For Bishop Sandy Greene, success is measured by how many leaders he is able to mentor and encourage.
“If I had a plaque on my wall that had names and dates on it, I would hope it was a very long plaque with the names of young leaders, men and women, whom I had encouraged in their life and ministry to the Lord”
Encouraging leaders has been a part of Bishop Sandy’s ministry since he was ordained a priest in 1971. He was consecrated as a Bishop in 2001, and has been a part of the Anglican Mission since the beginning. We recently sat down with Bishop Sandy to learn more about his journey of faith and what the Lord is currently doing in his life and ministry.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up going to the Episcopal church. I attended Sunday School and was confirmed, but by the time I was in High School, wasn’t very serious about it. I did continue to attend an Episcopal Church, but that was mostly because I went to an all-boys boarding school, and the way to see girls was to attend one of the school-approved churches on Sundays. Looking back, I’m surprised that it meant as much as it did to me.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I had an encounter with the Lord. I was around 20 years old, and was driving somewhere late at night. I was thinking about my life and future and I thought that I would go see the counselor on campus to sort these things out. I distinctly heard these words in my head but it was so real I turned around to see if someone was in the back seat:
“You don’t need a counselor, you need God.”
Those words really struck me. I thought, well, if I do need God, then maybe I need to go back to church. I only knew the Episcopal Church on campus, and so that started me back on that journey again.
As it turned out, I did need God. I reconnected with some people who were believers on campus and worked for a professor who was also a believer. This professor asked me to sit as a student on the board that was selecting a new Chaplain.
The man we selected was a graduate student from Australia, who was so excited about Jesus and different from other clergymen I had met. I got know him and work with him in the chaplaincy. One of the most interesting things to me about this part of my journey, is that if I had gone to the counselor at the University, I probably would have seen his wife and ended up in the same relationships in the end.
During this time I also fell in love with my wife, Georgeanna, who goes by Gigi. She was also going through a seeking phase in her life and started taking me to church. In about a year’s time, we decided we wanted to get married and went to meet with an Episcopal priest in our hometown, who we didn’t really know very well. I think my mother was hoping he would talk us out of getting married. Not only did he not talk us out of it, in the course of our conversation he said to me that he thought I would make a good priest. This was shocking to me, since I was just beginning to come back to some kind of reasonable faith. But it redirected my thinking and general direction.
What came next?
I attended seminary in New York. I didn’t know where I was headed or what I was doing, but I figured I’d go for a year, and if it was working out I would continue and if it wasn’t I’d redirect. In stages, the Lord continued to meet me and draw me to himself.
Sometime in year two of three, I met a minister who had just come from London. He told me this interesting story about meeting people who did church in their home. They were what we would call charismatics and would baptize people in the bathtub. At the end of our meeting he prayed for me, and like John Wesley, I felt like my heart was strangely warmed. At the time I didn’t speak in tongues or anything (that came later) but it was the start of something.
A year later, in June of 1971, I was ordained a deacon and in December of that year a priest. I moved back to Florida, where I grew up, and served at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Tampa.
During my life in ministry, I pastored churches in Florida and in Colorado. I spent 30 years in the Episcopal Church. At least 20 of those years I was interacting with a lot of other ministers in the church, both lay and clergy, who were committed to the notion of revival. A number of us came under Bishop Church Murphy and called ourselves “First Promise.” The name came from the first promise that we made in our ordination vows, to be faithful to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as the church had received it.
In June 2001, I left the Episcopal church and we planted a new church in Denver, Colorado, which eventually merged with another group and was called the Light of Christ. That was the beginning of my ministry within the Mission, though I had been in an informal advisory group before that. In 2001, I was also consecrated as one of four new Bishops for the newly formed Anglican Mission. I continued to serve in Colorado until 2012, when my wife and I started making moves towards retirement and relocated to San Antonio.
What does your day-to-day look like these days?
I have three focuses of my life:
Focus one is my family. Three of my sons live in San Antonio, along with grandkids, and my older brother. A big part of my life is being with my family and being a good husband, father, and grandfather.
