Guest Blog – Initial Thoughts on Episcopal Elections

This is a guest blog from Eric Seiberling, who is a change management consultant with the Abreon Group and has a blog, www.itlunatics.com, that deals with creating change in large organizations. Eric was a delegate at the North Central Jurisdiction from the West Ohio Conference and experienced the Episcopal elections first hand. This will be a series of posts about the election process and some thoughts on how to improve it.

Over this summer, I had my first opportunity to experience an Episcopal election first hand. I had the opportunity to experience this process both as a voter and as someone helping run a candidacy. I discovered that there is a fine line that candidates try to walk between making yourself “available” for election and “running” for the office. The process is inherently “political” but also a matter of spiritual “discernment.”

All 11 candidates were exceptional people. They had a breadth of experience and a deep spirituality. It was not so much a matter of “do they have the initial qualifications” but how do I discern differences between the different candidates?

Prior to the Jurisdictional Conference in Grand Rapids, I received a number of mailings, postcards, personal letters, and websites to seek information. Most of them were the equivalent of “plain yogurt.” Everyone used many of the same terms like “bridge builder, visionary, leader, spiritual.” I spent a lot of time trying to read between the lines to figure out the encoded message about what they really believed.

The sessions during Jurisdictional Conference itself provided some additional ways to gain insights, but were limited as well. Most candidates said the same things …”I will gather a team together, listen to the chorus of voices, lead by consensus, etc.” I spent a lot of effort trying to discern the differences between candidates while they were trying to articulate their position in a way that had the broadest appeal. The simple question is, “Is this process the best way to elect a bishop?” So, over the next few weeks, we’ll open a few questions up for discussion …

  • What are the qualifications for a bishop?
  • Should we judge a candidate on performance? If so, what are the measures?
  • What is the right way for the electorate to get to know the candidates?

Do you have any experience at Jurisdictional Conference? Is this common across Jurisdictions? Feel free to post your experiences.

United Methodist Episcopal Candidate Websites

A conversation with Luke this week tipped me off to the practice of creating websites for episcopal candidates within the United Methodist Church. He pointed me to the Southeast Jurisdiction Candidates and North Central Jurisdiction Candidates where nearly 100% of them have created a website specifically to promote their candidacy.

I think that this is outrageous. There is not even a pretense of avoiding a campaign.

I am so glad that the South Central Jurisdiction Candidates just provide a link to a PDF of biographical information.

Discover Your Conflict Management Style – Review

This is a review of Discover Your Conflict Management Style by Speed B. Leas, a resource from The Alban Institute.

Main Themes

This is a simple workbook style publication designed to help you, as the title suggests, discover your conflict management style. A self-assessment tool aids in determining your conflict management tendencies from among the following styles: persuading, compelling, avoiding / accommodating, collaborating, negotiating, and supporting. Knowing your preferred style and others will increase competence in encountering conflict and those with other preferred styles of conflict.

Strengths and Weaknesses

A great strength of this book is its brevity and tight focus on the topic. Another strength is that Leas addresses how, when and possible outcomes for each of the styles.

Relevance to The United Methodist Church

This resource is relevant to The United Methodist, particularly in regard to upcoming conferences – general, jurisdictional and annual. This resource may also be helpful to congregations in conflict internally or externally.

Relevance to The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection

I believe that this resource would be relevant and helpful to staff and lay teams that are experiencing conflict or those teams that wish to be better prepared for conflict when it arises.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this document to leaders within The United Methodist Church both lay and clergy, particularly delegates to General Conference 2008. I also recommend this resource to those who desire to increase their knowledge and usage of various conflict management styles.