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From the Bishop
November 13, 2016
My Dear Friends,
In the 14th year of my consecration as the Bishop of Kansas, I have found myself reflecting on the ministry I share with all of you. Over the years I have served here, I have grown to love the people of Kansas, and I have grown to love this land where the prairie meets the plains. I am drawn to the open skies and the expansive hearts of the Midwest. I am at home in a place located at the center, which draws people of differing thoughts and backgrounds to inhabit a common ground. And I have discovered the deepest satisfaction in what we have been able to accomplish together. But I have also wondered when my time as your leader should come to a close. It’s hard to judge the right time to leave a great ministry. Leave too early and you haven’t accomplished what God intended. Leave too late and you frustrate the Spirit’s intentions. I believe, however, it’s best to leave a little too early than to leave a little too late.
So, after a period of deep and prayerful discernment, I have decided to accept a new call to serve as Rector of St. Bart’s Episcopal Church in New York City, beginning February 5, 2017.
What makes this leave-taking so difficult is the love and respect I hold for all of you. I have absolutely loved living and working with you as your bishop, and together we have accomplished so many of our dreams. We created a new school for ministry, reinvented our campus ministry programs, and soon we will break ground on a new diocesan leadership center. We created a refugee resettlement ministry and found ways to disagree about any number of theo-political issues without tearing ourselves apart. We have raised up a cadre of gifted younger clergy to serve the diocese, and our spiritual health is sound. I have been privileged to pray at your hospital bedsides, bury your relatives, celebrate your triumphs and find consolation with you in your defeats. I find myself both astonished and humbled by the progress we have made together over the past 13 years, and I am equally astonished and humbled by all that remains to be done.
So why would a bishop want to return to parish work? Almost any bishop can tell you the answer to that question. If you love parish ministry, you cannot help but miss it. Serving in a parish will provide me an opportunity to focus on the work that drew me into the ministry in the first place. I have a deep passion for preaching and teaching, and having heard God’s “still, small voice in the midst of all the other voices,” I am able to place my complete trust in this call.
We are part of a larger Church, and I have requested the support of the Presiding Bishop’s Office of Pastoral Development, whose work provides direct assistance to dioceses in transition. We are blessed with a strong Council of Trustees, a seasoned diocesan staff, sound financial resources, a vibrant faculty at the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry, solid Convocation deans, and some of the most committed lay and ordained leaders in the entire Episcopal Church. This is why Kansas is such a great place to do creative ministry – and this is why my grief in leaving you is so genuine.
I ask you to continue to place your faith and trust in these good leaders and to honor their decisions and actions in a transitional time. I beg you, as Paul invited his followers, “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)
In the meantime, please be assured I intend to fully serve as your Bishop until the last possible moment of transition. My energies are committed to the most pressing and necessary challenges presently before us, and I will do everything in my power to leave things in right order for the 10th Bishop of Kansas.
As we approach the season of Advent, we are reminded again and again of the coming of Jesus, who is among us as savior, servant and king. We proclaim Jesus Christ, the center of all things. God has always presided over his Church, and God always will. We, all of us, are called to be faithful stewards of what has never been ours to keep.
Ellen, William and I ask for your prayers as we continue on this astonishing journey, and we will continue to be faithful in our prayers for you. May the Lord continue to richly bless your lives and your ministries. You have been such a profound blessing to each one of us.
Grace & Peace,
The Right Reverend Dean E. Wolfe, D.D.
The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas