Evan Smith: I’m struck that everybody still refers to you as “Andy.” In their minds, you’re a regular guy who only happens to be the newest Episcopal bishop of Texas.
C. Andrew Doyle: Each and every one of us is on a journey of becoming who God is inviting us to be, and that journey isn’t different today than it was before I became bishop. You, as editor in chief of Texas Monthly, are continuoustly discovering who you are, and the people reading this interview are discovering who they are. What’s interesting is that a new vocabulary has inserted itself into the dialogue I have with God and the larger community.
ES: How is the conversation with God different?
CAD: I’m asking different questions. It’s not about discovering what a bishop does—I understand that. It’s not about what kind of sacramental life a bishop has within the church. Rather, it’s “How is Andy the bishop who God has called him to be?” It’s about opening my eyes to see the ways in which my manner, my way of being with individuals, affects the office. It’s probably encapsulated in the town hall meetings I’ve been doing, traveling around Texas, meeting with young adults and people of the church, and inviting them to have a conversation about our work together.
ES: What have you heard? I’m imagining you, like a politician, on a listening tour to meet with your constituents.
CAD: One of the things that I heard from people inside and outside our church was a yearning for holy relationships—holy as in sacred. People want to be together. Some of them want to engage in a discussion about their spiritual journey; they feel their spiritual lives are nurtured as they engage in that conversation. But there’s also a real desire for unity. Not uniformity—over the last decade, both within the church and within our culture, we’ve been dividing into camps, and yet I really have a sense of people seeking a wholeness, for themselves and their community. A wholeness that respects people who have different ideas and who seek nourishment in the marketplace of ideas. In church, as in the corporate world, people want to be asked their opinion.
ES: There has been and still is a big divide in the church.
CAD: Human beings have an amazing tendency to split up into like-minded camps with incredible efficiency. The reality is that not just the Episcopal Church but every church has been divided over the years. Here’s the thing for me that seems important: On the night Jesus was taken into custody, he prayed that his followers would be unified. So difficult is the task of a healthy, thriving community that our Lord had to actually pray for it. We can spend a lot of time talking about every issue that divides us, but what about the challenge that we’ve been given to be one people in the midst of our great diversity? I’m not sure that wholeness and unity isn’t exactly what we’re supposed to be aspiring to.
ES: Are there people who worship at Episcopal churches around Texas who would disagree with the idea that their purpose is unity and not division? I imagine everyone would say they see it that way, even if the reality is something different.
CAD: Probably. But worship is supposed to inspire us into new action. We step out and turn our eyes outward and look at our community and do what we do best.
ES: Why do you think we focus so much on our differences?
CAD: Because we live in a consumer culture that relies upon the satisfying of our personal desires. If you go into a magazine store and you’re interested in fly-fishing from a sailboat in the Caribbean, you can find a specific magazine targeted to exactly what you seek. Our culture rises up in such a way that we can find and have everything that we personally want or need. The real positive thing about that is that we can seek personal relationships with God and figure out how those relationships work for us. But it also means that we’re less likely to look at our neighbors and invite them along that same journey.
ES: What can a bishop do to bridge those differences?
CAD: Bishops have a voice out there; we have to claim it. Take immigration. Everybody is trying to figure out what to do about it. The tendency of the church has been to be relatively quiet when it comes to political issues, but I believe we have to ask questions from the Christian perspective. We should be saying to our political leaders, “These are human beings who were created by God, who deserve dignity, who deserve to be treated as human beings given breath and life by God.” There really is an opportunity for us to engage in those kinds of conversations. And there’s another voice I have, the voice to my church, that says, “We are a Christian church, we follow Jesus Christ, and we have got to be about the business of offering spiritual formation in all of its varieties, knowing who we are at our very deepest center to the people who come to us. These are people who are looking at the church and hoping to find a deep relationship with God, with Jesus Christ. How do we help them?” In the Anglican tradition, and in the Episcopal Church that we’ve inherited, we actually have something to offer.
ES: No one would dispute that you have a spiritual voice. But the political voice is more complicated, because two different people can arrive at opposite conclusions about a controversial issue like immigration. One person’s view of how to preserve the dignity of a child of God is to give him a path to citizenship. Another person can say that the faithful choice is to make certain someone who is not a citizen is kept from this country. How do you square