Pastoral Thoughts, June 2024

by Rev. Dr. Jim Warnock

Bishop-Elect Phil Labelle, The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia

We have a new bishop. The Rev. Phil Labelle was elected on May 18th on the fourth ballot. It wasn’t a particularly close election. Of the four candidates, he led from the first ballot. It was mainly a matter of the two people with the fewest votes removing themselves from the race. Once that happened after the third ballot, it was over.

When the Rt. Rev. Doug Sparks was elected bishop of Northern Indiana a few years ago, I ran the transition team. It’s a difficult job. The team arranges the walk-around, which many of us attended at St. Mary’s in Lakewood. They arrange all the travel for the candidates and continue to do so for the Bishop-Elect. We will offer prayers for him in that way until he is consecrated on September 14th. That will take place at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.

This is what the Diocesan website tells us about Bishop-Elect Paul:

“The Rev. Philip N. LaBelle (he/him) serves as rector of St. Mark’s Church in Southborough, Massachusetts, arriving there in January 2011. During his time in the Diocese of Massachusetts, Phil has co-led the Mission Strategy Committee, served on Executive Committee and Diocesan Council, and directed the Fresh Start program. He co-founded Southborough Neighbors for Peace with Dr. Safdar Medina in their small town. The organization has hosted peace vigils, began a community-wide Iftar dinner during Ramadan, established an interfaith Thanksgiving service, and sponsored other bridge-building events. Additionally, Phil served on the core team of Central Mass. Connections in Faith, an organization centered on fostering relationships and learning about other religious faiths through quarterly gatherings.

In June, Phil will receive his Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Seminary focused on Christian Spirituality. His thesis work explores the theology and practice of zimzum and how to make space in our overly busy lives for God, others, and the natural world. He received his MDiv from Yale University in 2004, along with a diploma in Anglican Studies from Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. He holds a Master’s degree in composition and rhetoric from Northeastern University and a Bachelor’s degree in English with an additional concentration in theological studies from Gordon College. He has also received certificates in congregational development and religious fundraising.”

This is all well and good. The Fresh Start program is a gathering for priests new to the diocese. I went through one in the Diocese of Los Angeles and found it very helpful. I like his interfaith work. I think that’s incredibly important in our fractious era.

When you meet him, when you hear him talk, you realize he talks a lot about Jesus. That I think is the most important thing he brings to us — an active faith that Jesus is Lord. This has to be at the center of the work we do in the community. This is why I’m encouraged that Bishop-Elect Phil is going to take this diocese in a good direction based on our faith in Jesus, our commitment to walking in his path, following his commands to love God and neighbor, and to bring that love to the people around us.

Charla Conner. Liz Larson, Deacon Jeffrey Boyce and I attended the election convention. If you have any questions about our new Bishop or the process, please ask.

Our role now is to pray for Bishop-Elect Phil, his family and the diocese. Bishop Melissa will remain until Bishop-Elect Phil is consecrated, so prayers for her are also in order. We want this to be a good episcopate, and I think we have reason to believe it will be.