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First 100 Days Letter

 

My First 100 Days 

January 22, 2013                                                                             

Sisters and Brothers,

I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

I have just completed my first 100 days as bishop, and I wanted to share some of the high points with you.

The best part of my first 100 days, by far, has been being among you.  Beth, the children and I have been so warmly greeted and received as I accomplish my visitations, occasions and engagements, and for that we are truly grateful.  We are sure God has called us to this work, at this time, in this place. 
     
Among you is where my hope for a thriving Diocese of Atlanta is being encouraged and confirmed: from Macon to Columbus, Rome to Canton, Lawrenceville to Washington and places in between.  With you at Rainbow Village, Malachi's Storehouse, Church the of the Common Ground, Chattahoochee Valley Episcopal Ministries, the Hispanic congregation at the Church of the Atonement, St. Benedict's School, our Integrity chapter  and the annual Requiem Mass for the Homeless that have died on our streets.  With you, priests, deacons, laity, youth workers, musicians and vestries, your commitment to service and generosity in response to God's goodness is inspiring.  Among you I am clear that while the church has her challenges, she is far from dead!

As one sign of our vitality, going forward I will be referring to the diocese as being comprised of 109 worshipping communities rather than in terms of 96 parishes. We arrive at this new number when we add our chaplaincies, Hispanic ministries and street ministries to the number of our established parishes.  This, I believe, will keep before us the reality of the diversity of worship expressions necessary to meet people with the Gospel of Christ where they are.

I continue to listen to my own heart and yours for the vision God is sharing with us.  What I hear thus far is that God is calling us to be more effective in reaching and teaching the faith to the youngest; more resourceful in offering leadership worship and community to the immigrant and those who do not speak English; winsome in our interactions with those beyond the church; recruitment oriented when it comes to clergy leadership; creative in outreach initiatives and their  funding; and imaginative in providing worship opportunities inside and outside of traditional parish settings.  In short, it seems, that our work will likely will take us deeper into reaching, teaching, hospitality, evangelism, recruitment, creativity and stewardship.  This is still the beginning of gathering a vision from among us, but even at the beginning it is exciting for me.

As I speak around the diocese, I hope I have inspired and encouraged our diocesan family.  I am always trying to answer the questions: Why Jesus?  Why the Episcopal Church?  Why now?  The majority of my speaking has been done in meetings, during visitations, sermons and bishop's forums.  We also have offered video messages, Facebook posts, photos, Tweets, Pathways, as well as an updated diocesan website and my weekly e-mail to the diocese, entitled For Faith.  I am glad to be able to tell you our reach, subscriptions and open rates are on the increase.  During my time as a candidate for bishop, I heard you ask for a better sense of connection with your bishop; please know I am working hard at that.

Beyond our diocesan family we are speaking to the world, country, state, region and city.  By the hard work and resourcefulness of many I have been provided with opportunities to speak to the wider community through NPR, CNN, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Day 1, along with other media outlets, about subjects as diverse as faith and guns, the blessings of same-sex unions, young people and spirituality, Episcopal identity, race and religion, and Christianity in the 21st century.  To increase our ability and effectiveness to do this kind of public theology we have engaged a member of the diocese as an external communication consultant.  Each of these opportunities was a way to articulate why faith is essential in general, and why the Episcopal approach to faith, scripture and community in specific, is a viable option for thousands who seek a rich, generous and open-minded approach to life with Jesus Christ.  I remain convinced that the Episcopal Church is well equipped to do the public theology necessary for this season in our state and country.  I ask you to join me in this work and for your prayers that we might increase in effectiveness in making a case for Christ and for inviting people home to the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Atlanta. 

At our Annual Council last November, I provided some goals for 2013 in my address for my first year.  I am glad to tell you that we have identified leaders for those committees and task forces and should have them all up and functioning by mid-February.  Each group will make a report to the next Annual Council in November.
     
I have taken two major actions that impact the entire diocese.  First, I have commended the provisional liturgy for the blessings of same-sex unions approved by General Convention for use in our diocese.  Use of this resource comes with a set of guidelines that, I believe, offers an opportunity for spiritual formation for us all and that demonstrates Christian care for couples, clergy, vestries and congregations of every position on the matter.

Secondly, I have suspended our ordained ministry discernment process for one year so that we might review and refine the process. By this action, and the subsequent committee work, we will gain clarity and insight about what kind of candidates for ordained leadership are best suited to respond to God's mission for the church in the next two decades and beyond.

In the next 100 days, I will be working closely with our staff, finance and budget committees to begin producing a 2014 diocesan budget that increases our investment in leadership development and congregational vitality. Also, I will continue meeting with senior leaders in the diocese for the purpose of quantifying our work in key areas and use that information to set appropriate goals for the years ahead.

There is more to share than I can possibly put in this letter, but I wanted you to get a sense of how things are taking shape.  I remain truly grateful for a hardworking and wise staff, which has made each of my efforts in these last 100 days better.
 
Finally, I ask you to rejoice with Christ and with me at the hundreds of people that have been baptized, confirmed, reaffirmed and received around our diocese in these last months.  Rejoice with me about those who are newly ordained and those who have recently begun new leadership roles in our congregations.  Rejoice with me at the fact of the hard work that so many do in the Diocese of Atlanta around altars and vestry tables, balance sheets and sick beds. I am sure our partnership with Christ in His work is making a difference.  Know also the triumph of grace is slow and quiet, but it is thorough. 

Be encouraged,

+ Rob

The Right Rev. Robert C. Wright
Bishop, Diocese of Atlanta


 The photograph above is the official portrait of the 10th Bishop of Atlanta by Louis Tonsmeire Jr. of Tonsmeire Studios, Cartersville. A copy has been mailed to every worshipping community in the diocese. The portrait was taken in October 2012 at the Cathedral of St. Philip.