The Diocese of Southern Virginia has published a web-based profile as it seeks its 11th bishop.
The diocese will accept nominations until March 15 and announce a slate on June 21. It will receive nominees by petition until July 12, and the electing convention is scheduled for Sept. 21.
The profile consists of seven sections, including “Our Future,” which offers candid reflections on challenges facing the diocese:
Our survey and listening sessions indicate that the strong sense of identity and mission at the parish level is not present at the diocesan level. Contact with the Diocesan office occurs most frequently in relation to clergy transition or budget problems. Similarly, the opportunity to interact with the Bishop is often limited to confirmations, and some parishes have indicated that they have not received a visit in years. Parishes in general do not see themselves as a vital part of a vibrant Diocese with a clear vision of purpose and mission. The challenge is to bring our parishes together with our Bishop and discern our common call of how to continue to be the Church in Southern Virginia. How do we connect with, develop and mobilize the rich human potential of all our people in a time of increased expectations but diminishing financial resources?
… Another significant challenge is the survivability and vitality of our small, rural parishes. Many cannot afford full-time clergy, and the demand for supply and part-time clergy far exceeds those available. The geographical distance between many rural parishes complicates efforts toward sharing clergy or cluster arrangements. A report completed by the Executive Board a few years ago identified that parishes without an assigned priest were overwhelmingly likely to be in decline. Loss of the priestly connection to the Bishop and Diocesan staff weakens their connection to the larger Diocese and increases the feeling of isolation. We must find ways of raising up priests and deacons and look for innovative ways to share resources that will enable these small parishes to thrive and feel full members of the diocese.
… Southern Virginia is ready to explore new patterns of parish, convocation and diocesan engagement as we seek to strengthen relationships so that we can better serve God in our region. There is an energy and a desire to work together on a renewed vision and mission and ways to meet them. Conversations are beginning at the convocation level to discuss ways to work together and to build a common diocesan identity.