New York Announces 5 Bishop Nominees

New York’s nominees for bishop are (from left): Matthew Foster Heyd, Stephanie M. Johnson, Matthew Hoxsie Mead, Steven D. Paulikas, and Robert Jemonde Taylor.

By Douglas LeBlanc

The Diocese of New York has announced a five-person slate, including one woman and one gay man, in its search for the diocese’s 17th bishop.

Two of the nominees are priests of the diocese, another is from the adjacent Diocese of Long Island, and another two are from Connecticut and North Carolina:

  • The Rev. Matthew Foster Heyd, rector, Church of the Heavenly Rest, Manhattan;
  • The Rev. Stephanie M. Johnson, rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Day School, Riverside, Connecticut;
  • The Rev. Matthew Hoxsie Mead, rector, Parish of Christ the Redeemer, Pelham, New York;
  • The Rev. Steven D. Paulikas, rector, All Saints’ Church, Brooklyn, New York;
  • The Rev. Robert Jemonde Taylor, rector, St. Ambrose, Raleigh, North Carolina.

All the nominees touched on aspects of parish ministry that inform their understanding of the diocese’s profile.

Heyd answered a question about social justice: “Four Januarys ago we sat in a New York City court room for the murder trial of a police sergeant who killed our parishioner. The parishioner was a 68-year-old African-American woman who was mentally ill. She was experiencing a schizophrenic episode, and instead of calling for support the neighbors called the police. When the police came, they shot her in her nightgown inside her bedroom. The church — my congregation and others in our city — were her family. So we showed up every day to witness to her wife that she was a child of God and worthy of dignity.”

Johnson tied social justice to the climate: “Over my years as an eco-minister, my understanding of care of creation has evolved. Initially, I saw my role as a steward of creation, caring for the world because of love of God and love for future generations. That still remains true as congregational greening, community gardening and energy efficiency are important to the lives of many congregations and God’s earth. As I’ve engaged more broadly in the church and nation around the climate emergency, it is apparent that the climate crisis is at the intersection of so many of our social justice ministries: environmental racism, food insecurity, the plight of refugees, immigration, and poverty.”

Mead wrote about how his relationship with Christ shapes his ministry: “I didn’t realize how important Jesus had become in my life until I chose Disney World over Holy Week — spring break often falls during Holy Week, and so [preacher’s kids] aren’t able to leave town like many other kids can, so I leapt at the opportunity when it came up as an adult. On Good Friday I felt my intentional absence from Church so deeply that I realized I was called to give my life in service of Jesus Christ, and I started discernment for the priesthood immediately. People laugh at me when I tell them this story: ‘Jesus called you o’er the tumult of Space Mountain.’ Fair enough, but I think it says something about my calling that not even the Magic Kingdom could provide a happy place free from the disturbance of the Holy Spirit when I had literally taken a vacation from Christ.”

Paulikas wrote about how his relationship with Christ shapes his ministry: “I renew my faith most mornings by saying the Daily Office and/or practicing centering prayer. I also keep a spiritual journal, which I’ve done since I was a kid. These personal spiritual practices are the bedrock of my daily life and ministry and keep me connected to God. They empower me to be present spiritually and emotionally in leading worship, preaching, pastoral conversation, and in administrative tasks. But I also find God in the personal interests that point to different modes of holiness. I’m an amateur cellist and voracious Spotify listener, read poetry most days, and have always loved travel and languages.

“Finally, I have found Christ in embracing my life as a queer person, which has made me a more authentic Christian and effective pastor. LGBTQ+ people brave enough to claim a place in church have no option other than to live out the truth that the Holy Spirit works through all parts of who we are. Someone recently told me that just being a gay priest was all the ministry they needed from me; may we all be so blessed that simply being the people God created us to be is a ministry to others.”

Taylor wrote in response to a question about the effects of COVID on ministry: “Henri Nouwen wrote that we become effective ministers when we pastor out of our woundedness. COVID-19 continues to inflict new wounds while unmasking old wounds. Healing begins by acknowledging that life’s messiness, conflict, the unknown, and uncertainty are welcomed places to start. Saint Mary Magdalene visited the tomb, entered a messy, uncertain, unknown, and dangerous space, and encountered the Risen Savior. The type of Christian spirituality that is helpful during this time is the apophatic or ‘way of unknowing.’ We, like Moses, can release control to God who heals and transforms when Moses in Exodus 20:21 entered the ‘thick darkness where God was.’”

The diocese will allow 25 days for receiving nominees by petition.


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