Mediation agreement reached in dispute between the Bishop of West Missouri and the Standing Committee

 

Mediation agreement reached in dispute between the Bishop of West Missouri and the Standing Committee

Author: 

Martin Field and Carole Pryor

November 5, 2017

To the people of West Missouri

Greetings in the Name of Jesus, the anointed one of God whose loving liberating, and life-giving movement we continue.

With joy and gladness, we write that you may be informed of the status and outcome of the mediation process in which we have been engaged since the spring of last year.

In May 2016, the Standing Committee sitting at that time invoked a canonical process for "Reconciliation of Disagreements Affecting the Pastoral Relation between a Bishop and Diocese" (found in Title III of the General Canons of the Episcopal Church). A number of issues had arisen which, in the view of the Standing Committee, made such a process necessary. Since then, a number of meetings have occurred between the Standing Committee, Bishop Field, and representatives of the Presiding Bishop's Office of Pastoral Development, currently headed by The Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley. This has been a long but fruitful process.

The current Standing Committee and Bishop Field have signed a plan for going forward: "Definitions of Responsibility and Accountability for the Bishop and Diocese," the entirety of which can be found here. What follows is a summation of that document.

  1. Bishop Field will participate in professional counseling with a counselor appointed by the Presiding Bishop in order to improve his emotional accessibility and cultural sensitivity and to become better aware of how he is perceived by some and how he relates to all people.

  2. Bishop Field will engage in a coaching/mentorship relationship with a person appointed by the Presiding Bishop. That person has been identified and has agreed to fill this role: The Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray, III, resigned Bishop of Mississippi.

  3. The Standing Committee, in consultation with Bishop Ousley, will utilize feedback instruments to receive input from several groups with which the Bishop interacts: the Standing Committee, the Diocesan Council, the Deans of the deaneries, a priest and a lay person from each parish to which Bishop Field makes an official visitation, and from Bishop Field as well.

The Standing Committee and Bishop Field believe the counseling, coaching, monitoring and feedback will provide all members of the diocese with the tools and information needed to continue improving our relationship and strengthening our proclamation of the Gospel in West Missouri.

Up until now, the costs of this process have been born by the Presiding Bishop's office. Future costs will be the responsibility of our Diocese. We believe these efforts will be vital to our continued ministry together. The Diocesan Council will be asked to consider this funding need.

Additionally - with Diocesan Convention just concluded, and to provide continuity during the implementation of the agreement - the outgoing Standing Committee recommends to the new, incoming Standing Committee, that the Standing Committee members now rotated off be appointed to serve on a special subcommittee to assist in the implementation and monitoring of this agreement.

Reconciliation between all members of the Diocese will require trust. This cannot be emphasized strongly enough. There has been hurt, broken and strained relationships, gossip, and misperception among us all. Trust may not be given comfortably, but it must be given. For there to be a fruitful pastoral relationship between a Bishop and a Diocese, all members must commit always to act in good faith, constructively, towards a successful episcopacy and Diocese.

We ask for your continued prayer for us and for the Episcopal Church in West Missouri.

 

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