Bishop on Sabbatical

Rev. Dr. S. John Roth, Bishop of the C/SIS, is to be on sabbatical from October 7th, 2018 to January 6th, 2019.  He will be exploring the way ELCA synods and bishops gauge and respond to challenges the church faces--whether with technical or adaptive "fixes," and which are appropriate for various circumstances.  This study will bring him to various synods across the ELCA to learn from other synods.  Bishop Richard Hoyme (retired June 2018 from the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin), is to serve as Acting Bishop during the sabbatical.  Please pray for Bishop Roth in his time of centering, learning, and professional and spiritual growth.

Sabbatical Plan

Program Objectives: 1) To identify and to distinguish technical challenges (i.e., those challenges for which we already have systems, procedures, and resources to available to address effectively the challenges) from adaptive challenges (i.e., those challenges for which we will have to learn or create ways unknown to us now in order to address effectively the challenges).  For example, a congregational budget challenge is generally treated as a technical challenge: the solution is to find more money or to cut expenses; but if the budget challenge is essentially a symptom of a deeper question of where people’s hearts and minds are, the technical “fix” of new income stream or reducing costs will not solve the adaptive challenge.  2) To gauge the degree to which the office of bishop in the ELCA provides the office holder with the capacity a) to achieve the constitutional responsibilities assigned to the bishop and b) to exercise adaptive leadership.  

Personal Objectives: As mentioned above, a renewal period is time for intention exploration and reflection, for regaining the enthusiasm and creativity for ministry, for surveying fresh ways to address current challenges.  The combination of staying on top of the pressing day-to-day responsibilities, keeping up with the pace of change at every expression of the ELCA, and addressing conflicts in congregations leaves a bishop precious little time for the crucial job of reflection on the big picture and of planning adaptive change.  Consequently, the overall personal sabbatical objective of gaining greater perspective on the particular ministry of the ELCA synodical bishop ministry’s in the mission of the synod.  

Major Elements of the Experience: 

  1. Getting on “the balcony”.  “Achieving a balcony perspective means taking yourself out of the dance, in your mind….The only way you gain both a clearer view of reality and some perspective on the bigger picture is by distancing yourself from the fray” (Heifetz and Linsky, Leadership on the Line, p. 53).  

  2. Visits with other ELCA synods engaged in innovative ministries that we may learn from in our synod.  A minimum of three days on site.   

Checklist of specific points of inquiry

  • Staffing – position descriptions, accountabilities, authorities, oversight, pros and cons of staffing structure

  • Income streams and budgeting – current, trend, anticipated

  • Candidacy – focus on activities or engagements related to lifting up being a pastor or deacon as a viable vocation

  • Interim ministry – challenges, models, resources, costs, pros and cons

  • Call process – challenges, resources, guidance for congregations, current practices, and anticipated changes, pros and cons

  • Synodically Authorized Ministry – training, authorization, expectations, context, pros and cons

  • Ecumenically-shared ministries – history, contexts, expectations, future plans, pros and cons

  • Information supplied by ELCA Research and Evaluation for each synod: Statistical Report and Data Kit

  • Conversations with any or all the following: synod bishops, assistants to the bishop, DEMs, synod committee chairs, anyone interesting

  • Items of interest to the bishop of the synod being visited

3) Reading (the bibliography is under construction and includes a array of works on theology, leadership, adaptive change, and church practice).  

4) Guided conversations with former ELCA synod bishops.

5) As opportunities present themselves, guided conversations with bishops and other judicatory heads in other U.S. denominations, including judicatories composed primarily of people of color.  

Tucker GoodComment