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Dan Edwards  Essay Answers from


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?

My model for leadership is Moses guiding Israel through the wilderness. He spent time with God in the tent of meeting (prayer and contemplation). Sticking close to God was half the picture. The other half was sticking close to the people. Moses walked the same desert road, ate the same food, and endured the same hardships as the children of Israel. He befriended his people. We listen to our friends, trust people we know, people who know us, respect us, and care about us. When Israel went astray, Moses interceded for them because, fallible as they were, they were his people. I want to be faithful to God and faithful to people, with all their endearing and not-so-endearing idiosyncrasies.

Friendship is a relationship among equals. I believe in Servant Leadership – decisions made by groups, people respecting and empowering each other, listening to one another, and discerning calls. When Moses shared his authority with the 70 elders, he became a model of Servant Leadership. As a Servant Leader, I believe we must entrust authority to those who have the responsibility for fulfilling the mission. Good leaders do not micro-manage. We trust each other. And we support each other in the call to live out our Baptismal Covenant in active ministry.

But Servant Leadership isn’t just following the crowd. Moses knew the destination. The leader’s job is to remember the common purpose, the core values. In the Church, that means our apostolic mission. We are here “to restore all people to unity with God and with each other in Christ.” (Catechism) The Spirit of the Lord is upon us to do the same things Jesus did, “to preach good news to poor . . . to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind . . . to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” That’s what makes us the Body of Christ. The leader remembers the mission. The Church is often under pressure to depart from her inclusive, reconciling mission, and that’s when the leader has to be ready to make hard choices and take the heat.

As long as there are people in the Church, we will have disagreements. Group-think uniformity is not our Anglican way. We hold differences in creative tension. We let truth emerge gradually through conversation. That tolerant, patient way is sometimes “untidy,” as Bishop Tutu says. But it has worked beautifully. For example, two couples in my congregation were at odds forever. It was a case of Christian Coalition Pat Robertson Republicans versus George McGovern peace and freedom Democrats. But the conflict only started with politics. They fought over everything – whether to purchase a pipe organ, whether to cut down the magnolia tree, whether to use Styrofoam or paper cups at coffee hour. But when the Democrat husband died, the Republican couple was there at the hospital to take his widow home. They still visit her in the nursing home and take her to have her hair done every week. Communion is about personal relationships that run deeper than our opinions. Sometimes we fight most with those we love.

Today, gay inclusion is undeniably an important issue. But other issues – for example, the authority of women, the way to use Scripture, and plain old power struggles – ratchet up the emotionality and keep us from reasoning together. Gay inclusion is part of a much larger controversy. One Georgia congregation sponsored seven anti-gay inclusion resolutions at the 2005 Diocesan Convention. Following the 2006 General Convention, their priest left the Episcopal Church and invited his congregation to go with him to form a break-away church. I was sent to meet with them. That afternoon, I listened to a room full of angry people venting. But here’s the surprise: homosexuality never came up. They were concerned about the authority of Scripture and the centrality of Christ. We eventually had a friendly conversation, and that Church is doing quite well today. They have just called a progressive new rector.

We are struggling to balance two goals. The Church’s statement on gay inclusion, To Set Our Hope On Christ, makes clear that we are morally bound to be just, compassionate, and inclusive. But we are also obliged to try to hold the Body of Christ together, to keep our family at the table. That is what Bishop Katharine and other Bishops were trying to do with the “restraint resolution.” Regrettably, keeping everyone at the table is sometimes impossible. W. H. Auden wrote poignantly of the “failed caresses” in life. But to the extent we succeed, there will be dissenters in our midst.

I welcome dissenters. Without them, there is a hole in the catholicity of the Church. I want to learn from my sisters and brothers who disagree. Whether I like it or not, I need them here. When people disagree with me, I listen respectfully, honor the integrity with which the other person speaks, respond compassionately to the pain out of which they speak, and keep alert for the truth in what they are saying. I ask questions to clarify their concerns and I look for common ground. I cannot keep them here by betraying God or acting unjustly. But I can walk the desert road with them, befriend them, and respect them. I do my best to keep our differences set in a larger context of personal relationship. Then I say the Serenity Prayer every day.

A leader must also deal with people disagreeing with each other. My own parish has gone through its conflicts, large and small. And I have helped other congregations work through their differences. When Paul wrote to a divided Church in Corinth, he prescribed “faith, hope, and love.” We speak truth lovingly. We are patient and forbearing with regard to our own goals, but not at the cost of fidelity to God’s call. We keep our faith in God to reconcile us, either now or in the fullness of time. We hope for the day when not just spatting Anglicans but all God’s children will be so awed by God’s glory shining in each and every child that we will forget our differences and forgive each other.


