The Rev. Matthew Foster Heyd
We live in a Kairos moment— Dean Kelly Brown Douglas describes this time as a “moment of grace and opportunity, a time in which God issues a challenge to decisive action.”
I completely believe that’s true.
This moment is hard. Congregational leaders feel abandoned, lonely, and exhausted. The pandemic tumult of the last several years is joined to historic endemic racism and the increasing chaos of American civic life. The mechanics of doing church are more complicated for communities of all sizes. Healing is an aching need, in New York and globally.
This moment is defined by possibility. The key question isn’t how we handle decline. The question is how we handle change. The Holy Spirit is active right now— as active as 10 or 50 or 2,000 years ago. We can care for each other through difficult times. We can build new tools for changing needs. We can move from exhaustion to renewal.
I learned what renewal means from leaders in the Diocese of New York.
I grew up in North Carolina but I was raised up for ministry in the Diocese of New York. I’ve now spent my entire adult life working for the renewal of the Episcopal Church at the congregational, diocesan, and national levels.
My vocation has been possible because of the care and support from friends here in New York. My life and faith has been shaped by the community of the Church. I moved at age twenty-five from far away without friends or family nearby. Now it’s home. It’s where my children were baptized. It’s where I’ve served the church, both as lay leader and as priest. My daughter was confirmed in the Cathedral where I was ordained. We’ve lived through responses to 9/11 and the pandemic. Our whole family marched with Black Lives Matter after George Floyd’s murder.
A decade ago I was part of a bishop election back home in North Carolina. I’ve said “no” to every nomination since in both congregational and bishop’s searches.
But New York is home and I owe an enormous debt to the Church here. I believe deeply in our people and our possibilities. I know that we can thrive— if we change together.
The Diocese is our people and our communities, not principally the bishop and the bishop’s staff.
The bishop can serve as a champion of street-level ministries in congregations, chaplaincies, schools, and affiliated agencies and an organizer of our witness together to a world that deeply needs to hear a message of grace, hope, and love.
We have an incredible opportunity. I’m excited about our conversations for what’s possible in the Diocese of New York.
Grace and Peace,
Canonical residence: New York
Ordained Deacon: March 2009, Bishop Mark Sisk
Ordained Priest: September 2009, Bishop Mark Sisk
Church of the Heavenly Rest 2013-Present Rector
- Focused on community renewal through pastoral care, congregational engagement, and neighborhood invitation.
- Supported congregation to re-imagine ministry three times over the last decade.
- Supported pivot to online programs during COVID pandemic that doubled the size of the community’s reach to be national as well as local.
- Congregation envisioned and carried out new ministries in prison reentry and the arts.
- Congregation also made a commitment to anti-racism and inclusion.
- Renewed and restor(ing) 93-year old current church building with biggest capital projects since church moved in 1929.
- Community contributed $14 million for capital projects, including completion of the first two successful capital campaigns in parish history.
- Annual stewardship increased by 30% over three years.
- Revised revenue model to include significant outside rental income, including a new cafe operator named “best cafe in NYC” and catering partnership with Black-owned restaurant.
- Balanced operating budget for longest period in recent parish history.
- Direct staff of 20 with a total budget of $5 million.
Trinity Church, Wall Street, 2003-2013 Priest and Director of Faith in Action
- Supported congregational health and growth through engagement of congregation and staff in outreach ministries.
- Began as lay staff to coordinate philanthropic efforts in Metropolitan New York and ended by directing all outreach ministries, including the $2.7 million Trinity Grants Program, Anglican Partnerships, local and global volunteer service.
- Tripled the number of volunteers involved in Faith in Action ministries through ministries envisioned and planned by the congregation;
- Supported increase of congregational financial stewardship by 50% over two years;
- Created volunteer-led mission relationships in New York, New Orleans, Panama, and Burundi; Created Charlotte’s Place, Trinity’s neighborhood center for Lower Manhattan that received 20,000 visitors in its first year;
- Launched All Our Children public school initiative with the Bishop Suffragan of New York
(effort endorsed for whole Episcopal Church by 2009 General Convention, involved Presiding
Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori as volunteer, and profiled in a 2017 book);
- Launched initiative seeding Episcopal Service Corps sites, a national funding initiative that created young adult service programs in Episcopal congregations nationally; and Directed a staff of eight with a total budget of $5 million.
