Friday, June 13, 2008

Interviewing a Bishop

Shrimp back, with more from the York Daily Record, which seems to think Lutherans are newsworthy. For the newspaper also featured yesterday an interview with Lower Susquehanna Synod Bishop B. Penrose Hoover, who took office after being elected last year.
The new Lutheran bishop had an eventful first 10 months as head of the Lower Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

In September, Bishop B. Penrose Hoover, 61, of Fairview Township took the helm of the denomination's fourth largest regional governing body. The synod comprises 125,000 baptized members in York, Adams and seven other counties.

Hoover had many plans, but much of his and his staffers' time was spent dealing with fallout from the arrest of the synod's long-time treasurer, who is accused of stealing more than $1 million in church funds.

Starting today, Hoover presides over his first synod assembly -- a gathering of 900 clergy, staff and lay people at Messiah College that concludes Saturday.
That's the introduction to an interview headlined, "Lutheran bishop weathers challenging year." Look at the questions:
  • One year after your election as bishop, can you describe the state of the synod?

  • The arrest and charges against former treasurer Barry Herr caused some loss of confidence in the synod for some local Lutherans. Are there any practical steps planned to help restore that trust?

  • I understand that as a result of the synod's handling of the Herr case, some congregations and clergy reacted by decreasing mission (monetary) support for the synod, acting hostilely toward synod staff and volunteers. There was some apathy and further division in the synod. What, if any, good came out of this experience?

  • What if anything, would you do differently if you could go back and change anything regarding the Herr case?

  • I understand the synod is seeking restitution for the money lost. Is there any money that the synod won't be able to collect?

  • Will there be an election for the office of treasurer at the synod assembly next week?

  • Who is handling the accounts now?

  • What were some of your goals for your first year leading the synod?

  • In your annual bishop's report, you issued a challenge to congregations to revisit, revise and reaffirm their statements of mission. Why will this be helpful to churches?

  • At the synod assembly this week, the York Conference will propose a resolution expressing concerns about the executive compensation packages of three top officers at Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, a synod-supported social services agency that covers parts of three states.

    What kind of contributions does the synod make to Diakon? Do you believe large compensation packages for Diakon executives are in conflict, or not, with the mission of this church-affiliated organization?

  • On top of that $2,000 that's given annually to Diakon, I'm guessing there might also be congregations who contribute beyond that to Diakon?

  • What do you think of your new job? Can you see yourself seeking a second term?

  • An article in The Lutheran magazine about your relationship with your daughter, Heidi, who's studying to become a rabbi, drew a lot of letters to the editor.

    Some people questioned why a Christian magazine would highlight the story of someone who had left the faith and questioned whether your approval of Heidi's decision meant church approval of her decision. What did you think of the article and the reaction to it?

  • A few months after you were consecrated, you took a month-long leave of absence to seek treatment for alcoholism.

  • How did you arrive at that decision? How did you know it was time to take action?

  • Did you worry at all that this would reflect badly on your cause or your position as champion and servant of the synod? That it would give your critics a reason to say, "Here's reason why he's not right for the job," or something like that?

  • When you can handle it, it's nice to have a drink at the end of the day to unwind, and that's something you can no longer do. You are a man with a stressful job, so how do you deal with the stress now?

  • Looking forward, can you talk about what your vision is for the synod, the synod office and the community of Lutherans here?
  • Wow. That's a pretty good grilling, and we commend Bishop Hoover for submitting to such an interview. We've never seen an ELCA bishop (or candidate for bishop) questioned so directly. For Bishop Hoover's responses to the York Daily Record, read the interview.

    Shrimp out.

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