Focus two is being a part of Grace Northridge. I work with Bishop Matt Kessler as an adjunct clergyman. I will occasionally celebrate the Eucharist and preach. I work with the staff, and in particular spend time with our Missional Residents. We have a life group that meets in our home, and participate in prayer ministry, teaching, and bible studies.
Focus three is my work with the Mission. I am a part of a group of Bishops and other leaders that advise our Apostolic Vicar, Bishop Philip Jones. I also travel to do confirmations and was at all three consecrations this past May.
What gets you up in the morning/motivates and energizes you?
I love working with younger leaders and helping them be the best they can be. Currently, in San Antonio, we have two young men who have become deacons, and I love spending time with them and encouraging them. There are also men and women who are lay leaders and on staff at Grace Northridge who I spend time with regularly and have the opportunity to mentor.
A few years ago I did some work with Leader Breakthru, with Terry Walling as my coach. One of the things that got clarified in my coaching, is that one of my top values and gifts is encouraging other people in their ministry. My top strength using the Strength Finders tool is “maximizer,” which I like to call “encourager”. This began to make sense of what I have been doing all my life, encouraging other leaders to find their calling and pursue whatever the Lord is doing in their lives.
What is your daily devotional rhythm, or what does your own spiritual formation look like on a daily basis?
Over the years I’ve used different books, lectionaries, and tools. I tend to change things up from time to time, or else I get in a rut. Whatever the tool, it is always focused on Scripture. I try to go beyond just learning the story or the particular point of exhortation or teaching. The next question for me is, “Lord, what are you trying to teach me in my particular situation in life through this passage of scripture?” Sometimes it is a general lesson about grace or works, but sometimes it is very specific to a person or situation.
During these times of meditation, I’ll write down prayers like “Lord, help me understand your mercy so I’m not so judgmental towards this person,” or “Lord, help me rely more on your wisdom, and not my own combination of knowledge and experience to solve a problem.” I ask myself, if Jesus were in the room, how would he say this to me? From time to time I’ll hear something like “My son, this is what I want you to do, and it is because my son Jesus has showed you how to do it.”
For a few years now, my wife and I will start our day by listening to the Daily Audio Bible. Brian Hardin, a priest in Nashville, takes the One-year Bible and will read a passage from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Psalms, and Proverbs and will do a short meditation on them at the end. It takes about 20-25 minutes total. So Gigi and I will sit down and listen to it and then spend some time in intercessory prayer before going about our day.
What is the most encouraging or memorable thing that has happened in your life and ministry in the last year?
This goes back longer than a year, but what comes to mind is our move to San Antonio. In 2012, my wife and I were focused on retirement and preparing for the next phase in our life. We started moving to San Antonio to be with our family, and would stay with one of our sons and his family while going back and forth between Texas and Colorado. At the time there wasn’t an AMiA church in San Antonio. We had always been so engaged in local congregations, so even though I was happy to be fulfilling a commitment to family, I was sad to not have that strong church involvement.
Shortly after we began our move, a small group of people started Grace Northridge. We saw the development of Grace early on, and I’d celebrate communion with them when we were in town. Just before we arrived more permanently in town in 2013, they called +Matt Kessler to be their lead pastor. It was a real joy to have a small role in the founding and growing of this church plant.
What person has most impacted your life and why?
There are so many people that I have to thank, and among them is Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini. We met in 1999, when he was traveling to the United States on a sort of fact gathering mission. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church had invited Bishops to come and see our churches, and Archbishop Kolini did just that. He spent a week or two with my congregation in Denver. We clicked as leaders, different as our personal histories are. More than anyone, it was Archbishop Kolini who encouraged others to name me as Bishop in 2001, just as the Mission was getting started. Throughout my ministry as a Bishop in the Mission, he has been a real mentor to me.
What is something that you would like to accomplish in the future?
If I had a plaque on my wall that had names and dates on it, I would hope it was a very long plaque with the names of young leaders, men and women, whom I had encouraged in their life and ministry to the Lord. This is the work that I love doing, influencing young leaders to be better ministers, or in some cases, to be ministers at all!