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Dear Ones,

A little over a year ago we embarked together on a journey of discernment and listening. This journey was sparked by a vow I made in the episcopate election of 2007 in which I stated I would probably leave this position in 10-12 years. If you have watched the videos I have made about this, and/or attended many of the “Walk Again” listening sessions of this past year, you know about how all of this transpired. I felt it very important that I honor that vow and that we review it carefully together. I appreciate the way the Standing Committee, and especially its President, the Rev. Arienne Davison, took up that challenge and has led us in that process this past year. I continue to believe what I said at the beginning of this journey, that regardless of the outcome we would learn and grow from the process. I believe that has happened. It has certainly happened for me. I was also clear in my mind, and heart, and in my words throughout the year that we would most likely not do this perfectly, and that we would find, as we always do, ways we could do it better the next time.

The data from our year of listening, along with countless messages, sharing, words of discouragement and encouragement, and an immense generosity on behalf of the many faithful in this diocese willing to be part of this conversation, have been priceless to me in my discernment. In short, it has led me to believe that we should walk on together still, at least for a time. I can only claim this for myself, but what I want to say now is that I am still, and very much still, enthusiastic about our work together. More pointedly, and more personally, I still love working in this vocation, for you and for the Church. I know I have many failings in this work, and I will continue to have them, but I do strive daily to do the best I can, and to be the best I can for all of you. I would like to continue that.

There is still so much yet to be done. At our Walk Again gatherings this past year, and in my sharing with you during that time, I have shared the first words I heard after I told the governing bodies that it was probably time to leave: “It feels like we just got started.” And those words have continued to ring true to me. In some ways, it always feels that way when we, collectively, are on an important mission together. But this specific pilgrimage we share definitely feels that way to me. There are many good turns and accomplishments, and many things we have yet to really address enough, or make headway in, that do deserve our concentrated effort, and do not deserve the instability of a search, and transition.

I believe this decision offers us all a chance to set some new priorities and essentially set out on a “second episcopacy.” In the first, we set some good solid foundations in place, focusing on the local and the leaders in those local contexts, giving skills and tools to bring health and strength to our shared mission. We have lowered assessments, trained for leadership and development, streamlined and reimagined the Office of Bishop role, and put the diocese on a sound financial footing. Now, I believe, we can focus on some of the weightier and more life transforming issues for our Church, such as true growth of the Church and not continued decline, such as parity in leadership in gender, culture, and color, such as finding more ways to give from our abundance to the greater Episcopal Church and Christianity, and to continue to envision and live into the church of tomorrow.

As I said in the Walk Agains, in the years ahead I see us moving from maintaining to growing, living into and owning our innovation and sharing that with the greater Church, and being a prophetic voice in the Church, and for Western Washington and beyond.

These are all systemic changes and systemic change takes time and effort and does not often move at the pace we would wish, nor sometimes in all the directions we wish. That has, and will continue to bring, challenge and frustration as the needs are great, in many cases long standing and sometimes unacknowledged. By being forthright, generous, and expectant about these challenges, we can make the space for deeper discussions and hopefully, an openness to explore new ways and approaches to many of these issues.

Some things are obvious: as a cisgender straight white male, who is choosing to stay, I am not making room for new leadership, especially persons of color and/or female leadership. That fact is not lost on me. I do hope we can use this time to prepare even more for that as a real possibility when the transition does occur. I do believe we, as a people, still have work to do in that area as well. We are seeing a most welcome change in the makeup of the House of Bishops in race and gender, but certainly we have a long way to go.

One thing this year of pilgrimage and my sabbatical of pilgrimage have taught me is that with each step we are changed. We arrive at every new turn, or hill, or stream, new and different. Each day, we leave behind the person we were yesterday. As a diocese, a collective journeying together, we also live that reality. We are not the same as we were 13 years ago, and certainly, in all the ways we are changed, the judgement as to whether those changes are for good or ill are up for debate. However, the overwhelming feedback seems to be that we are heading in the right direction, that we are focused on the right things, or trying to be. That seems worth continuing, at least for a time, and I offer myself to do so.

I would also say the intent is that this “second episcopate” will be different, focused in different directions. The staff will continue to be reorganized for that difference and focus, and even my role is going to evolve differently than the time behind us. More on all that later, but for now I simply want to say, I would like to continue in this role, walking with all of you. One of the most powerful determinants in my decision was the joy and blessing I have received in being part of our work together, in this place, at this time. For that blessing I am deeply grateful, and I thank you.

Blessings,

The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel
VIII Bishop of Olympia

The Road Ahead: A Decision from Bishop Rickel

29 thoughts on “The Road Ahead: A Decision from Bishop Rickel

  • December 27, 2019 at 3:14 pm
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    I say “Yeh!!!” and thank you Jesus. We too are so blessed by the presence of you and Marti. The walk continues, what a joy. Mary Aronen

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    • December 28, 2019 at 5:54 pm
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      Bishop Greg, I am so relieved to learn that you are still reflective and standing strong and will be here!

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  • December 27, 2019 at 3:14 pm
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    Gregg,

    Thanks, and praise God! So much good has been done in the first episcopate. Looking forward to the next!

    Thank you for your faithful stewardship and shepherding of our Diocese.

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    • December 31, 2019 at 8:44 am
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      I was encouraged to read “ growth of the Church and not continued decline” as a younger member and parent of grade school children in a parish, St Stephens, that is dying on the vine. I have friends all over the US that are in active and vibrant church communities, and I simply do not feel that in our diocese. St Stephens is physically located in the MOST connected and community focused neighborhood yet struggles. It needs your personal dedication and help to not only survive, but thrive. We are begging you for help.

