deadlines
  • To find out where we’re moving
  • To have ideas to grow leadership
  • Ambivalence
  • Tired of being in exile
  • Looking for stability – that which brings us together
  • Goals, deadlines and vision
  • Moving from vision to budget rather than the reverse
  • Finding more leaders
  • Having the diocese come together as a family
  • Concentrating more on the future than the past
  • We are stronger than we think
  • How can stronger parishes help other congregations
  • Want the light to shine
  • Better sense of direction
  • Just want to move
  • We’ve been here before
  • Movement, cohesion, trust
  • What is a diocese?
  • Committees should all meet at the same time
  • Think outside the box
  • Focus
  • Move beyond the church walls
  • Conversations to overcome misinformation
  • Get a jump start on the diocesan profile
  • Clarify roles – diocese vs. parish
  • Thankfulness – it’s all about the business of God
  • There is still a shaky level of trust
  • We need to move a little bit in some direction
  • Vision and decision – rowing in the same direction
  • No navel gazing
  • There is a high level of passion, we need to harness trust
  • The Diocese of FW is the place to do ministry

Ministry Assets and Challenges

Next, Romanik asked participants to develop a list of “Ministry Assets.” He asked, “What are some of the diocese’s strongest or unique ministry assets as compared with other faith communities in the area? What are some of the key challenges?”

Assets listed included:

  • Well positioned to make changes
  • Resiliency
  • The talented, thoughtful people who stayed
  • The people sitting in the pews in the parishes from which we are separated
  • Outreach opportunities
  • Inclusiveness – all are welcome
  • Willingness for discourse
  • Traditions
  • The school
  • Who we can be
  • Hope, faith, confidence
  • Encouraging people to use their gifts
  • Passion to serve
  • Willingness to confront issues
  • The community gathered around the altar
  • The intentional decision to be here
  • Necessity
  • Conversations with the past
  • Courage
  • Love for each other
  • Humility
  • We’ve been tempered and refined

Challenges listed included:

  • Ability to measure is impaired
  • We are making it up as we go along
  • Forced to deal with issues of trust and living outside the community
  • We are too close to the problem – it’s hard to see progress>
  • We need to move from interim to stability
  • Our passion makes it difficult to compromise
  • Expanding leadership
  • Trust
  • The limited clergy “bench”
  • The “unchurched” may not be interested in our message
  • We’re flying the plane while we’re building it
  • Translating passion into action
  • Nervous about the future
  • Finances
  • Need focus
  • Burnout
  • Rebuilding trust

The group then reviewed the current mission statement.

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
is a welcoming, Christ-centered community of congregations
committed to a radical hospitality.

• Participatory by everyone – laity, bishop, priest and deacon
• Transparent in all we do
• Accountable to God, one another, and the wider church

Serving • Accepting • Worshipping • Reaching Out

The group also reviewed the “Big Holy Audacious Goals” previously discussed, reviewed and adopted by the executive council. Acknowledging that the wording may not be perfect, the consensus was that the mission statement is an accurate reflection of the current reality.

During the break, Romanik developed the following statement as his understanding of the current description of the Diocese of Fort Worth based on the work and discussion so far:

We are a thoughtful, faithful, resilient and committed community with the courage and confidence to acknowledge the past, embrace the realities of the present and look forward to the future as we strive to be the Body of Christ in this time and place in an open, honest, inclusive, transparent, participatory and accountable way.

Current and Future Trends

Romanik reviewed some of the data about the state of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Fort Worth as accumulated and analyzed from the parochial reports. The group then suggested some of the current and future trends and their impact on the mission and ministry of the diocese:

  • We live in a majority minority state
  • Going “green” is important
  • Technology, social media, mobile devices
  • Rich/poor divide
  • Educational level will continue to decline
  • The diocese has become more urbanized

Brainstorming

Romanik then led a brainstorming session, saying, “Given the data, your history, your insights into the diocese and assuming that there are no canonical, structural or financial limitations, what would you do differently as a diocese?”

