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Eric Funston

  Essay Answers from
  ERIC FUNSTON

 

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?

Proclaim the Good News: The first question begs the question, “What are the
‘important issues’ facing our church today?” I suggest that they are the mission tasks
given us by Jesus, which unfortunately are not the issues currently commanding our
attention and energies.

I do not mean to downplay the ecclesial matters of fully incorporating all people into the
life of the church (including gay and lesbian persons) and defining our structures of
organization (including our relationships within the Anglican Communion). These are
weighty matters and we need to take them seriously. I would seek to address these
matters as they may evolve in the Diocese of Nevada, like all physical and spiritual
needs, in a collegial, cooperative and creative manner.

Such questions regarding the inclusion of gay and lesbian persons, and church
organization, are serious, and are part of even broader issues facing the church. These
larger issues are the external priorities set by Jesus:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey
everything that I have commanded you.” (Mk 28:19-20)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good
news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery
of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's
favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

We live in a society and world filled with those who are spiritually and physically
hungry, those who are spiritually and physically homeless, those who are spiritually and
physically blind, those who are spiritually and physically captive. The important issues
facing the Episcopal Church today are the issues that have faced the people of God for
millennia: How do we proclaim the Good News to those in physical and spiritual need?

Leadership: There are many practical ways to address the important issues facing the
church, and some suggestions are outlined below. Throughout any activity, there are
foundational leadership elements that I would bring to every effort. Some of the qualities
I value and would offer to the diocese include mutuality, compassion, clear
communication, collaboration, and respect for others.

Interfaith Partnerships: As bishop, I would strive to be a “bridge-builder” in
ministering to the needs of the spiritually hungry, working with others to create
partnerships within the diocese, as well as across denominational and interfaith
boundaries. We should develop such partnerships in ministry to meet the spiritual needs
of our society. Gathering such partners may be something new. By negotiating and
partnering with other religious communities to develop a more ecumenical response to
the spiritual hunger in our world, I know we can address these issues and I am sure we
will gain much more than we risk losing.

Partner with Non-Church Entities: In working to meet the physical needs of many
in our world, as bishop, in the role of chief executive officer of the diocese, I would
work at negotiating and establishing relationships not only with other faith groups,
but also with non-church entities who also have a vested interest in the welfare of
the community.  These secular partners might include social agencies with similar
concerns, such as preschool and elder-care programs; resource groups such as
hospitals, libraries, colleges and school systems; public groups such as city boards,
state agencies, or legislative offices; service organizations like Rotary, the Kiwanis
Club, the Lions, 4-H, and the YWCA; and private sector businesses such as real
estate agencies, convenience stores, and local banks or savings-and-loans.

Cooperative, Distributed Leadership: I would entrust the responsibility to design,
plan, and implement these ministries to staff and volunteers (from both diocesan and
parish levels), both during the establishment of such partnerships and projects, and
especially after they are “up-and-running.” I would encourage core committees to take a
strong hand in design and implementation. The leadership of and responsibility for these
partnerships and ministry programs must be cooperatively generated and distributed
among appropriate boards, committees, volunteers, bishop and other staff.

Living with Disagreement: The answer to the second question is contained within it.
I simply will engage with those who disagree with me to the extent that they allow me. I
cannot demand that anyone share my theology. I cannot insist that others read Scripture
as I do. I can only share my theology and my reading of Scripture with them, and listen
to their theology and their bible reading with the same respect I hope they will give me.
We may disagree on many subjects; we may find it hard to live with those disagreements
– but we cannot refuse to do so because we have all been saved by the same Lord and
we have all be invited to the same Table. As Bishop Steven Charleston, dean of
Episcopal Divinity School has said:

      Now is the time for us to extend our hands to one another.
      We will not walk away from the Body of Christ.
      Now is the time for us to use our hands.
     We will not place pride over mission.
     Now is the time for us to raise our hands.
     We will not forget that to God alone goes the glory.

We must invite those who may disagree with us to nonetheless stand with us in the
unconditional love of God. That is my invitation to those who disagree with me.

 

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?

Teaching Ministry: I love teaching; I often find I learn as much as anyone in the class.
Offering Christian education to all age groups, but especially to adults eager to learn,
and participating in learning opportunities is always an opportunity for my own 
spiritual growth and one of my favorite parts of ministry. I well remember and enjoyed
taking part in the TEAM Academy classes in Nevada in the 1970s and have continued
in that practice throughout ordained ministry.

Episcopal Leadership: Bishops, like all priests and other leaders of the church,
do not “run the church.” Rather, church leaders are “teachers” in the very best sense.
I see my ministry (whether as priest or as bishop) as being one of teaching,
administering, managing, and shepherding – working with and equipping other people
(and receiving the same ministry from them, being a learner as well as a teacher) so that
we all mature spiritually and grow into “the measure of the stature of the fullness of
Christ.” (Ephes.4:13) In this way the body of Christ, the church, is strengthened and
increased, and people are prepared for and nurtured in ministry in the church and world.

Thus, I would lead the effort to establish and sustain a diffuse-but-linked educational
system, with this biblical approach to leadership: empowering, giving resources,
information, opportunity, and encouragement to others so they can fulfill the ministry
God has given them. I believe this is the essence of what St. Paul called “equipping the
saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephes. 4:12)

A Great Foundation: I know that as the Diocese of Nevada developed the Mutual
Ministry Handbook, and lead the way in “Canon 9” and mutual ministry development, it
has laid a great foundation on which to build a really great system. Just dreaming for the
moment, I could see the diocese creating and equipping regional learning resource
centers with libraries, computers with internet and intranet linkages, and conference
facilities in, perhaps, the Reno/Sparks/Carson City area, the Henderson/Las
Vegas/Pahrump region, and the eastern side of the state somewhere along US Highway
93 (maybe Ely) to serve the congregations from Pioche to Elko. These could serve not
only our own congregations, but other faith groups and non-church entities as well, in
keeping with the partnerships mentioned in answer to Question 1.