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?

Total Ministry Development. Bishop Frensdorff made Nevada a pioneer in this field, and the Commission On Ministry is already creating an imaginative, innovative, and ambitious new model for ministry development today. The COM believes an excellent vision is coming into focus, and I agree.

What Nevada decidedly does not need is an outsider coming in with a different vision, or a set of “better” ideas from somewhere else. I would hope to join as an energetic new partner in the project. I would be a partner with a good deal of experience in ministry development and Christian Education, some ideas to share in due time, and a heart full of enthusiasm for empowering the ministries of others. I would bring ears to hear and eyes to see – a willingness to learn first and then become a servant leader, in partnership with the COM and others who will plan and implement this program.

My own theological education began in Idaho’s Deacon Formation program. Some of the priests who taught us said that we were getting better education than they had gotten in seminary. While there are advantages to seminary, there can also be a disconnect between the academic language of professors and the practice of parish ministry. Much of my ministry has been devoted to bridging that gap by translating academic teachings into plain English.

One of my favorite movie scenes is in Apollo 13, when the astronauts and engineers have to use whatever they can find on board, yes even duct tape, to retrofit a square filter onto a round vent. Just so, we have to adapt resources and education models to meet unique Diocesan needs. The COM envisions a model for ministry development based on training teams, ministry education programs like Life Cycles or EFM, and individual mentoring. I support that model and believe I could make a contribution:

Training Teams. I love teaching and would welcome the chance to participate in training teams. I have administered and taught in a training program for spiritual directors; organized and trained lay pastoral care teams; and taught many classes in Scripture, theology, prayer, church history, and social issues.

Education Programs. I am familiar with various education programs (EFM, Disciples of Christ in Community, and Living Into Our Baptism). I have experience with Servant Leadership training and the Lutheran Congregational Leader series. Although my present Diocese uses Fresh Start for new clergy and I have friends who have benefited from Fresh Start, I don’t have direct experience with it, and I know only what I have read about Life Cycles and Journey Into Faith. So I would have some things to learn as well as some things to offer.

Mentoring. I have been blessed with several good mentors myself and have spoken by telephone about parish issues to a wise family systems consultant in New York at least twice a month for over 16 years. Since ordination, I have attended (and some years facilitated) a clergy support group. More and more these days, other clergy have been calling me for advice. I don’t always have the answers, but I can usually ask helpful questions. I have served as spiritual director to aspirants and clergy and been a site supervisor for interns seeking ordination. I hope to continue supporting fellow clergy in these ways wherever I am.

The saying goes, “We are flying this plane while we’re building it.” That appears to be how Nevada has created and implemented a creative, progressive model for ministry development. My approach would be to keep flying the plane and keep building it at the same time. Part of the beauty of Total Ministry is that it is always a work in progress.

General Christian Education. Education programs are vitally important to parishes – urban and rural, large and small. They deepen relationships; attract people to the community; and provide pastoral support and guidance. Parker Palmer reminds us that education is about soul shaping, enriching the whole person, including the heart.

Parishes look to the Diocese for suggestions and resources to support their education of children, youth, and adults. The Bishop should work with the Resource Officer and others to support parish-based programs. The resources and specific educational priorities of each parish are different. The Diocese should honor the unique character of each congregation, being supportive rather than directive.

A Servant Leader would support parish programs primarily by facilitating exchanges of ideas and sharing of resources among parishes. From their web sites, it is clear that a number of Nevada parishes are offering truly first-rate education programs. I’ve already passed on some of what Nevada parishes are doing to my Adult Education team. There are already good ideas in the parishes, and they deserve to be spread around.

Nevada’s spaciousness does create special challenges in supporting education for rural congregations. But large dioceses with sparse populations are the reason God created cyberspace and said, “It is good.” Now it’s up to the Diocese to be fruitful and multiply learning on-line. Directors of Religious Education, catechists, and other Christian Educators could exchange ideas through list serves, blogs, chat rooms, and even the old-fashioned conference call. Besides building community, when parishes help each other, it is cost-effective. As priest of a small church with a moderate income membership, I’ve spent nearly 14 years doing a lot with a little. I have learned that soul-deepening Christian Education doesn’t have to be expensive, especially if we share.

