Monday, July 15, 2013

The Bishop's Wife

Although I don't yet have him on a consistent schedule, I was beginning to feel pretty smug about the fact that Gideon is now nap sleep-trained (evening bedtime has always been a breeze) and sleeping 11-13 hours through the night (hurray!).  A new normal was settling in and I had been enjoying the challenge of learning how to fit part-time doctoral and consulting work during and in between breastfeeding, baby care, and household management.

Then the unexpected happened.  Our lives were irrevocably changed almost two weeks ago with a short email from the stake (equivalent of a diocese) executive secretary.  Could we meet with the stake president on Friday night or Saturday morning?  I called Lance in Madrid where he was working on a live deal.  All we could say was "uhhh."

Although our small congregation had been sans bishop for a couple of months, we were sure it would not be us.  New baby, new job for Lance, new consulting practice for me, and barely--finally--keeping all cogs in place.  I had even started ironing Lance's shirts again.

Despite the tell-tale email, we remained in denial for a few more days, especially the night before when we celebrated the 4th on our rooftop with some fireworks upon Lance's return from Madrid.    

Thus it was that we were shocked by the call for Lance to be bishop when the stake president paid us his visit a week ago Friday.

Allow me to explain what a bishop is within Latter-day Saint theological structure, and how they are called so far as I understand it.  Ours is a lay clergy, and most if not all worthy members have "callings," or responsibilities within the faith. For instance, I currently serve in the presidency of our congregation's Primary for 18 month year olds to 12 years.  This means that I teach each Sunday for a month and help to administer the auxiliary and minister to the children under the direction of the Primary President.  I serve in this capacity up to five hours a week, although many in my position do much, much more.

The same holds true all the way up the chain of command to the prophet.  All serve without remuneration.  Of course, a few dozen out of millions who serve in world-wide leadership and whose service requires all of their time are given living stipends out of tithing dollars and have housing and other needs taken care of.  Notwithstanding this small exception, those who serve do so in addition to their full-time employment.

Some jobs require more time than others.  A bishop may be one of the most taxing of all callings in terms of time.  My brother-in-law who served in that capacity put in 20-30 hours a week in addition to his 60-70 hours per week as an orthopedic spine surgeon (oh - and they have nine children - no biggie). 

The primary responsibility of bishops is to minister to all of their congregation, inviting them to come unto Christ.  Additionally, he is to administer the logistics of the congregation, tend to the physical needs of those struggling financially or otherwise, and be a "common judge in Israel" in church disciplinary matters (I'm guessing this is all bishops' least favorite responsibility).  Technically, as with missionaries of our faith, bishops' responsibilities extends to all who live within the boundaries of their congregation. 

Calling a bishop is usually a matter of great prayer and fasting for the stake president.  I asked ours how Lance was called, and the stake president, knowing our circumstances, conveyed that he had spent much time on his knees to know whether Lance was the right person.

The stake president must then have the bishop's name cleared with the Area Authority in Germany and the First Presidency in Salt Lake.  The process takes about two months.  This means that for us, the stake president submitted our name before Lance had a job and we knew we would be living here on a quasi-permanent basis - no wonder he spent so much time on his knees!

Once approval is received, the stake president interviews the couple and extends the call.  It can be accepted or rejected.  In our case, our kind stake president applied no pressure, but asked that we come to our own peace about the call.  We took a bit of time--a day--pondering and praying and discussing what it would mean together before accepting.

We were afforded the luxury of not having the call announced for another week so that Lance's parents could come into town and Lance's dad could ordain him to the office of high priest (more on this below), a necessary predicate to the calling of bishop.

In hindsight, I'm not sure this was such a luxury.  It translated into a week of the burden without the sustaining vote of the members and blessing of the priesthood.  However, the time allowed Lance to go to church last Sunday fasting to know whom he should select as his two counselors--our priesthood leadership always operates with a president and two counselors--and for his sweet parents to arrive.

It was a surreal week, and I tried to enjoy our last uninterrupted Saturday for quite some time before the announcement was made on Sunday.  At church, the stake president and one of his counselors were in attendance.  He released the old bishopbric and then asked that Lance and his two counselors stand for a sustaining vote by the congregation in their respective calls.  I believe that if (and only if) the sustaining vote is unanimous, those called can proceed to the next stage.  Luckily, in Lance's case, it was unanimous (these days it is rare to abstain, although I wish it were more often - could use a little spice in my church every now and again).

Then, in priesthood meeting after Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School, Lance was ordained by his father and a member of the stake presidency to the office of high priest (we believe this is the same office held by Melchezedeck, to whom Abraham paid tithes).  In a small room after church, the new bishopbric and their wives and parents plus the stake president and his counselor, we received counsel from the stake president and then Lance was set apart by the laying on of hands as bishop of the London North Ward.  The same was done for each of his counselors.

Afterwards, the stake president asked if there were any questions.  I piped up: "What is my role?"  He said that I was to support Lance, help him to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, and offer correction as needed.  To the latter, Lance interjected that I would have no problem. :-)

I had earlier asked Lance what I should do - he said to love the congregation.  I can do that.  But, my question for any reader who cares to leave a response is, how?  If you are a member of my faith, who have been your favorite bishop's wives and what have they done or not done?  If you are or have been a bishop's wife, what do/did you do?

I am eager to serve and already love the people of London North.  Would love to know any thoughts out there of what an ideal bishop's wife does.  Thanks in advance for your comments!

Saturday lunch at Camden Markets with the Tolers

Hampstead Heath

On the way to church.  We have retired the trug from babyservice (sad day - it's now being used for blankets
and for taking laundry to and fro the roof) and now take
the Sleepyhead to church to sleep Gideon in. It will likely be our last trip to church with Lance for some time,
as he will likely have meetings Sunday morning beginning quite early.

coming back sans Lance

Helping mom and dad Toler navigate the Tube system.

For our last Saturday together for a while, we enjoyed Hampstead Heath

And the Kentish Town City Farm

And Camden Markets

Sorry, don't know how to rotate pics on this blog site.


  1. Gods Blessings will be yours. Good council given to me was to be ignorant. The Bishop knows a lot about a lot of people and it helps the ward have confidence in him when you are the last to know or don't have a clue sometimes about personal struggles and ward goings on. Your husbands council is wonderful. Love and cherish him and carry the home front with grace. Nothing is more important. You'll feel the spirit direct you. :)

  2. Thank you for your post. If you would like to correspond I'm up for it. My husband was just called in April. I have 5 small kids. My youngest being only 6 weeks old. It's an up and down roller coaster. My email is abbs underscore stamps at yahoo if you ever want to chat. I know it's hard to talk to anyone cause others simply don't understand the capacity of the sacrifice as time away our husbands are. Abbi bishops wife in Indiana USA