#Pondering the Future, with Bishop Andrew Doyle

Date Posted: 10/10/2013

In a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, how can individuals and groups more effectively make disciples? Episcopal Bishop Andrew Doyle recently led The Conference Core Leadership Team (CLT) in a discussion of ways to engage the ever-changing culture with hashtags and the tenacity of a “defiant gardener.”

Rolodex are becoming a thing of the past as Facebook friend lists rule the day. “How do we, as the Church, engage the do-it-yourself culture in this era of extreme personal empowerment?” Episcopal Bishop Andrew Doyle recently asked this and many other thought provoking questions to the members of the Conference Lay Leadership Team.

He noted that, as smart phones take the world by storm, people often find and join conversations that involve a hashtag. “We have to go where the people are and do what they are doing. Maybe worship should be held in public spaces,” adds Bishop Doyle. “This is not for some other generation to figure out. WE are the generation to figure this out.”


“Bishop Doyle challenged us in true Wesleyan style to take it to the streets – to be fully in the world and not of it,” notes Rev. Diane McGehee, TAC Missional Excellence Center Director. “He encouraged us to think outside the box in finding ways to be the presence of Christ in places we might not have previously imagined. One idea I loved was his challenge to see whether the Methodists or the Episcopalians would be the first to offer communion at football tailgate parties – I am down for that one – I have a game ticket I just need to be invited to a parking lot tailgate party – the race is on!”


Core Leadership Team Laity member Susan Massey also enjoyed Bishop Doyle’s challenge to think about where the culture is on Sunday mornings. “Instead, we need to be thinking about where people actually, are, even if in secular settings…and I find that mobile church concept quite exciting,” she says.


Bishop Doyle hopes leaders in today’s churches will transition from merely handing a visitor a bulletin, to being a companion and building a relationship. He encouraged the CLT leaders to challenge old-time institutional thinking and remember, “We have the corner on the market when it comes to hope. Let’s use the cultural volatility and uncertainty as a springboard for creativity in ministry.”


Center leader Rev. Gail Ford Smith, TAC Clergy Excellence “deeply appreciated everything Bishop Doyle shared, especially the way he shared it--with joy, passion, and conviction.” Adds Gail,  “ I was grateful for his reminding us that how we observe the Church, how we talk about it, how cynical we are, the more the Church will die.  But the more we talk with encouragement, the more the Holy Spirit lives.  And the more we are regarded.  We are a maker-culture.  We want to own and possess it.  How do we open things up?  We need to stop closing things down.  The reign of God is open to everyone and we are constantly trying to close it down.  We need to open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit."

He champions positivity as an impactful strategy. “I would offer that leadership is about making the decision that the church is alive and choosing to have conversations about a living church—a church that is growing and thriving, developing new disciples, that is trying new things and sees a world of abundant opportunities out there -- as opposed to one that is shrinking because of the challenges of the world.”

Connie Fowler, a specialist in Christian Education within the Church was “excited about the possibilities, after hearing Bishop Doyle. I was very intrigued by all of his ideas, and now I have been thinking about the trends he mentioned, wondering what may be more spiritually transformational in the months and years ahead.”


Worship Leader Reggie Clemons of First UMC, Pearland also felt Bishop Doyle’s perspective on the future of the church was enlightening and thought-provoking. “A statement that particularly resonated with me was the question of why we are always looking back. I think it is because we know what to say about the past but not what to say about the future. I enjoyed his sense of urgency that the church do something to positively affect our future.”


Bishop Doyle is even pondering his own future. “When I am in heaven, Jesus is not going to ask me what I think about sexuality, and he is not going to ask me how I voted in 2010 at the annual conference. But Jesus is going to say, Where were you when I was hungry, and did you feed me? That’s what Jesus is interested in.”


A brief video clip from the talk: