A Conversation of Mutual Discernment – Deacon Margy Schmitt Ajer
by Kathye Hamm
Part of my ongoing guidance to congregations seeking new pastoral leadership and to pastors thinking about a new call is to frame our thinking as not a hiring process, not a job interview, but as a “conversation of mutual discernment”. It is important in any call process that we discern together what God is up to, and how the Holy Spirit is at work bringing people and pastor together. Mutual discernment means we spend less time looking at which pastor is better than another (this shouldn’t be a competition), we spend less time focusing on finding the perfect match (they don’t exist), we spend less time trying to make ourselves look good (that only leads to disappointment). Instead we practice discerning together what God is calling us to do, and who God is leading to serve with us.
I believe this is all true for our synod as well, as we seek a new bishop. Although we call it an election (and there are indeed elements of that), this is first a discernment process. As people of the Sierra Pacific Synod, we are discerning what God is calling us to be, and how God is setting our mission before us, including the kind of leadership that will best help us serve that mission. In a similar way, there are pastors among us who may be discerning if God may be calling them to use their gifts in leading this synod to answer the call before us.
The important thing to focus on is that this is about discernment together. It is not a competition, it is not about seeking a “promotion”, it is not about campaigning. It is an ongoing, mutual, conversation together, to discern together who God is calling to serve as our bishop.
The discernment continues during the process of election. As we hear from nominees, as we ask questions together, as we engage in reflection and conversation together, as we pray for God’s wisdom and guidance, we will trust that God is leading us to a final discernment of who we (along with the Holy Spirt!) will call to be our bishop.
And because we have been in discernment together, we will thank God for the leading of the Spirit, and we will move forward together, along with the one who has been called as bishop, as the community of faith God has called us to be.
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