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Cathy Deats Essay Answers from
  CATHY DEATS

 

The following are the 3 questions each of the candidates were asked in their initial Nomination/application to enter the Search Process.  Each of the candidate's original answers have not been revised and are presented here to assist in assessing the leadership strengths of each candidate who will be on the Convention ballot October 12.

 

 

 

 

QUESTION #1   How will you provide leadership in this diocese regarding the important issues facing The Episcopal Church today? How will you engage those who disagree with you?

Did we know from the time we identified ourselves with the term via media, what a large part that identity would play in our life as members of the larger church and the world?

We need to stand firmly in our most unique quality among Christian denominations: our dedication to both diversity and unity. This applies to the issues which concern the church and the world, whether they are the qualities which make a person fit for ordination or the definition of life in an age in which technology has enabled us to prolong physical function despite brain inactivity. I believe it is the Bishop’s role to encourage the dialogue and discussion on issues on which we are allowed to disagree, and indeed, on the topic of which issues those are. But while the Bishop holds the voice and the vision of the diocese, this is a task which cannot be done alone.

In February, the Anglican primates met in Dar es Salaam. This regular meeting of primates was established for the purpose of “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation.” On the agenda of this meeting was how the Anglican Communion can address the mission of the global church and the conflict between parts of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church over the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the leadership of the church. The Anglican Communion has always prided itself on its ability to hold together during times of conflict over such issues as the role of women and the place of ritual. As important as the issues of the disagreement might be, one happening of the weeklong meeting caught my attention above all others. Episcopal Life reported it this way: “Despite growing anxiety and threats of boycotts, the primates of the Anglican Communion met without animosity, although seven of the ‘Global South’ archbishops refused to share in Holy Communion with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori because, they said, to do so would be ‘a violation of Scriptural teaching and traditional Anglican understanding.’”

Those who would use the altar as a battleground, in my opinion, are not interested in unity. We are the Body of Christ. We have in common our baptism and its promises, both those made to us and those made for or by us. In this increasingly diverse world we live in, we need to make more room at the table, not less.

I am a person who listens: I learned this through my clinical education and training as a sign language interpreter, as well as in communities I have been part of, whether congregations or boards of directors. But there is a point at which listening becomes destructive to us: when the other has ceased listening and we continue to pursue the process, and to act as if this one-way communication were indeed a dialogue. Often I consult with others who have wisdom in the art of listening to discern when it is time to end pursuit of someone who has clearly indicated that communication is not as important as being right. I am also a person who desires to leave the door open, in the same manner God always leaves it open for me. Such is the wonderful and awful dilemma of reconciliation.

At the heart of this dilemma, with us as always, is God. Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy wrote, "The Christian is one who listens to God speak before speaking – the Church is a group of listening people." I believe the Biblical tradition of listening before speaking should be practiced more, beginning with me. As Bishop, I would focus more on what it is that unites us rather than divides us. It is the water of baptism which unites us and the Eucharist which strengthens us and keeps us listening to one another. The promises of baptism, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to respect the dignity of every human being, and to continue in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers, are how we live out both our unity and our diversity.
Another risk of via media is making every issue one in which all sides need to be heard. We all have limited time and limited energy, and so does the church. We need to choose those things which are most important to mark a line in the sand. It is the job of the Bishop to hold these concerns up to the people. There is a time for discussion and a time for action. Through preaching and teaching, speaking publicly to issues of justice, and when necessary issuing a call to action, the Bishop can hold up the gospel vision for the congregations and people to join as they live out their baptismal promises.

 

QUESTION #2   Our diocese is highly diverse in multi-cultural expression and a combination of urban and rural/frontier geography. How would you lead the education and ministry development in such a large and sparsely populated diocese?

My first task would be to listen and observe. I would want to know what kind of education is needed, how people define “ministry development,” and what resources are available for communication. Communications will be crucial in planning an education program for the Diocese. It will be important for the Bishop to understand how communication is done presently, what the challenges are for improving it, and gathering those who are most talented at thinking creatively to determine how to meet the unique challenges of Nevada.

I also bring to the table some of my own experience with education and ministry.

As an Education for Ministry (EFM) mentor, I find this extension program from the University of the South School of Theology to be an effective tool for education of all manner of diversity. I have mentored a class with nine members, two of whom were over the age of 65, two in their early thirties, and ages everywhere in between; in the same class were parish members, and members of other non- Episcopal churches; we were married, single, divorced, straight and gay. Those were some challenging years, but so rich in learning about how very difficult it is to live with diversity and how very rewarding it is to find that everyone has a place at the table. If EFM is not workable or appropriate in a certain setting, there are other models of education which would work to combine education and theological reflection in a similar manner.

