Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bishop Shannon Johnston today takes over as Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia

Today marks the first day that The Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston is the Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, and also marks the first day of Bishop Peter Lee's retirement. Congratulations to both.

For those unfamiliar with how the Episcopal Church elects bishops, Johnston was elected at a diocesan convention a little over two years ago. The electors were clergy and lay representatives of the 180 congregations in the diocese. He was then confirmed by the standing committees representing all 110 dioceses in the Episcopal Church.

Since his election, and ordination as a bishop, Johnston has been serving as "bishop coadjutor," basically as an understudy to Peter Lee until his retirement. Bishop Shannon now becomes fully the diocesan bishop, and his first official visit to St. Paul's will be March 14, 2010.

Bishop Shannon recently gave an interview to Richmond Magazine:
Q. Are there needs or areas that you are particularly passionate about?
A. Yes, I have several things. One is adolescents. It’s such an unsettled period for them that we tend to sort of let them do what they want to do, and we just try to control it and keep it within certain bounds. I think we should take advantage of that unsettled time and that very energetic time and that very questioning time, and that’s exactly the time when the church ought to be encouraging their questioning and their exploring. I’d like to see adolescents in spiritual direction. I’m going to emphasize spiritual direction for the whole diocese, not just for clergy, not just for adults, but also for adolescents. Spiritual direction can be the most up-building, confidence-bolstering aspect of Christian life that I know. So that’s one thing certainly.

I want to take advantage of our diversity in this diocese. Diversity sometimes can strain you at the seams, but in Virginia, our history is that our diversity is the very thing that holds us together. So I’m sad to see that sometimes it can strain us and pull us apart. I want to find a way that it becomes what holds us together again and that we can grow stronger out of that. I think that’s exactly the way the world going forward is going to understand when they see us with not only Latino congregations but Korean and Vietnamese and any number of ethnicities that we have. I think people will understand what that means.

And I am frankly interested in reclaiming the word “Christian.” Because I’m very distressed that in political reporting and in television shows, when the word “Christian” is used, it is often used in such a small and constraining way and it has very little to do with what is the overwhelming majority of the Christian church across the world. The word “Christian” is often used in a way that talks about what people are against, and I want the word to be seen more in terms of what Christians are for. That it’s not seen in the negative but is seen in something that is very open.
To read the full interview, click HERE.

Thanks to Bill Bergen for bringing this to my attention.

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