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Al Keeney  Essay Answers from
  AL KEENEY

 

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?

Several years ago I took part in a Benedictine Experience in the cathedral community of Norwich, England. Part of that experience included being in the cathedral in the after-hours and being able to enter into areas not usually accessible to all visitors. As I explored the area near the high altar I noticed the bishop’s chair, behind and above the altar. I imagined a mitered bishop sitting in that chair and thought that not only was the bishop visible to everyone; but the bishop had a vantage point to see the congregation and beyond them too. The bishop was a focal point who could, in literally overseeing those gathered, point to other possibilities and directions. With that picture in mind let me suggest that being a focal point in this time, with the many important issues facing the Church today, a bishop can engage the diocese and the wider community in conversation and discernment of how we might deal with the many opportunities and challenges that have and will present themselves to us as the Body of Christ and can help us to see beyond ourselves to the One who would guide and companion us along the Way.

In that role I would seek to include all of us in prayerfully seeking the truth together, as I firmly believe that no one of us has it all. My belief is that all are not only welcome at the table but that we must work to see how, through our blindness and our prejudice, we keep some away who need to be part of the conversation. We cannot have a complete conversation nor develop a vision, nor know the truth without them. And in seeking truth I would remind us all, as I must remind myself, that as people of faith we are not always addressing issues that can be completely resolved, but that we recognize that there is some mystery in our search for the truth, which I have learned means humbly acknowledging my inability to know the whole truth absolutely.

Beginning with myself, I would start with listening to the needs and concerns of the diocese through visitation and clergy gatherings and encourage all to not be afraid of dealing with the more difficult and controversial issues, remembering that this is an essential part of the Anglican/Episcopal ethos. And in modeling that, I would encourage clergy and congregations to delve deeply into the issues we face as community. The listening I encourage is a deep listening that seeks to silence the inner voice of self and to hear the voice of the other. I am painfully aware that when we do not listen in this way we do injustice to the other and often find ourselves becoming hostile and defensive. I believe that this kind of non-listening has permeated much of the conversation that has occurred over issues that are now dividing us as Episcopalians and Anglicans. Learning how to listen to those who disagree with me has been and continues to be a grace-necessary work for me. But I seek in the words of our baptismal covenant “to respect the dignity of every human being.” It is a challenging and sometimes difficult thing, this kind of deep listening, and I do not do it perfectly. But I pray for and trust in God’s grace to help me do it well.

At the diocesan level I would ask us to set agendas for addressing issues lest we lose sight of our direction and find ourselves wandering around in the ever expanding and confusing fog of controversy. And in looking at issues together, I would remind us that our issues are not just on the national and international level but at the diocesan level too. That they are not always around matters of controversy. That they are also issues of mission and ministry and that we would do well not to lose sight of that. We can support each other in this work through developing means of sharing our individual and communal understandings, successes and failures in our common journey together. And we should avail ourselves of the vast array of electronic media that can be part of the web that holds us together over the wide expanse of the Nevada diocese.

Of all of the liturgies I preside over as priest, the Rite of Holy Baptism is indeed my favorite. In that rite I find many places where my heart is deeply touched. Most especially I am moved, just after the pouring of the baptismal water, when I say: “Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all of your works.” It sometimes happens that the little one is crying after having been startled awake with the baptismal water. And as they cry so loudly and I say those words I think that if they could harness that energy in having an inquiring and discerning heart we would all be better off as the Body of Christ. Sadly, I feel we many times neglect our young people. So I believe we must find ways to engage our young people in our discernment around these important issues too. More often than not, we provide social gatherings for them but do not deem them mature enough to include them in the very issues that are affecting them or will be affecting them. Programs like “Journey to Adulthood” get them looking at and discussing the issues they face in growing up in a secular society and I would seek to establish programs like this where we can honor the gifts of our young people. I am constantly amazed when I am in conversation with them how much they have to contribute to our common life together. I would work to find ways in which we might try engaging them rather than spending so much energy in just entertaining them.

While bishops can be the focal points for our life together as a diocese, and can help in the discernment of God’s call to us, I am firm in my belief that this work is not the work of one person alone. I am most moved by the words of Teresa of Avila, the 14th century mystic, whose vision of the Body of Christ I have adapted into a final blessing at our Sunday Eucharist: “Christ has no body on earth but ours, no hands but ours, no feet but ours. Ours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion looks out upon the world. Ours are the feet with which Christ is in the world. Ours are the hands with which Christ blesses all people now. Let us go from this place, without fear, and be the Body of Christ in the world. And the blessing of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with us this day and always. Amen.”

 

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?

Getting to know the diocese in its diversity and geography would be a primary objective of mine right from the beginning. I would want to spend some extended time in each of the districts in order to get to know the flavor of ministry there and the people of the parishes doing that ministry. That would include a time of bible study, prayer and conversation with the clergy serving in these districts. And in getting to know the diocese, I would want to celebrate the multi-cultural expression of the many varieties of ministry that are going on here already. Too often when new leadership arrives there is a need in the new leader to put things in order and to “fix” things according to how the new leader thinks things should go. I want to honor the ministry already in place, to hear from the experts, those who are doing the actual ministry, what is working, what might need some different kind of thinking and what tools or support we as diocesan staff can provide. And if there is a challenge or particular issue that needs our best thinking, I would want to gather together those who are willing to join in visioning how we might meet the challenge creatively. I encourage “out-of-the-box” thinking in this regard to keep us from falling into the trap of “we’ve always done it this way.” I seek to encourage creativity, but am also convinced that we should err on the side of caution in trying to tweak things to perfection. I also believe if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I have a particularly strong desire to develop not only meaningful youth formation and education, but most especially I want to develop opportunities for ongoing spiritual formation and education for adults. We have an opportunity to speak to a world that is starving for spiritual nourishment and our particular denominational gift is one of a heritage of Christian spirituality and a willingness to discuss, to explore deeper the many challenges and opportunities that face us. In the early years of this new century it is a need that I think we, as Episcopalians, are especially able to fill. I think developing meaningful and regular adult formation and education experiences will help deepen our own diocesan lives so that we can then offer these as evangelism tools that can help us to build up the Body of Christ in its particularity as the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada.