In a large and widespread diocese such as Nevada, we would need to find ways to use technology creatively to assist the education process. Teleconferencing, web conferencing and various types of “e-learning” could be vital to complement face to face communication, which I believe is essential for at least part of the learning process.

I am a strong believer in sharing and using resources already developed to keep our energy focused on ministry. A strong and accessible website is a must for a Diocese with so much distance between districts and churches.

My own love of education is not so much from an academic viewpoint, but from a communications perspective. I am challenged by getting the message across in terms my audience (or a person) can understand. This is primarily evident in my preaching, but I also have a love of language in the broadest sense, which brings me joy as I struggle to explain the Episcopal tradition to a Roman Catholic newcomer, an American idiom to a person born in Korea, or the workings of a computer to a man who still has a rotary phone.

 

QUESTION #3   How does your theology integrate the elements of scripture, reason and tradition?
Are there differences in your focus and style when functioning in pastoral or leadership roles?

Most clergy can tell you that their theology has decreased in complexity over the years of their ordained ministry, and I am no exception. The study of systematic theology in seminary is a daunting, though necessary, exercise. It is only when the priest begins preaching and pastoral care, however, that the real work of theology begins. This is because, for me, the place where belief and practice intersect is where theology is “done.” As Episcopalians, we look to scripture and tradition to inform our beliefs, and use reason to apply them to our lives. Our systematic theology is to be found in our creeds and Articles of Faith; our Catechism offers a way of understanding and teaching this theology.

The best example of this “doing theology” I can offer is in the Education for Ministry (EFM) program. In this four-year course which I completed as a lay person and now teach as mentor, we are constantly challenged to state our theology and to examine how it is expressed in our lives. This means that theology is not only a set of beliefs about God, but a living expression of those beliefs.

The elements of scripture, reason and tradition handed down to us from Richard Hooker (although he did not use the phrase himself) are another way the Anglican via media is expressed: we do not hold to either the sola scriptura of the Protestant tradition or the authority of the church of the Roman tradition. And it is in that Anglican via media that my own theology has developed and is expressed.

I believe that the scriptures are not just our story, but God’s story of extravagant love for the human race and for each individual human. As such, they deserve our study and meditation and discussion, for they contain for us a way to understand how God has made Godself known to us, that we might discern how to live in God’s kingdom.

Church tradition for us as Episcopalians is our history book. We sometimes forget that the book tells our history from the time of Jesus rather than the time of Henry VIII. And as a story of our life as the body of Christ, The Episcopal Church branch, it is full of times of failure as well as times of exceptional glory.

Reason as it is understood in the elements of scripture, reason and tradition does not only mean theoretical reasoning or the ability to understand and use the mind for decision-making. It was handed down to us in the classical sense, as a participatory knowledge: to know something is to experience it. Not only is reason experiential, but it is a collective exercise, which takes place in community. The House of Bishops is a place in which reason is wrestled with, just as the Diocese and congregation are.

No one of these elements alone can keep us faithfully seeking after God and God’s will for us. It is the integration of these three elements which expresses balance, depth and inclusion. The balance is expressed in the lack of dependence upon one authority for all matters of faith and belief. The depth speaks to our ability to immerse ourselves in one element. The inclusion allows that our faith is held not only individually, but in community, and especially in the action of the community.

The major difference between my style and focus when functioning in a pastoral role versus a leadership role is that the pastoral role is more focused on individual relationship and the leadership role is more focused on the larger community and issues which affect that community, as well as how those issues relate to the gospel.

Pastorally, I am one who believes that presence has great power. My own experiences with pastoral presence and connection encompass not only my clerical and church experience, but also previous experience as a layperson and professional caregiver. I recall a time in the first few years of my return to church life after an absence of about ten years. I had found a parish which had shown me the true meaning of evangelism by sending a visitor to me in the hospital when my son was born. A follow-up call came a week later with an offer for help, or just company. When I later became an active member of the church, I was offered again and again the ministry of presence from others. So when tragedy came to the family of a friend in the death of their infant daughter, I knew that I needed to do something. And so I found myself the next morning standing on the front steps of the family’s home with a box of Dunkin’ Donuts in my hands. I rang the doorbell and as I waited for an answer, I was suddenly possessed of the most awful feeling: What in God’s name was I doing at the home of a family whose daughter was dead, with a box of doughnuts in my hand? I nearly ran down the steps to my car, when my friend opened the door. She was so moved by the gesture, and there was no need for words – a dozen doughnuts became a sacrament. This experience left me convinced that the ministry of presence is so valuable because only the power of God is necessary: not learning, or words, or anything but the simplest of actions.

