FROM AND TO AND ABOUT AND FOR
BY BISHOP STEVE BREEDLOVE
On behalf of the leadership team of the Diocese of Christ our Hope, I rejoice in the launch this first edition of our monthly Diocesan Newsletter. We are thankful for this new step of regular communication within our family. We’re also hopeful that our extended family and friends will be encouraged to share the news of our diocese as well. We hope and pray that we will all use the many opportunities that this newsletter offers for “telling the story of what God is doing” in the people and churches of the DCH.
Pause: That little paragraph was surprisingly hard to write. Who is this Newsletter from? Who is it for? Who is it about? Who is the “we” of the second sentence? Who are “our” extended family and friends? Who or what is a diocese, and how can it speak?
It is easy to fall into thinking and acting like a “diocese” is some sort of separate entity, a “thing” out there. Originally, a diocese described the jurisdiction of a governor: it was a political entity. But as the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion, a diocese soon became “a bishop’s jurisdiction.” It was quasi-political and organizational. Therefore it easily morphed into the primary image of an institution under the leadership of a bishop. Thankfully there are deeper roots to what we call a “diocese” that predate the word itself.
In the early Church, parishes, clergy, and Christians in different geographic regions were connected to particular bishops, but institutional structures and systems did not make that connection. A “diocese” (even before it was called by that name) was connected through relationships, pastoral oversight, and shared Kingdom mission. The bishop took his oversight and apostolic ministry seriously. He worked with other leaders and clergy to fulfill his calling. He had a targeted, defined focus for his calling. Administrative responsibilities invariably grew because people who work together need systems to manage decisions and align behaviors. But essentially a bishop’s ministry was “for the sake of Christ and for the sake of others.” Christ-centered, people focused. Love and service always.
We are part of an Anglican movement committed to recapturing this keen sense of Kingdom mission and relational ministry for dioceses. Therefore we can confidently say that at its most basic level, a diocese is people with shared faith convictions and spiritual values that bring them together in common life and mission. A diocese is an identifiable community cared for by bishops and clergy, a broad but recognizable household of faith. A diocese is people who, over time, share a common, developing spiritual story as followers of Christ together.
A diocese shares characteristics of the New Testament “Body of Christ.” You can talk about the Body of Christ in this generation, or in this nation, or in a particular city. God calls us into particular local churches where “being members of the Body of Christ” takes on flesh and blood reality. And in our Anglican understanding of “life together,” there is a larger-but-still-local expression of the Body, a diocese.
Two important practical concepts derive from this. First, God gives people within a diocese different ministries, callings, spiritual capacities, and responsibilities to benefit and strengthen the diocese. A diocese parallels a local church, many interconnected members who “make it work” by what each contributes. Many people, many gifts, many ministries, but again, service always.
The second implication of “the diocese as the Body” is that its life is developed and maintained through relationships. A core value of the DCH is that “the kingdom of God advances relationally.” Sharing and developing kingdom life requires that we know each other, pray for each other, tell each other the wonderful things God is doing in our midst, share our pain and sorrow – well, you get the picture.
Look back through this description and consider then what a diocese is and what it does. You will agree: communication is absolutely crucial for our “life together.” Without active, extensive, and effective communication, we will have no story in common.
Now reread the title and reflect on the purpose of this newsletter, and how it will become what it needs to be: From (you and your church) and To (you and your church) and About (you and your church) and For (you and your church). A diocese is people with shared faith convictions and spiritual values that bring them together in common life and mission. So let’s begin to talk about our lives, our faith, our convictions, our values, our life, our mission, and our ministry.
Welcome to our New Newsletter.