  • Worship in public places
  • Go to the Wal-Mart parking lot
  • Raise up effective spokespersons
  • Create networks of churches
  • Pooling or sharing resources
  • Diocese as a resource that empowers congregations
  • The bishop as a person who has your back but is not on your back
  • We are the diocese vs. the diocesan staff
  • We need to learn how to study the world
  • Young people
  • Change the committee structure
  • Crowd sourcing
  • Gathering people differently
  • Use of web conferencing
  • A more effective Website
  • Focus on education
  • A virtual diocesan office

The participants broke into smaller groups to refine this list to identify three or four practical and realistic things that could be done differently. This list included the following:

  • Create clusters of churches with clergy teams supporting all
  • Take advantage of existing resources
  • Create an umbrella charitable organization that can result in the creative use of buildings
  • Select a common outreach ministry to maximize impact and recruit volunteers
  • Recruit “mature” people who are unchurched
  • Change the deanery structure
  • Organize congregations based on affinity rather than geography
  • Nurture ideas from the bottom up
  • Networking congregations based on common ministry
  • Short-term task forces
  • Establish a day school
  • Better publicity
  • Create a new diocesan office structure
  • Create a centralized information hub
  • Seek out new leadership

Developing Task Forces

During dinner each participant voted for four/five things that could be done differently. The following five concepts were identified and various participants volunteered to serve on task forces to move the ideas forward:

  1. Replacing Deanery Structure with Network Model – Marti Fagley, Amy Haynie, Melanie Wright
  2. Create an Information Hub – Elinor Normand, Priscilla Promise, Bill Stanford
  3. Cluster Teams – Margaret Mieuli, John Promise, David Skelton
  4. Common Approach to Outreach / Mission – Sandra Michels, Henry Penner, Susan Slaughter, Kathleen Wells
  5. Diocesan Office Structure – Richard Cabes, Jim Hazel, David Madison

Groups 1 and 3 decided to meet together in order to clarify the parameters of each task, and/or whether to combine.

The Big Question

Romanik stated that good strategic thinking is most critical when an organization must decide whether and how to respond to a potentially significant opportunity or challenge. He raised the concept of a “Big Question” which is an opportunity or threat to which an organization must respond. Usually, it is beyond the scope of the organization’s current strategies and requires a new strategy. The group then suggested some of the big questions facing the diocese:

  • Why does the Diocese of Fort Worth exist?
  • Who are our “sheep” and where are they?
  • How do we “do” church in a post-Christian world?

After additional reflection and discussion the group articulated the following Big Question and suggested some strategies for addressing it:

What is the role and responsibility of the bishop in this new, developing and emerging entity known as the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth?

Possible strategies for addressing this “Big Question”:

  • A person of prayer
  • Attracting healthy clergy
  • Listening and synthesizing a collective vision
  • Someone who will care for and love us
  • Freed up from routine tasks
  • Chief Pastor
  • A model for Servant Leadership
  • Someone who builds strong relationships
  • Challenger to see the spirit
  • Vested interest in the success of the diocese
  • Strong connection with the wider church
  • A Godly Episcopal bishop
  • Willing to think outside the box
  • Wants to be a real diocese

Romanik also introduced the concept of an “Identity Statement” as a tool for the diocese to articulate in a clear and succinct way its mission, desired impact and unique characteristics. He suggested that the “identity statement” might take the format:

  • The Diocese advances our mission of ____________________________
  • And seeks to (impact)_________________________________________
  • By serving (members of congregations, neighborhood, community, city, region)___________________________________________________
  • In (geographic target area) ___________________________________
  • Through (specific programs and ministries) ______________________
  • And emphasizing our unique characteristics of ___________________
  • We are sustained by (financial and other resources) ________________

Participants

Participants included Mr. Richard Cabes, Mr. Richard Chowning, the Rev. Bruce Coggin, Ms. Marti Fagley, the Rev. Amy Haynie, the Rev. Jim Hazel, Mr. Bob Hicks, the Rev. Carlye Hughes, the Rev. Mo Lewis, the Rev. David Madison, Mr. Floyd McKneely, the Rev. Sandra Michels, Ms. Margaret Mieuli, the Rev. Curt Norman, Ms. Elinor Normand, the Rt. Rev. Wallis Ohl, Mr. Henry Penner, Ms. Demi Prentiss, Mr. John Promise, Ms. Priscilla Promise, Ms. Cindy Ruiz-Riquer, Ms. Katie Sherrod, Ms. Cherie Shipp, Dr. David Skelton, the Rev. Susan Slaughter, the Rev. Bill Stanford, Mr. Brent Walker, Ms. Kathleen Wells, and the Rev. Melanie Wright