Centers of Teaching and Learning: With the great variety of churches in the
Diocese of Nevada and its large geographic size, we could build local centers of
teaching and learning not only in those regional centers, but in smaller areas as well.
They would allow each locality (city, town, or region) to help the people therein to
learn and develop in ways appropriate to their context and which connect with the
vision and development of the church locally, regionally, nationally, and globally.
Each center would be encouraged to reflect a particular emphasis in Christian
understanding and spirituality.

Personal and Technological Connections: These centers could be linked in at
least two ways. First, personally through regular conferences of the educational
leaders (including me) to share techniques, learnings, and resources, and to
establish shared goals; and through regular and special regional and diocesan
educational events utilizing both the internal resources of the diocese and others
from outside it. Second, technologically through electronic communication
(internet, internet conferencing, email, and so forth) so that people at distance from
one another can, nonetheless, participate in real-time mutual learning experiences.
These technological linkages could also permit the involvement of educators
outside the diocese (for example, seminary professors, missionaries serving
overseas, and knowledgeable church leaders in other parts of the country).

Hands-on and Innovative: In summary, my approach to educational and ministry
development leadership would be hands-on and collegial, dispersed throughout the
diocese, innovative, and willing to use new technologies and resources.

 

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?

The “Three-Legged Stool”: The basic theological method I follow is the famous
“Three-Legged Stool” attributed to Richard Hooker (though I know that he didn’t
actually use that metaphor). This method balances and integrates elements of inquiry
and practice, and asks the believer to bring together all aspects of life and faith.

Holy Scripture: I give Holy Scripture the place of paramount authority, but recognize
that except in its fundamental gospel, scripture is not self-explanatory; it requires the
application of reason. This is why Hooker wrote that, in matters of doctrine and practice,
“what scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience is
due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of
reason.” After these, he adds, “the voice of the church succeedeth” (Of the Lawes of
Ecclesiastical Polity, Book III), the “voice of the church” being what we commonly call
“tradition” today.

Reason and Experience: I try to apply what I understand Hooker’s concept of
“reason” to have been, which is quite different from our modern idea drawn from the
Enlightenment. Our modern post-Enlightenment world conceives of nature and the
universe as operating strictly on mechanistic rational rules. These rules, we believe,
can be perceived and understood by the autonomous human mind through scientific
research, critical reasoning, and rationality. For Hooker, however, “reason” is not
autonomous, individualistic, arrogant, or secular; it is not even particularly critical.
On the contrary, reason is a divinely implanted faculty for apprehending the truth
revealed by God in nature or scripture. It is first receptive, then discriminating. I see
the role of reason as not simply to deduce the natural laws governing the universe,
but to bring human existence into conformity with the order and harmony God desires
for us. Thus, human experience is as much a part of “reason” as are rationality and
logic. Perhaps this is why the post-Enlightenment Anglican founder of Methodism,
John Wesley, is credited with adding a fourth “leg” to the stool – that of “experience”
– thus creating what has been called the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral.”

Science: In my experience, an additional part of applying “reason” to theological
issues is to apply discoveries of the natural sciences. This means that “reason”
is an everevolving and constantly changing part of the methodological mix. Science,
as the history of scientific discovery shows, does not always remain true for all times,
because new data and theories inevitably supercede older ones. Scientific research
provides a kind of  selftranscending hermeneutic that leads to a progressive unfolding
of facts from which new understandings and new technologies arise. I believe these
must be understood and judged in the light of Scripture, but they help us by shedding
light on and aiding in the understanding of the Scriptures.

Tradition: For me, as for Hooker, the third of the strands in the “threefold cord not
quickly broken” is tradition. The “very authority of the church itself” is at the end of the
theological process, providing guidance when “neither the evidence of any law divine,
nor the strength of any invincible argument” gives a sufficient answer. (Book II) My
appeal to “the judgement of antiquity, and … the long continued practice of the whole
church,” however, is largely pragmatic. I decline to absolutize the authority of the
church’s tradition. This honors the 34th Article of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion,
which says in part:

It is not necessary that the Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or
utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according
to the diversity of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be
ordained against God's Word.

An Integrative Approach: In summary then, my theological method is balanced and
integrated, reading the Holy Scriptures in the light of reason (which includes our
experience and the insights of modern science), and with the aid of the historic insights
and practices of the church.

Pastoral and Leadership Roles: In the same way, I try to balance and integrate my
leadership and pastoral roles. I strive for shared leadership and shared pastoral care in
ministry. If I were to serve with you as your bishop, I would hope to continue to do so.
Thinking of the work of a bishop as “pastor of a diocese” (BCP, p. 855) can give us a
framework for looking at “pastors” being “leaders.” Whether offering direct pastoral
care during a personal crisis, or providing guidance in challenging decision-making,
I see the role of a bishop as developing and nurturing relationships, as well as providing
visionand oversight. The roles of pastor and leader are mutually complimentary.


AL KEENEY's Essay Answers

CATHY DEATS' Essay Answers

DAN EDWARDS' Essay Answers

JEFF PAUL 's Essay Answers

SUSAN BURNS' Essay Answers

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