Some congregations, such as Native American, Hispanic, and Filipino communities, need special Diocesan support that neighboring parishes may not be able to provide. The Diocese can connect those congregations to resources through the United Theological Seminary Indian Ministries Program, <www.episcopaleslatinos.org>, and other such specialized sources. Campus, young adult, senior, and singles ministries in the urban areas may also benefit from special support.

The Diocese must, of course, provide training in such areas as anti-racism, diversity, and inclusion; stewardship; and protecting children from abuse. A combination of electronic media, traveling trainers, and licensing local trainers could make important learning opportunities available without placing undue burdens on parishes. Most ministry is done at home, work, and otherwise out in the world. We have to be realistic about how much time the Church can consume. Too much churchiness is not good stewardship. And the job of the Diocesan office is to support parish ministries, not get in their way.

Finally, Christian Education should include a healthy dose of fun – for example, parties around the Diocese in conjunction with locally aired broadcasts of the Trinity Institute; on-line discussion groups for books and movies; etc. My parish received national publicity last fall, and welcomed quite a few unchurched visitors, for our series on the Gospel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. After all, learning often goes better with a laugh.


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?

Theology is “faith seeking understanding.” It begins in a trusting relationship with God, then tries to find a language to describe and express that relationship. It is a language of love, a life-giving language that gives us the courage to live boldly and compassionately in the world.

Scripture, Tradition, and Reason are the raw materials of theology. We get the vocabulary of faith from these sources. But Scripture, Tradition, and Reason have been used for both good and evil. There is religion that washes the wounds of lepers in Calcutta and religion that flies airplanes into skyscrapers. The dividing line is not between Christianity and Islam (or any other faith tradition). There are Muslims who perform acts of mercy and Christians who commit acts of terrorism. Everything depends on the lens through which we look at our sources. Good religion depends on reading all three of our sources of truth through the lens of a central guiding image: the Love of God, which for Christians is revealed in Jesus Christ.

My beliefs are grounded in Scripture as it has been interpreted through the centuries (that’s Tradition). Then I use Reason, including science, philosophy, experience, and common sense, to apply Scripture to the issues of today. I hope for “a kneeling theology,” beliefs grounded in prayer and contemplation. “Praying shapes believing,” we say. And I hope for a pastoral theology, beliefs grounded in the reality of daily life.

Spiritual leadership and pastoral care both depend on honest theology that speaks to ordinary people living ordinary lives. I adapt my manner to the pastoral or leadership situation, and the timing of our truth-speaking depends on the circumstance. But it’s always the same truth we hold. Reason keeps theology honest. Honest theology is reverent in the face of mystery. It acknowledges that we are stammering about truths we cannot fully grasp. Honest theology admits that Scripture and Tradition include diverse viewpoints that make rigid theological precision impossible. The Bible is not always an answer book. Sometimes it’s a question book, a text to be prayed with and lived with, an aid to faithful and open-hearted listening to the living God who, as the hymn says, “has yet more truth to break forth from his word.” The diversity embedded in Scripture and Tradition keeps doctrine flexible enough to meet people where they are.

Reason isn’t all in the head. It’s also in the heart. Spiritual leadership and pastoral care are both sensitive to human need. For example, I remember the case of a still birth. The distraught mother pleaded with the hospital chaplain to “baptize” her dead child. The chaplain refused, saying “sacraments are for the living, not the dead.” The chaplain described the situation to me as “a teaching moment.” In that sad circumstance, I expect the only lesson the mother learned was the hard-heartedness of the Church. Thanks be to God, an obstetrical nurse, who was the wife of an Episcopal priest, poured water over the baby and assured the mother that her baby was born in God’s image, never knew sin, was alive in the heart of God, held by Christ, and filled with eternal life by the Spirit; and that in the fullness of time she would see her child in light and love. Now that was good theology. That was teaching something true and kind and beautiful. Whether the nurse’s action was technically a “baptism” wasn’t really the point.

Scripture, Tradition, and Reason are the foundation of a living faith for today. They hold us up. They don’t pen us in. Theology isn’t a barb-wire fence around our creative imagination and honest inquiry. It’s an open range to explore. Four quotations from Scripture and Tradition express the heart of my theology:
1. Jesus’ most frequent commandment was “Fear not.”
2. Paul said, “For freedom, Christ has set us free.”
3. St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”
4. St. Ignatius Loyola said “All things glorify God by being themselves.”

Good theology instills the faith that sets us free. Good theology gives us courage to live fully and fearlessly and to become our own unique selves to the glory of God.

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