Updated Nov. 4, 2013: Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE announced to the Diocesan Convention on Nov. 2 his plans to retire at the time of his successor’s consecration on Sept. 13, 2014.
Shaw in January 2013 called for the election of a bishop coadjutor to serve alongside him for a period of time prior to his retirement, but he has since decided that the overlap period will be unnecessary, and that the transfer of episcopal authority will take place at the bishop-elect’s consecration ceremony.
Shaw made the announcement during an afternoon presentation to the Diocesan Convention that focused on his gratitude for the community life of the diocese and for diocesan ministries initiated during his nearly 20-year tenure that have not only accomplished much but which have also made his own life of faith grow, he said.
He recalled, with good humor, his own experience of the coadjutor period when he became a bishop, and how, at the time, he wondered: “What is this coadjutor stuff for? I’m not doing this when it’s time for me to retire.” He then proceeded to completely forget all about that resolution until just a few weeks ago, he said, when his prayer about the upcoming election brought it back to mind.
He said he is looking forward to having the next 10 months to continue offering his gratitude to the people and congregations of the diocese. “Then the new time can begin that God is preparing us all for. Let’s give the future the most open arms we possibly can,” he said.
The convention later voted a resolution in response expressing gratitude for Shaw "as our faithful shepherd, guide, theologian and teacher, enlightening and leading minds into a deeper knowledge of the triune God," citing his role as an advocate for the marginalized, as a builder of the church and "as a witness to the transforming power of the Gospel." [Full text of the resolution appears below.] A sustained standing ovation followed the vote.
In an interview prior to the convention, Shaw said of his decision to retire in September: “Some might think this decision has to do with my health, but it doesn’t actually,” referring to the brain cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment regimen he’s been undergoing over the past six months. “My decision really has to do with my understanding of the episcopate and with God’s love,” he said.
The election of the new bishop is scheduled to take place April 5, 2014, at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston.
A “Season of Service and Celebration” is being planned to honor Shaw in April-June 2014, beginning with Episcopal City Mission’s State House Lobby Day on April 9 as the kick-off service event, and concluding with a picnic and celebration at Franklin Park in Boston on June 21. In between, all congregations are being invited to honor Shaw by organizing or participating in a community service event of their choosing.
Shaw has requested that any financial gifts made in his honor be designated for the diocese’s Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center. Information on how to contribute will be made available early in 2014.
--Tracy J. Sukraw
A Resolution in Thanksgiving to God for the Episcopacy of the Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE
Resolved, the 228th Convention of the Diocese of Massachusetts express, on behalf of the entire Diocese of Massachusetts, our deep gratitude to God for our bishop diocesan, the Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, in the 20th year of his episcopacy as our faithful shepherd, guide, theologian and teacher, enlightening and leading minds into a deeper knowledge of the triune God; and be it further
Resolved, that we give deep thanks to God for Bishop Tom as defender of the poor and marginalized, advocating for those neglected, forgotten and shunned, not only within our church but within our Commonwealth of Massachusetts, our nation and our world; and be it further
Resolved, that we give deep thanks to God for Bishop Tom as builder of the church, encouraging lay ministry, building up lay leadership, raising up and nurturing children, youth, and young people for mission and ministry in the church, calling and forming clergy and empowering us all to grow into our full stature in Christ as we live out God’s mission and ministry in and to the world and empowering all of us to claim and live into the promises of our Baptismal Covenant; and be it further
Resolved, that we give deep thanks to God for Bishop Tom as potter and steward, molding the church and all God’s people in eastern Massachusetts and beyond, empowering all to grow into the dignity of our personhood; and be it further
Resolved, that we give thanks to God for Bishop Tom as witness to the transforming power of the Gospel and the love of God made known in Jesus Christ, evangelizing the Good News in word and deed to all who would hear.
Bishop Tom, you became our diocesan bishop at a time of turmoil and sadness in our life together. In the midst of deep hurt and pain, you embraced God’s call to you to love and guide God’s people in eastern Massachusetts. You have prayerfully, steadfastly, generously, calmly and lovingly cared for and led your people in the church and in the world.
Time and again, you have shown hope and faith in response to challenge. Time and again, your response to tragedy and despair has been to remind us of the redeeming, healing love and power of God whose death on the cross triumphed with the Easter resurrection. With the help of God and many others, you have ushered our church into new life through many initiatives and accomplishments that reveal God’s continuing love and activity in the world: the establishment of the Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center, the support of the B-SAFE program for youth in our towns and cities throughout our diocese, the founding of the Life Together program for young adults, the TogetherNow capital campaign to support our diocese’s mission and ministries and improving and developing relationships and ministries with our brothers and sisters throughout the world. These are just a few of many accomplishments. In 20 years as our diocesan bishop, you have done much to build up the household of God and our witness of God’s love in the world. We are so grateful to God for calling you to be our bishop, and grateful to you for discerning and answering God’s call to you.
You are above all a man of constant prayer whose deep rootedness and intimacy with God have given you the love, foundation and certitude you have needed for this episcopal work and ministry. With us you have shared your prayerfulness and intimacy with God, inviting us into deeper relationship with God and enabling us to speak more authentically about who and whose we are. Through your example you have reminded us all that the church is not essentially an institution and structure that exists for its own ends but rather an active witness to and conductor of the presence of the living God who made us, loves us, guides us and holds us in being.
You know, Bishop Tom, we will miss you. We will miss your intentionality and your focus. We will miss your dry wit and wily sense of humor. We will miss seeing your bare legs at Diocesan Convention! In so many, many ways, we will miss you. But we know where you live…!
We thank you. And we thank God for you.
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