Ministry at the time of death is for a priest and pastor a time when presence and connection are in the forefront of pastoral care. There are often many relationships to negotiate as serious illness and death enter the family’s life. I recall the time I was called to a hospital by a family whose mother, aged 81, had suffered a debilitating stroke. Around her bed were her husband of sixty years, and one of her grown children who had driven all night to be there. The woman had been active until the moment of her stroke. We had had conversation about her wishes, which fortunately she had expressed in an advanced care directive. As her family gathered from all over the world over the next few days, I visited at the hospital, at home, and met them at the church to plan the subsequent funeral. Throughout that time I saw myself as one who was present as an affirming and supportive and sacramental presence: to listen to their thoughts and feelings, to witness the withdrawal of life support and speak the Litany at Time of Death, to help them express their grief to each other and in the context of the Burial Office, and to celebrate life in the Eucharist that accompanied it. I listened to stories of the woman’s early life and years as a mom and nurse, not just to know her better for liturgical purposes, but also to be a witness to her life and her importance to those who loved her.

Pastoral care is one of my most treasured gifts. Perhaps that is because when I give my listening presence, I am not “on.” I am not deacon, priest or bishop, but brother or sister in Christ. The true power of healing and comfort comes from the Holy Spirit. It is a time when I am very conscious of being a vessel. It is a difficult thing to describe, although we talk about it often in the language of the church. The best way I can relate to it is in my role as sign language interpreter. When I hear the message with my ears, it goes through my mind and out my hands. I am a conduit, through which the message flows. That is what pastoral presence is for me: I am the vessel through which the Spirit flows. It does not mean I just sit and let it happen; I must have something within upon which to draw. The “something” is my own spiritual grounding which empowers me to do less talking than listening and to be comfortable with silence. It helps to be prepared, to know something about grief and loss. As an interpreter, it is best if I am rested and if I know something about the message I will translate, as well as the speaker. I certainly can interpret when I am tired and if I don’t know the meaning of one or two words, but the experience is much more powerful and effective if I am prepared.

And so it is with pastoral care: the preparation is the care of self, the knowledge of scripture and prayer, the knowing of the person in need. And if I cannot know the person in need, I certainly can know or learn what it is like to be suffering, lonely, or afraid. And it is my responsibility to know what Jesus Christ, as well as the church, has to say about such things.

My leadership style is also collaborative and visionary. I work with the community I have been chosen to lead to identify the challenges of our common ministry and work toward our vision.

One way to understand my leadership focus and style in greater detail would be to describe the gifts I believe I use most to lead a community. I have the gift of encouragement. I am also skilled at empowering others for ministry. St. James’ recently completed a capital campaign to fund a fully accessible plant. From the core group of vestry and capital campaign committee, we involved fully half of the households in some part of the campaign. I encourage vestry members to ask people to help with various tasks, knowing how empowering it is for us to invite others into ministry.

I am also an extremely competent administrator. In my administrative duties, I am a problem-solver, continually working on discerning the difference between a problem which needs to be solved and a situation which needs to be monitored or left alone. I know the difference between confidentiality and secrecy. I led St. James’, with the assistance of the Diocese, through a difficult period of time in my first year of ministry with them.

I seek out people who are experts. Although I love to learn, I do not need to know everything. I strive for consensus, but will not compromise vision for consensus. I am skilled at handling conflict. I take care of myself. I recognize my limitations and those of the parish and diocese, and I allow that God can change those limits if God chooses. Just as I cannot know everything, we cannot do everything. The Diocese of Nevada, in following the gospel vision, will accomplish great things; and some things which it wants to accomplish, or which other individuals and parishes believe it should accomplish, will not happen. And God will be glorified in our dedication to follow wherever God may lead.


AL KEENEY's Essay Answers

DAN EDWARDS' Essay Answers

ERIC FUNSTON's Essay Answers

JEFF PAUL's Essay Answers

SUSAN BURNS' Essay Answers

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