Dear brothers and sisters,
This past Tuesday I presented a letter to the Standing Committee, announcing my retirement as of June 30, 2016. At the time, I will have served as bishop of this wonderful diocese for 16 years. My ministry as your bishop, however, will actually conclude three months earlier – March 31, 2016 – when I begin a three-month sabbatical to write a long-planned book.
Palm Sunday marks the first day of a new visitation cycle. In my closing cycle, I will have the opportunity to visit all 36 churches of our diocese and to thank you for your witness to Jesus, for your faithfulness in mission and ministry, and for your kindness and encouragement to Sylvia and to me.
I have said many times and in many settings that if I had the opportunity to choose any diocese in the Episcopal Church to serve as bishop, I would without hesitation select Northern Indiana. Our diocese is a profoundly Christ-centered community, a place where Jesus is known, loved, worshiped, and followed. Our relationships are deep. Indeed, the small size of our diocese is a blessing, because it has given me the gift of knowing people and parishes in a way that my colleague bishops envy. March 18, 2000, the day of my consecration in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of Notre Dame, marked a turning point in my life for which I will always give thanks. You have touched Sylvia’s life and mine, welcomed us into your hearts, and drawn us ever more deeply into the heart of Jesus himself.
Sunday is the high point of my week. Worshiping with you, hearing the Word and sharing the Eucharist, and seeing Jesus at work in a glorious variety of ways have planted memories that I will forever cherish. I offer thanks to God for the gift of walking with you as fellow disciples, and am humbled by the expressions of love and support that Sylvia and I have received during a decade and a half of ministry in Northern Indiana.
In the coming months, I ask for your prayers for the Standing Committee, under the leadership of its president, Fr. Matthew Cowden. Their task is to discern the next steps for the diocese and to oversee the process of electing the 8th Bishop of Northern Indiana. This challenging and exciting work will be an opportunity for the entire diocese to walk in faith into the future that God has planned.
St. Paul’s words seem especially apt, and express something of what I feel as I write this letter: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:3-5).
I lean on St. Paul’s words because I am overwhelmed with gratitude, beyond my ability fully to articulate, for the privilege of serving as Bishop of Northern Indiana. With love and blessings I am
Yours in Christ,