The Rev. Gladys Díaz
Assistant to the Bishop
Dear fellow lay and ordained Lutheran sisters and brothers, I greet you with an overwhelming sense of joyful gratitude to God for the immensity of God’s grace during this past 17 months. It has, indeed, been a memorable year for me beyond the fact that, as for most of us, the experience of a global pandemic was unprecedented and extremely painful and difficult, to say the least.
For me, Epiphany Day of 2020 on January 6 marks the beginning of embarking on this new call to serve as one of the Assistants to the Bishop of MNYS, a role which is in itself unprecedented as an Ecumenical Sibling from the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement, and a Puerto Rican/Latinx Clergy Women. At that time, I had no idea what lay ahead in my position, since no one who embodies all the diversity I bring had traveled this road before. Walking with a newly installed Bishop and a new staff structure in MNYS was, and is, both challenging and exuberating and necessitates a leap of Faith!
I am inspired by Micah 6:8 “What does God requires of you but to love kindness, practice justice and walk humbly with your God.” It is this reflection that informs my job description.
Anchored in the definition of Faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrew 11:1).I have found the strength and the courage to serve with and among you as part of the Pastoral oversight of Bishop Egensteiner. As such, I participated in the ELCA churchwide Congregational Vitality Gathering in Denver as part of the REDIL Training Team for The Latinx Track. I also participated in the planning team for the Border Event in February 2020: we crossed the border to Mexico and visited ministries directed to those in shelters awaiting asylum along the border wall, which culminated in an outdoor Eucharist. I had the honor of preparing the alter right by the wall on the Mexican side that separates families and friends from each other.
I have continued to work with REDIL in the development of Coaching in Latinx Context while fulfilling certification requirements of the International Coaching Federation (IFC) with the intent to train and accompany other lay and ordained Latinx leaders through the training and certification process. In response to the devastating and disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the Latinx Community, I partnered with Roberto Lara to offer a Pastoral response on behalf of the Bishop by developing a safe space for Latinx Reflections and Prayer with Latinx Pastors leading Latinx Spanish speaking ministries. We have incorporated tools from the Kaleidoscope Institute for diverse and sustainable communities to develop grace margins for building up the beloved community.
I have identified and conveyed some of the realities faced by Latinx TEEM pastors that necessitates reparation and healing as part of the mandate to practice justice, including the development of a nontraditional model to fully equip them with the academic education that will result in an MDiv. I have articulated the urgency to develop and re-develop Latinx Ministries using best practice models that are empowering and focus on raising and equipping lay leaders, and the calling of Latinx Pastors, as well as the setting apart of Latinx Synodical deacons.
I have served as a bridge in bringing resources for Diversity: Anti-biased and Cultural Competency training of staff and of congregation Councils and Call Committees of congregations in vacancy, as well as Conflict Mediation venues for congregations and pastors in need of those resources. I have also advocated and recommended investing in demographic resources that are current and efficient in helping and informing strategic planning for missional, evangelism and leadership development of new and existing ministries.
A major part of my ministry has been participating in prayerful discernment as a member of the Bishop’s executive staff, which includes very passionate discussions and truth telling in our resolve to become and give the best of ourselves to help congregations become sustainable, missional, outward looking, welcoming, and inviting communities that embody Jesus’ teachings.
These discussions have resulted in key documents that reflect our collective work of love. These include the Guide for Pastoral Transition and the Call Process of Congregations of MNYS, The Guide for Offsite Resident Internship, and the Cooperative Ministry Guide Towards Missional Vitality through Collaboration for the Congregations of MNYS.
However, nothing has been more challenging and endearing than, while “learning the ropes” of my position on lock down, guiding the Pastoral Transition and the Call Process of members of 3 congregation councils and their Call committees. Additionally, I walked with the candidates of each, resulting in the calling of 3 very fine young pastors who each bring a variety of gifts and diversity to the church. Also close to my heart has been guiding a congregation council in the process of hosting the first Offsite Resident Pastoral Internship. Accompaniment and the nurturing of covenant relationships has been at the core of the Pastoral response of the Bishop’s office.
I am currently guiding the initial phases of the transition of congregation councils in the Conferences of the Bronx, Western Queens, Western Nassau and South-Western Nassau, totaling 14. While continuing to build respectful, covenant relationships with Deans, Transitional Pastors and the lay and ordained leadership of MNYS.
As an ordained Episcopal Priest of the Diocese of New York, I love The Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement. I love being part of Bishop Egensteiner’s executive staff and cherish the experience of walking with and among the lay and ordained leadership of this amazing MNYS- Lutheran branch of the Movement. As such, I have embraced this unique hybrid experience that has and continues to shape my discipleship. I should have gotten the clue about what the spirit was up to when one of the leaders of a congregations told me they were calling me the Bishop’s “Episcolut” instead of the assistant to the bishop 😊
Finally, I can’t wait to see and be part of what God has in store for us. There are new frontiers of ministry to explore that the Holy Spirit is calling us to embrace as She unfolds and guides the movement to new heights, as we work toward kingdom building, which requires leaps of faith and risk taking anchored in our spiritual disciplines for loving mercy, practicing justice and walking humbly with our God.
This will require learning to walk together by embracing unity in diversity not uniformity. The Spirit is loose for she cannot be contained, and so my beloved let us step up to the plate as disciples and members of the Jesus Movement! Pa’lante