The World is Round

Twelve years ago I gave my first Convention Address as the 6th Bishop of WNC.  Because I had returned to Asheville after a thirty four year absence, I began with a quote from a book entitled A Handful of Blackberries.  In the story a young man returns home after a long time away. He was disappointed to be back where he started. Finally one of his friends asks, “Didn’t anyone tell you the world is round?”

Because the world is round, it means despite my departure as your active bishop, we will continue to be connected.  Being your bishop has been the greatest privilege of my life. I have had the opportunity to ordain, confirm, receive, reaffirm, and bless. I have been honored to represent you in many places and venues—from Canterbury to Taiwan.  Most of all I have been honored to lead the diocese for this dozen years and to work with committees, boards, parishes, and faithful people seeking to do the work of Christ in this world.

I am confident José McLoughlin will be a wonderful bishop and that the diocese will flourish. He has many gifts and brings a new perspective.  While I am sure that Oklahoma has its charms, there is nothing finer than to be in Carolina all the time. I am sure that you will do all you can to make this home for him and Laurel.

The world is also round because I am returning to where I started as a teacher. I will be teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary in the Spring of 2017 and have accepted a position at Wake Forest Divinity School beginning in the Fall of 2017.  Jo and I will have an apartment in Winston-Salem and will see what it’s like to commute for a while. I will also be able to return to being a Spiritual Director which I haven’t been able to do as an active bishop.

What will continue is my writing and speaking.  I now have a is amazing for such an untechnological person. I will post weekly reflections on it (and you can sign up there at “Contact” to receive them weekly) and on Facebook (I am happy to friend everyone) or email me and I’ll make sure it happens:  However, I won’t be doing any Church work in the diocese until at least next fall nor give any advice or commentary about the diocese. I am glad to talk about novels and spirituality and my grandchildren. This will be good for me and good for the diocese.

Because the world is round, I’d like to leave you with what I said in that first address. I quoted from Ron Rolheiser’s book The Holy Longing where he lists four non-negotiable essentials for the Christian life: 1. Prayer; 2. Social Justice; 3. Community; 4. Tender Hearts.  We have to have a journey inward, a journey outward, and a journey together, but none of those make any difference if we have a frozen heart.  My fervent hope for this diocese as well as the wider Church is that we hold onto these essentials—especially the last.  In a world increasingly contentious and divided, only those with tender hearts can answer our calling to be repairers of the breech.

God bless you and God be with you.