With [Will] Willimon set to retire as bishop in 2012 (he plans to return to teaching at Duke Divinity School), it is appropriate to consider how the Willimon experiment in the episcopacy has turned out. As one might expect, it has not been business as usual.
Willimon has used his authority to “decimate the career ladder,” as one pastor told me. In the process he has alienated many pastors in the North Alabama Conference. He has promoted younger clergy deemed to be more talented over those with more seniority. He has streamlined some meetings and eliminated others. “I got annual conference down to two days,” he boasts (it had previously lasted four and a half days). And he has made accountability a hallmark term.
Accountability, in this case, mainly means that every congregation’s weekly numbers for giving, attendance, hours of service, and professions of faith are posted online for all the world””and the rest of the conference””to see. They appear on a page on the conference website called the North Alabama Dashboard. These statistics become one source of input for decisions on pastoral appointments. What looks to some like a call for public accountability looks to others like an act of public shaming. For critics, the Dashboard seems to treat the dynamics of church life like so many hamburgers sold.
— Jason Byassee, “The bishop’s dashboard,” in a recent Christian Century