Looking back at Bishop Dyck’s episcopacy in Minnesota

August 07, 2012

By: Amanda Yanchury

Bishop Sally Dyck has been the episcopal leader in Minnesota for eight years. Arriving in 2004, this was Bishop Dyck’s first episcopal appointment, and there was much about her time in Minnesota that is worth noting.

“There were a couple of things that became quickly apparent to me—one of the things is the geographical size of the area—it required a change in thinking,” Dyck said. “I realized that in order to have a focused message, investing in communication was going to be very important.”

Bishop Dyck also realized upon arriving that the conference was in need of a specific focus—some guiding principles to serve as the centerpiece around which we could frame all of our work.

“It was important to really focus what we are as a church,” Bishop said. “So we spent a lot of time as a staff and leadership honing in on that.”

Focus helps frame priorities

They came up with two Gospel Imperatives: to reach new people and cultivate spiritual vitality. Bishop Dyck says that a lot of the work done in her first quadrennium focused around getting this message out to churches—to encourage them to do everything with these as their guiding principles.

In November 2008, the beginning of Bishop Dyck’s second quadrennium in Minnesota, the economy crashed. It became clear to Bishop Dyck that some of the things she wanted to do were no longer going to be possible. She says that in spite of this, having a focused message helped the conference react and recover from the crisis.

“It was clear that when we focused on what was important when we had to adjust our spending plan, we were able to do it—we knew exactly what was important to us,” Bishop Dyck said.  “If we hadn’t done the work the previous quadrennium on these focuses, we wouldn’t have been able to respond as quickly and efficiently as we did.”

Doing things differently

During Bishop Dyck’s first year in Minnesota, there was a Minnesota Vikings home game on Christmas Eve—and lots of churches and pastors were upset. The bishop said “we went and caroled, and we got a very positive response; lots of good publicity. It was an example of how we can reframe what looks like a problem, and make it into an opportunity to reach out.”

The bishop said it was a way she signaled to this conference that she was serious about doing things differently.

Bishop Dyck says the development of the ordination process yielded positive results.

“I’m pleased we were able to double our percentage of young adult clergy,” Bishop Dyck said, “and that through the 3-year curriculum ordination process we have developed the skills and community of that group.” She says we need to make sure we continue to have a “culture of call” for young leadership.

Imagine No Malaria

With Bishop Dyck’s leadership, we went above and beyond our Imagine No Malaria goals.

“We just needed to do it, and we did it,” she says. “We proved to the rest of the church that this is something vital—it invigorates younger people, it’s literally about saving lives, and it’s exciting!”

Lay leader Brent Olson (Ortonville UMC) credits Bishop Dyck’s strong leadership in helping us exceed our goals.

“Bishop Sally is a good person and a terrific leader who has challenged us to understand and live up to our faith, to demonstrate through concrete action that we believe what we say we believe,” Olson said.  “Minnesota Conference’s leading role in the Imagine No Malaria campaign is only one example of the way Minnesota United Methodists, because of her leadership, have developed a bias towards action.”

Working as a team

Bishop Dyck praises the way she and the episcopacy committee worked well together. The episcopacy committee functions like a church’s Staff-Parish Relations Committee.

Rev. David Bard (First UMC: Duluth), chair of the episcopacy committee, agrees.

“Bishop Dyck has been very open and transparent with us,” Bard says. “She’s been wonderful to work with.”

Bard and Bishop Dyck also agree that Minnesota was a good fit for Bishop Dyck.

“She was very well-received with this conference,” Bard said. The bishop adds: “Minnesota was a great match for me. Minnesotans are very open even amidst a diverse set of theological perspectives—I saw clergy and leaders try to be as open to me and to their communities as possible.”

Holy conversation

Bishop Dyck has pioneered widespread use of holy conferencing for church groups and conferences making disputed decisions.

“If the church can’t be the place for us to have these tough conversations, where’s the safe place where we can?” Bishop Dyck asks. “I hope people will continue to operate with this mindset.”

She also says she hopes people continue to remember “healthy, holy habits.” And that even she does occasionally indulge in potato chips.

Amanda Yanchury is communications assistant for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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