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Nov 28, 2012 | Carol E. Barnwell

Diolog Interviews Bishop Jeff Fisher

Jeff W. Fisher Consecration from The Episcopal Diocese of Texas on Vimeo.


 [Diolog Magazine

On October 6, 2012, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori joined current and former Texas bishops to consecrate Jeff Fisher as the new bishop suffragan. He will serve in the eastern region of the diocese and office in Tyler. Carol E. Barnwell, editor of the Diolog, had a few questions for the new bishop:


CEB: What about the ministry drew you to standing for election for bishop suffragan?

JWF: First, I love the Diocese of Texas and want to serve here. Second, I love Andy Doyle and Dena Harrison and believe that working with them will be creative, challenging and fun. Third, I see the role of bishop suffragan, especially in the eastern region, as a connector with the rest of the diocese. All of these things attracted me, as well as the voices of others asking me to stand for election. I also believe that I can build on the great legacy of Bishop Rayford High, encouraging us to spread the good news of Jesus to everyone who is hungry and thirsty for a world of hope.

CEB: What are your assigned duties as the bishop suffragan in the eastern region of the Diocese of Texas?

JWF: In addition to the oversight of congregations here, I serve as the Executive for Pastoral Ministry, which will include developing a web of pastoral care for clergy and their families. I will serve with a variety of ministries, boards and institutions, such as the Episcopal Church Women, Altar Guild, Daughters of the King, St. James House and St. Vincent’s House. As bishop suffragan, I serve at Bishop Doyle’s direction and will gladly accept whatever duties he assigns to me at various times over the years.

CEB: Will your family join you right away?

JWF: No, they will not. Our oldest son, Scott, is a senior at Texas Tech. So he has been away from home for quite a while now. Our youngest son, John, is a senior at Midway High in Waco and it was very important to our family that he be able to graduate from there and not move. My wife, Susan, is in her 30th (and final) year of teaching in Waco and will retire in May. Susan and John have an apartment in Waco just for this one year. Susan does plan on being with me on a good number of visitations this year on the weekends, which will be a good time for us to reunite and to get to know the diocese as a couple.

CEB: How involved is your family in your ministry? Can you give us an example?

JWF: Our sons are just about all out of the nest, so they are no longer that involved in my ministry. Susan has always approached her role as a clergy spouse in a healthy way. She has been involved in ministries she wants to; she says “no” to those she doesn’t. She makes her own decisions and I think that the people in the parishes I have served have respected her for that. Susan’s greatest gift is the gift of hospitality and she loves entertaining in our home. She enjoys cooking and makes everyone feel comfortable. I hope that many in the eastern region of the diocese will experience her gift of hospitality over the years.

CEB: You said Susan was very supportive of your decision to stand for election. How did you two meet? Where was your first date?

JWF: We met on the patio at Camp Allen! Back then, we were both going to St. John the Divine in Houston, but that parish is so large that we had never met each other. The Young Singles Group at the church had a retreat at Camp Allen and we met there. That night, we stayed on that patio talking until 1 a.m. It took me a while to realize that she was “the one” so we did not have our first date until a year later, at Nino’s Italian restaurant in Houston. We were engaged just three months later. Once I figured out that she was the one, I didn’t waste any time. 

CEB: What do you consider to be your spiritual gifts?

JWF: Preaching, encouraging and mentoring, energy and enthusiasm, creativity in imagining new ways in the faith.

CEB: How are these particularly matched with your new position and its demands?

JWF: The mix of my spiritual gifts can be useful for my new position. A bishop, however, is not just a bundle of gifts and skills. A bishop is a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit, empowered to be an agent of love and forgiveness. Bishop Doyle spoke most effectively about this in his sermon at my consecration. I believe that God called me to be a bishop—filled with the Holy Spirit, warts and all—and the person that I am today will not be the same as the bishop I will be tomorrow. God has always given me the gifts to do the ministry I am called to do. I am trusting that the same will continue to be true. 

CEB: What do you want to do first?

JWF: Make relationships. I have so many people to meet and get to know. I want to hear story after story from people in this diocese, from the folks on the diocesan staff, from congregations, from the myriad institutions and ministries in this diocese. I want to make relationships by being a story-receiver. 

CEB: What do you most look forward to? 

JWF: Visitations to parishes and missions. As my initial visitation schedule has come together in the last few months, I have been excited to watch the amazing diversity of congregations in our diocese filling my calendar. I will visit congregations all over the diocese, not just in the eastern region. When I was a parish priest, the congregation and I always viewed the bishop’s visit as a time of great celebration and worship. Now I get to be a part of a great celebration every Sunday.   

CEB: At the end of the day, how will you know if you have been successful?

JWF: If I have made a difference. If I help a clergy person to find their smile in the midst of a rough situation.  If I assist a parish or mission to see things in a new way, if I am a small part of a confirmand’s increasing journey of faith, if I listen so that someone knows that they are heard, then I will know that I am making a difference as a bishop—and that will bring me a lot of satisfaction. 

CEB: What is something that most people don’t know about you?

JWF:  I snore terribly. I don’t know how Susan has stood it for 23 years. I think that I have run off every single roommate I have ever had at clergy conference. Maybe that’s why I am a bishop—now I will have a private room!

CEB: What do you do on your time away from “work?”

JWF:  I  know that I am very energetic at work, but I am actually pretty good at doing a bunch of nothing at home. Susan and I like to linger over a good dinner and a glass of wine, chatting the night away (which is actually what we did when we first met). We have our TV shows that we do not miss and watch together: Survivor, Modern Family, Mad Men. I am a much bigger fan of Mad Men than she is. I like to work out with free weights. I took up golf with my son, John, about three years ago. I am not that great (doesn’t every golfer say that?) but enjoy playing.

CEB: Some quick responses … 

Favorite food: Pie. I am not that into cake. But I love pie, especially chocolate and pumpkin. I even asked for a pumpkin pie in lieu of a birthday cake last year.

Favorite song or entertainer: I am a product of the 1980s. So anything by The Cars, ELO or Journey makes me smile and remember.

Favorite book: The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen

Favorite movie: “The Mission”