The challenges of diversity and geography are formidable, but they are not impossible. You are already exploring how to use Total Common Ministry in multiple ways throughout the diocese; and I applaud you for developing a meaningful diaconal ministry as well. I am committed to continuing and enhancing these ministries, for I have seen first hand how they have spread ministry to so many more of the baptized. I think that in addition to addressing diverse district needs we might consider some ways in which we might support each other in prayer and in taking on diocesan wide study and worship opportunities that could unite us across many miles by their common design and goals. I would look for every opportunity to strengthen community while celebrating and addressing the diversity of the diocese. I think we can do some of this through a variety of communication tools both established and those that are more innovative. In this regard, I would hope that we would seek the creative guidance and grace of God’s life-giving Spirit to energize us around this.

 

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?

3a. How does your theology integrate the elements of scripture, reason and tradition?

I have been an Episcopalian for 30 years. But I know in my heart that I have been an Anglican for more than that. Growing up in a tradition where the catechism told me the answers I needed to know and where some questions were not open to discussion, I sensed that there must be a better way to live out this journey of faith. For quite a while I thought that I would not find a place to call home within the mainline churches. It was in a chance visit (I know that it wasn’t really by chance) to an Episcopal church in Webster Groves, Missouri that I learned there was a place I could call home. It was there that I began to engage in discussions around matters of faith that I thought had long been closed. It was there that I learned that in the Episcopal Church there was room for doubt and different beliefs within the same community. It was there that I began to see that authority in the Episcopal Church was not being tied up in a nice neat little package of “this you must believe” but that it was there in the tension between scripture, reason and tradition.

My experience is of the immanent presence of the Holy. I trust in God’s abiding presence. That God is closer to me than my very breath. That God is not only present but is actively seeking me, loving me and desiring to be a help and guide along life’s journey. And I believe that to be true of God’s presence in the Church. I do believe that God’s revelation happened uniquely in Jesus. I do not believe that God’s revelation happened and then ended a long time ago. And with that in mind it seems to me that if we as the community of the Church would be open to the possibility of the Holy Spirit leading us into further revelation then we must live in the tension between scripture, reason and tradition, if we are going to hear what God has to say to the Church. Too much of an emphasis on one thing can dangerously lead me to ignore the other pieces of the tension and perhaps convince me that I have found the road to certainty. I am willing to live with the ambiguity that this tension often times creates, but living with that ambiguity reminds me that I do not have the whole picture or story, and that I must remain open through holy listening to the Holy One in prayerful consideration of the scriptures, to my brothers and sisters with me on the way, whose journeys help me to see further into the truth, and to honor and seek to understand the rich experiences of those who have over the centuries laid the foundations for the path we walk. At any given time we might discern, in community, through our listening and conversation, that we have another piece of the puzzle that is our journey. And then again, we might have to remain open to the realization that maybe we do not.

The phrase “May you live in interesting times!” might be a description of where we are now in the life of this Church and the whole of Christianity. I think of it as a particularly fertile time for the Christian church. In the light of a growing fundamentalism and of a growing number of people who have been unchurched most of their life we have an opportunity to tell the stories of our faith all over again, to preach the Good News and to proclaim Jesus as Lord. We have an opportunity to reach out to those who have been turned off by simplistic answers to life’s most complex questions or have been told that their questions have been already answered and they had best not mess around with truth. We can tell them that there is a place for them in the Episcopal Church. That they can join others on this journey, in a community that is willing to live with ambiguity but seeks to know Jesus, that questions and questions and listens and listens but seeks to love God and to love their neighbor, where we do not always claim certainty but we do struggle to be faithful. We have a wonderful story to tell and I am deeply grateful for the grace of God that has called me to be part of it.

 

3b. Are there differences in your focus and style when functioning in pastoral or leadership roles?

An interesting question, as it calls for me to reflect on just what is going on in these types of situations.

I would say that in my pastoral role, I am less of a speaker and more of a listener and that instead of an awareness of the process I am more focused on the individual or individuals I am with. It can often times be more a role of quiet presence then anything else.

In my leadership role I am aware of process and what is going on in the dynamics of the moment. It usually means that I am also more vocal in this role. It requires a lot of different skills for me and discernment of what is appropriate at the time and what is not. And even though I am very much involved in process, I also keep myself attuned to what is happening, to what is going on with individuals and with the group as a whole. It requires a significant amount of energy in doing all of this. (I had no idea it was that complex!)


CATHY DEATS' Essay Answers

DAN EDWARDS' Essay Answers

ERIC FUNSTON's Essay Answers

JEFF PAUL's Essay Answers

SUSAN BURNS' Essay Answers

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