Greetings in this season of Pentecost, discerning and inviting leaders with multiple gifts of the Spirit among us!
October 27 and 28, we will gather in Saginaw for our Fourth Joint Convention as Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan! I am excited about the opportunity to delight in one another, to pray, worship, learn, break bread, address concerns, conduct business, laugh, and look ahead to the possibilities God calls and presents to us! I thank you for giving me the privilege of serving as your Bishop Provisional and friend!
I am curious about helping nurture a world transformed in which all God’s children are unconditionally welcomed, cared for, and loved. I look forward to discerning how we, individually and collectively as a church, nurture Christ’s call to proclaim and embody God’s boundless love for all creation. I am especially thrilled about our theme for this year’s convention, Collaborative, Innovative, and Courageous discipleship! This theme is derived from our emerging mission and vision identified by our Building Bridges leaders based on what they’ve heard from the wider dioceses in their listening process. I love these clear, simple, and bold marks of discipleship!
As I visit the various outposts of mission and ministry in our two dioceses, I am struck by how we already practice these marks. I am also struck by the multiple ways we relate to one another in this Season of Practice. Most of this is good and life-giving. We do have some nervous patches. In my time with you, I have at different times heard that Eastern or Western Michigan was “driving the bus.” In all honesty, sharing drivers is not a bad thing as long as we are traveling toward God’s future and not in circles.
We are moving through discernment and building consensus in some sensitive areas. One such area is the formation of our priests, specifically as they are formed outside of legacy seminary models. Here is where we have reached some clarity: over the past months, we have had many substantive and candid conversations. Prior to our pivot to organizing as “collaboratives,” I spent time with every Clericus (clergy small group) in Western Michigan to understand hopes and concerns. I heard common refrains about areas of import, such as immersion in liturgical formation, regular corporate worship, and the earnest cautionary note about creating a two-tier system of priests. We noted that within the recent history of priestly formation in Western MIchigan, there have been a variety of models engaged. We also discussed the changing church and our need for diverse formation opportunities to best support emerging congregational needs in our various contexts, blended or bi-vocations, and the ministry of all the baptized.
I have considered all the canonical requirements of pedagogical areas and the future thriving of our clergy leaders. After much discernment and according to the authority granted by the canons of The Episcopal Church, I have decided to formally honor what has already been true in practice: that our dioceses form priests through a diversity of paths by seriously considering every discernment as unique. Therefore, this fall, our dioceses will send candidates for priestly formation to residential seminaries, hybrid seminaries, and the Academy for Vocational Leadership (learn more – Eastern MI and Western MI). This will add an intentional step to the ordination process in Western Michigan. Rather than add to the plate of the current COM, I have called upon a small group of senior clergy to help me discern the best formation path for each postulant who is ready for formation according to the requirements stipulated in our canons.
In keeping with this clarity, I will also appoint and commission a bi-diocesan board to help advise and oversee the Academy.
The Advisory Board will include the following leaders:
The Rev. Randall Warren, D. Min., Co-Chair
St. Luke’s, Kalamazoo
The Rev. Alicia Hager
The Rev. David Vickers
St. Paul’s, Greenville
The Rev. Pat Vinge
St. Martin of Tours, Kalamazoo
The Rev. Sue Colavincenzo, Co-Chair
St. Dunstan’s Davison
St. John’s, Midland
St. John’s, Dryden
The Rev. Nancy Mayhew
St. Alban’s, Bay City
Our chancellor, Bill Fleener, Jr., and I, as your bishop, will serve as ex-officio members. In addition, each Commission on Ministry will appoint one liaison. Eastern Michigan’s COM has appointed the Rev. Anna Leigh Kubbe and Western Michigan’s COM has appointed the Rev. Jay Johnson, Ph.D. (All Saints, Saugatuck). I am grateful for their willingness to serve at this time in a significant and strategic capacity!
The Advisory Board will report to the bishop, and we will have a robust opportunity to continue forming excellent and relevant priests, deacons, and lay leaders who will lead us into God’s future!
I also want to let you know that we will make the following changes to the priestly formation track in the Academy:
- A formal process to engage and evaluate field education in the classroom.
- An expectation to complete a substantive Clinical Pastoral Education experience
- A requirement for students to complete the General Ordination Exams (GOEs) while allowing for remedial work for those who do not score proficient in particular areas.
Additionally, we will be searching for a co-director to serve with the Rev. Canon Tracie Little, D.Min., starting as soon as possible. As your Bishop Provisional, I am happy to report that the leaders directly involved in such matters are of one mind in this decision that will significantly and positively influence our future as a church. Don’t hesitate to contact me or one of them through my assistant (Angela Krueger, email@example.com) if you have questions or concerns.
Our diversified approach to formation, among other things, will provide a variety of leadership styles for our changing church in a changing world with room to address ongoing changes thoughtfully, promptly, and contextually in the future. Regarding forming priests, it is our opportunity to support their growth, more fully engage this vibrant conversation happening in the wider Church, and help our congregations thrive in a changing world. This significant need has also prompted the formation of the College for Congregational Development under the new directorship of the Rev. BJ Heyboer.
Beloved, the good news is that God is raising leaders who discern a call to holy orders. Right now, about thirty-five people are discerning a call to become deacons or priests in our church from both our dioceses. This reality is unprecedented in the recent history of our dioceses, and we are grateful to the Holy Spirit for this bountiful blessing!
These days, I have become fond of saying, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Pentecost!”
The Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh
The Episcopal Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan
MORE ON THE CURRICULUM AT THE ACADEMY
The Academy for Vocational Leadership, our bi-diocesan school of formation, is part of the Iona Collaborative, over 34 dioceses forming leaders for holy orders with the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. Click here to learn more about the Iona Collaborative.
If you’d like to learn more about the extent of the classes offered through the Collaborative — courses that each student has access to and that the Academy uses as we build the curriculum each year — please click here.
The Iona Collaborative have developed what they call the “matrix” – one for priests and one for deacons. This details the skills that we develop through formation and indicates how we might expect a student to progress in the various skill levels. The faculty at the Academy use the matrix to help design lesson plans that include specific tools to help develop particular skills. A student evaluation is available to help assess how each student is embodying the skills.