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      • January 7, 2020 at 2:16 pm
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        Hi Amanda!

        Thanks for your feedback here! I would love to connect and discuss some work we are doing to better welcome young adults and young families into the churches of the diocese: vreinke@ecww.org. Your insights and input would be very welcome.

        Valerie

        Valerie Reinke
        Canon for Faith Formation: 35 & Under
        Diocese of Olympia

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  • December 27, 2019 at 3:34 pm
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    I am so glad and grateful you are staying with us. You have always been supportive of St. Luke’s Ballard and I thank you. Blessings in the name of Jesus. Susan Young

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  • December 27, 2019 at 3:40 pm
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    Thank Heaven!!!!!

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  • December 27, 2019 at 4:08 pm
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    I am both grateful and thankful re your decision to stay and, at the same time, start afresh with us! After 57 years of parish ministry (and two years of real retirement) I don’t have a lot to offer in direct support of your episcopal ministry among us but I will continue to pray (almost) daily that you “may be happy, know love and experience peace.” 🙏💕💒

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  • December 27, 2019 at 4:09 pm
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    Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the guidance you have given our great leader. Our diocese DOES need the continuance of stability that your presence brings. It is “not yet time” — the right time will present itself when ready. Praise the Lord!

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  • December 27, 2019 at 4:37 pm
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    Greg
    I am canonically and geographically resident in the neighboring diocese across the Columbia River. Olympia is, however, my diocese of priestly origin, having been confirmed in the Episcopal Church there and ordained deacon and priest, all by Bishop Curtis. I hold a great fondness for the Episcopal Church in Western Washington. I have appreciated what I have seen and heard of your first episcopate.

    Having said all that, I am doubly pleased that you will be leading that good diocese for another term. There is no question in my mind that you have been an excellent bishop.

    I regret that I can’t be part of the growth and development that surely will come there during your “second” episcopate, but know that my prayers and support reach across the Columbia River. I’m very happy to read what you have written.

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  • December 27, 2019 at 6:05 pm
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    Such welcome news! Your presence and leadership make a difference in every area, and I’m excited to see what the future will bring.

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  • December 27, 2019 at 6:14 pm
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    We are richly blessed with your decision. May your next years be as rewarding as you first years have been. Looking forward to you and Mardi being at our next Christmas brunch.’
    Mary O.

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  • December 27, 2019 at 6:33 pm
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    hooray for the diocese.

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  • December 27, 2019 at 9:10 pm
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    I for one am very happy to have you continuing to lead our Diocese. Thank you for your thoughtful pilgrimage that helped lead you to this discussion! I pray that with God’s help we will continue to grow!

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  • December 27, 2019 at 10:13 pm
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    It seems to me that your very honesty to consider leaving the path strengthens your yes to staying with new eyes, open heart, imagining growth!

    Thank you, dear Greg and Marti, with love.

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  • December 28, 2019 at 6:35 am
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    Thank God foy you Bishop. I look forward to the future.

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  • December 28, 2019 at 9:32 am
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    Praise God for this Blessing!

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  • December 28, 2019 at 2:12 pm
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    A thoughtful reflection. Thank you. The recent Ministry Summit was energizing and encouraging and I look forward to the planned as well as unforeseen gifts in this new scenery change!

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  • December 28, 2019 at 4:13 pm
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    So glad to hear you are staying!

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  • December 28, 2019 at 7:44 pm
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    Many are called, few are chosen, fewer still lead their flock with the grace, wisdom, care and wit, that you have demonstrated as our Bishop. Quite simply, we need you to stay- for as long as you feel God has your back in remaining with us!

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  • December 29, 2019 at 4:54 pm
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    Great news. Look forward to the next years with you as Bishop of The Diocese of Olympia.

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  • December 30, 2019 at 5:50 am
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    I too am very pleased that you have decided to continue as our Bishop. Your communication skills have been excellent and appreciated. There is much ahead to do and I agree that finding ways for growth in our church is very close to the top of the list; along with finding ways to support and encourage churches and missions and their lay leadership that are often struggling. We are doing many things now but need to find ways to bridge the gap between the Diocese and local church and mission projects so that we can become more effective in our local areas.

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  • December 30, 2019 at 9:27 pm
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    I, too, find myself delighted that you are taking a second episcopate. It seems to many that your work is not done yet here with us and we all still have much to do as we start this next decade. It promises to be one of challenges as well as blessings. Thank you for your humble leadership.
    Libby Kelleher Carr, St Mark’s
    Seattle

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  • December 31, 2019 at 11:46 am
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    Bishop Greg, I am happy to (finally) read your decision to stay on for The Second Episcopate. I am licensed in Olympia and consider that a real honor, although I’m across the Columbia River to the south. Meeting you on occasion (Safe Church Training, Clergy Day in Longview ca 2007, Bishop Michael’s Ordination/Consecration in 2010) has always been fun. Your energy, your selfies with joyous confirmands, always bring a grin and a hearty Thank you for Greg! Onward, dear Bishop!
    Phil Ayers, Portland

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  • December 31, 2019 at 3:22 pm
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    God be with you ,Greg as you strive to make the Church look like all of God’s people. I want to be on that journey.

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  • January 3, 2020 at 5:51 pm
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    You are the Bishop who ordained me as a deacon ten years ago and I am so pleased to continue serving God under your leadership. Thank you for encouraging us to strive to be diligent servants of God. Peace and jou, Deacon Terri

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