An interview with the Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer

An interview with the Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer

The Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer has been nominated as provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth by the Standing Committee of the diocese. The election will be at the Special Meeting of Convention on May 16 at Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Worth. All people attending the convention – lay and clergy delegates, members of the diocese, visitors, and guests – will register online.

There will be a reception for Bishop Scott and Mrs. Kathy Mayer from 5:30 to 7 pm Friday, May 15 at St. Christopher Episcopal Church, 3550 Southwest Loop 820, Fort Worth, 76133. St. Andrew’s and St. Christopher’s Episcopal churches are hosting the wine and cheese reception. All are welcome. Childcare will be available from 5 to 7 pm.

An Interview with Bishop Mayer

Q. What was it like for you growing up in Fort Worth? The city leaders were just beginning to realize that the city’s Western heritage was something to value, not something about which to be embarrassed. They were beginning to understand that art museums and other cultural institutions could be as important to the well-being of the city as were a big airport and professional sports teams. Did you have any sense of that, or where you busy just being a kid? What is your happiest memory of that time?

A. I suspect growing up in Fort Worth in the ’60s and ’70s was a different experience than it is today – as it seems to be everywhere. Looking back, my brothers and I had an enormous amount of freedom. A summer day could be characterized as waking up, putting on shorts, hopping on bikes, and roaming around Wedgwood. We might spend a morning at the local swimming pool or playing with friends, and certainly it included baseball practice after five o’clock.

I was too young to appreciate the significance of the various outstanding museums of Fort Worth, although I knew enough to know that Dallas was jealous. And as far as the city’s image as “western” goes, it never occurred to me to be embarrassed. I was raised to be a proud Texan.

Q. You spent several years in sales. Some folks think everyone should work in sales for a while, because the skills needed to succeed there are the skills needed everywhere – things like the ability to get along with a wide variety of people, the ability to explain things clearly and succinctly, focus, persistence, and self-discipline. Has this been your experience? Has your sales experience been useful in your ministry as a priest and bishop?

A. I’m entirely grateful for having spent 12 years in sales for several reasons. First, I enjoyed it and I believe that the sales profession makes a contribution to society. And secondly, yes, the experience has been beneficial in ordained life – hopefully for the reasons you have identified. I guess if there is one downside, salespeople are not wired typically for working behind a desk in an office. Now it’s part of my job – so to speak – but, I don’t gravitate towards it.

Q. This diocese was catapulted into reimagining The Episcopal Church in early 2009, long before General Convention authorized the Task Force to Reimagine The Episcopal Church (TREC). We began right out of the chute with a new model of the episcopacy – our first provisional bishop, Ted Gulick, also was the bishop of Kentucky. Several of our congregations had no choice but to reimagine new and different ways to “be church.” As the seventh bishop of Fort Worth, how do you plan to build on the work that’s already been done here while also helping the diocese to move to the next level of organizational and spiritual maturity?

A. There is no question that the Diocese of Fort Worth was thrust into reimagining ways to “be the Church” – ahead of the recent TREC work. I’m reminded of what a friend of mine asked a parish search committee in St Louis. John was exploring a call to the position of rector for a congregation which had suffered a split. He asked the search committee, “Do you believe in resurrection?” Of course, everyone answered in the affirmative with conviction. He said, “I don’t mean resuscitation; I mean resurrection. Do you want to be resuscitated or resurrected? Do you want to be restored to the same old body, or do you want to become a new body? Do you want a NEW life?” (By the way, they did call him to serve as rector.)

If we are honest, resuscitation is not all bad. I suspect Lazarus was happy with it. The temptation for all of us, however, will be the temptation to restore an old church – especially since it’s what we know, AND because so many of us loved it and love it still. It’s the water in which we swam.

But as one theologian puts it, the Church in North America is going through a metamorphosis – a change in form. And the change in form will reflect, I believe, a change in self-understanding from “church as a place to go” to “church as participating in God’s mission.” Some outsiders may see this move to mission as born out of necessity or survival. I believe it’s where we are being led by the Holy Spirit. The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is positioned better than most of us for openness to the movement of the Spirit.

Q. We have been involved in litigation almost from the moment we reorganized. Previous bishops explicitly said that while the litigation is important, it is not the work we have been given to do. They urged us to leave it to the legal team while we got on with the work of the church. The Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas also has been involved in litigation. What has been your approach to this?

A. As you know, the Diocese of Northwest Texas has been involved in litigation over property in San Angelo for 8 years.The entire diocese has shown financial and emotional support to the people called Good Shepherd, and the people of Good Shepherd have remained faithful and resilient. They are moving beyond an interiority of “waiting” to one of mission, although litigation continues.

Q. What’s your favorite thing about your job?

A. Without hesitation, my favorite thing about this position is making Sunday visitations: the meetings with vestries and confirmation candidates, the Sunday morning liturgies, and the drive across some stunningly beautiful landscapes.

Q. What’s your favorite prayer?

A.There are many favorites, of course. I’ll go with the first one that popped into my head. It’s the collect for the 8th Sunday after the Epiphany, as well as the “Prayer for Trust in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. “O most loving Father, who willest us to give thanks for all things, to dread nothing but the loss of thee, and to cast all our care on thee who carest for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which thou hast manifested unto us in thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” Amen.

Q. How would you describe your liturgical style? Did Mr. Martin at St. Andrew’s influence you?

A. I have traveled enough through what one friend calls the “Anglican theme park” to find most of our liturgical expressions meaningful. I have a “high” doctrine of the Church. Having said that, I am comfortable participating in “low” or “high” liturgies. Like anyone, I have my preferences, but on visitations I try to follow local custom rather than impose a standard customary.

You asked about Mr. Martin, the rector of St. Andrew’s for decades. Mr. Martin and his successor, Mr. Hildebrand, both were much loved by my family and me. However, the most memorable and influential of the clergy for me was Irv Mitchell, the associate rector and youth director. I remember Irv for his authenticity; he didn’t try to be cool. And he actually enjoyed us. Teenagers. That says a lot.

Q. In Texas, driving long distances is a way of life. Your job in both dioceses will involve lots of driving. How do you use your driving time?

A. At times it seems like my iPhone and my car are my office space. I know where the “dead spots” are on several highways in Northwest Texas – and that on rare cloudy days a call might not be dropped. Sometimes I listen to Rangers games on my satellite radio, sometimes music, sometimes “Prairie Home Companion,” and often I like the quiet. I like to drive.

Q. Anything else you want to talk about?

A. Two things. First, as complicated as we tend to make things, I believe our vocation and message as Christians is simple. By our baptism we are called to participate in God’s mission to restore humankind to communion with God and one another. And we participate in God’s mission when we proclaim and embody the Good News of God’s love for all people as expressed in Jesus. Now, it’s not my job – or anyone else’s job – to save the church. I don’t recall anything in the New Testament about saving churches. It’s the vocation of all baptized people to proclaim and embody the unconditional love, unmerited grace, and undeserved forgiveness we have received and experienced. We are witnesses of these things.

And finally, I am humbled to be invited to stand for election as your provisional bishop. Kathy and I have a deep sense of call and adventure. And we are grateful to the people of Northwest Texas and Fort Worth for exploring new ways to partner in God’s mission.

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