What’s a bishop?
We had a wonderful weekend with Bishop John Guernsey and his wife, Meg. I hope you were able to ask questions at our reception or worship with us during confirmation services. I recognize that many of us grew up in traditions that did not have a bishop.
So here are a couple thoughts on the office of ‘episcopos’. This is how the apostle Paul described what he was looking for in a bishop. He is writing to one of his church leaders, Titus, telling him what sort of people he should seek for the leadership and administration of the church.
Titus 1:5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
From this little introduction, we learn three things about bishops:
- They are to put things into order. They build systems that allow churches to be connected to each other. They lead leaders and help accomplish more through the aggregation of resources and efforts. Bishop Guernsey oversees relational opportunities for clergy, he encourages people in similar church positions to collaborate on projects, he brings together like-minded thinkers to share best practices. Bishops provide an umbrella for partnership in mission.
- Bishops are to have character that is exemplary. They are to model what maturity in Christ looks like. There are clear instructions on how they treat their family, their finances, and their ability to exhibit self-control. Bishop Guernsey is a man of great prayer. When I asked him for any advice for starting a building program, he replied, ‘First, create a team of dedicated intercessors for the project.’ Prayer support always undergirds everything that Bishop Guernsey leads. I really admire that.
- Bishops are given the responsibility of teaching sound doctrine, of refuting error, and of encouraging what is right. Throughout the history of the church, bishops have gathered in councils to pray, discuss, and articulate what is true about the Christian faith. The theology and doctrine we hold most dear was hammered out by bishops who were ‘contending for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.’ [Jude 3] The church has always looked to her leaders for guidance and trustworthy instruction. Bishop Guernsey preached a powerful sermon on resurrection bodies– bodies matter, now and for eternity.
Bishop Guernsey was consecrated almost 5 years ago in the Church of Uganda. He was elected by our Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic in May of 2011. Before that, he was the rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Woodbridge for 29 years. I am so thankful to God for leaders in our movement like Bishop Guernsey. If you would like to receive his pastoral letters to our diocese, you can sign up for them here.
It was a great weekend. Hope you enjoyed it, too.