An Evaluation of the Transition Process within the Episcopal Church aka "So you want to call a Rector or Be a Rector? Church Deployment for Dummies"

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Hutton, Linda V
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Rector search process , Priest search process , Transition , Church Profile , Church Deployment , Church Deployment Office
The January 2007 edition of Episcopal Life carried an article titled: “Singing the unemployment blues: Minimal help, outdated job listings and silence from potential employers test job seeker.” The article drew a surprising number of editorial responses in the following issue—all in concurrence with the author’s article. Three years ago, I spent over 21 months as an Interim, Priest-in-Charge while concurrently searching for a rector position. I coincidentally provided pastoral care to my congregation’s search committee as they also sought to weave their way through this cumbersome process of finding a new rector. As a result, I found myself with a unique perspective of simultaneously looking at both sides. I had the opportunity to participate fully in a number of search processes. Throughout the search process, I noticed numerous glaring mistakes made by search committees and prospective candidates, myself included that could easily be corrected if only someone would address them in a public venue. I designed this project to do just that, hence the title: “So You Want to Call a Rector or Be a Rector? Church Deployment for Dummies ©.” This work is intended for a publishing proposal to Wiley Publications, the trademark and copyright holder of the For Dummies series. This comprehensive “process guide,” which constitutes Part II of this work, incorporates the analyzed data and recommendations of Part I into the main body. The elements in Part II outline procedures and considerations for both search committees and rector candidates. The transition process for calling and installing rectors in the Episcopal Church is in many ways cumbersome and inefficient. Comments concerning “deployment” in The Episcopal Church, from bishops, transition officers, search committees, and priests, are universally negative. The first question is: Are these negative reactions valid? Are the reasons for such a universally negative opinion based upon fact, experience, or hearsay? Admittedly, the transition process in The Episcopal Church does some things well and some things less well. The question is why and what can be done, given the varieties and differences between 100-plus unique dioceses and thousands of parishes ranging in size from small family to mega-large corporate? The transition process is fundamentally an integrated system whose purpose is the connection of a church and its rector. However, the question asked is, “Is the system operating efficiently or in a way that at times actually impedes mission accomplishment”? Research found that despite the nearly universal perception that the transition process of The Episcopal Church is “broken,” the data fundamentally rejects that perception. Although both search committees and rector candidates often felt frustration with the process and they subsequently reported parts of the process confusing or cumbersome, satisfaction with the results were mutual and statistically overwhelming. This does not mean that there are no lessons learned or room for improvement. The good news is that the ‘system’ does work, albeit inefficiently.