National Service-Learning Partnership, 2003 Deputy Director for Strategic Development
- Created strategy, program, and media initiatives for a new national organization advancing service-learning as a core element of the educational experience for every k-12 student in the United States.
- Oversaw 250% increase in Partnership members to 6,000 from all fifty states; and Secured three-year, $1.5 million extension of funding from corporate donor.
Do Something, 1997-2002 Chief Operating Officer
- Directed national k-12 school-based service program for non-profit organization serving 20,000 educators and 5 million students.
- Success of national school program model is profiled in Harvard Professor Robert Putnam’s 2003 book Better Together
- Worked with Martin Luther King III on an annual national service-learning event to celebrate the MLK National Holiday with service.
- Managed 15+ staff and multiple interns with $2 million annual budget.
Episcopal Charities, 1995-1997 Interim Director and Associate Director
- Helped launch organization supporting congregational social outreach in the Diocese of New York.
- With board, crafted first mission statement, Launched fundraising activities.
- Created two-cycle annual grants program.
SELECTED LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE
Chair of the Board
Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing, 2022-
Incoming board chair for group launched by the Diocese of Atlanta to mobilize the Episcopal Church for racial healing. Focused on broadening the Center’s national network.
Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees
Providence Day School, 2022-2023
Board member for school in Charlotte, NC where I grew up.
Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees
Episcopal Divinity School at Union, 2021-
Board member for Episcopal seminary focused on renewal of the Episcopal Church with focus on social justice.
Strategic Futures Initiative, 2020
Co-Convener with Bishop of Indianapolis for a national group connected with the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes to develop resources for the post-pandemic Episcopal Church by looking cross-sector at possibilities for transformation.
Berkeley Divinity School at Yale Leadership Initiative, 2019
Chair of planning process for a new initiative focused on strengthening the school’s commitment to lay and clergy leadership for a changing church. Initiative adopted by the school’s board in fall 2019.
President of the Board of Directors
Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes, 2018-2019
Board vice-president and president during strategic planning and executive director search and transition process for national network of Episcopal parishes and seminaries. New strategy focused on outreach and diversity.
Presiding Bishop’s Campaign for Cuba, 2018-2019
Co-Chaired successful national campaign at the request of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to raise $800,000 to cover the Diocese of Cuba’s reentry into the Church Pension Group, which was a prerequisite to the Diocese’ reconciliation with the Episcopal Church.
Founding Board Chair
United Community Schools, 2013-2019
Board chair and partner for launch of a New York City-wide partnership between labor, business, and the faith community supporting public-private and public-public partnerships in NYC public schools. The organization is now the City’s largest community school organization.
- Seminarian, Christ & Stephen’s Church (Upper West Side of Manhattan), 2007-2008
- Seminarian, Church of the Atonement (East Bronx), 2008-2009
- Vestry, Church of the Holy Trinity (Upper East Side of Manhattan), 2004-2006
- Secretary of Convention of the Diocese of New York, 2019-2022
- Lead organizer, Campaign for the Credit Union, 2022
- Member, Bishop’s Advisory Committee on Strategic Planning, 2016
- Elected member, Standing Committee of the Diocese of New York, 2010-2014
- Chair, Social Concerns Commission of the Diocese of New York, 2001-2006
- Elected member, Council of the Diocese of New York, 2002-2007
- Commission on Ministry, Diocese of New York, 2000-2004 Alternate Lay Deputy, General Convention, 2006
Master of Sacred Theology, 2009
The General Theological Seminary
Thesis: Mission Jazz: How The Dynamic Relationship Between Story, Systems, and Practice Shapes Social Mission
Master of Arts in Religion summa cum laude, 1995
Jessie Ball du Pont Scholarship
Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science, 1992
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Student Body President
Order of the Golden Fleece
Reading, running (completed five marathons). Spouse Ann Thornton is Vice-Provost and University Librarian at Columbia University. Fifteen year-old daughter and eleven year-old son.
1. Describe your relationship with Christ and how it shapes your ministry.
In my mid-20s I was completely lost. I’m not sure I seemed lost. I had graduated from seminary. I had a job. I was about to get married.
But I weighed much more than I should, my ADHD was disrupting my life, and I had begun to deal with the rising anxiety that I’ve now experienced in my entire adult life. Finding a practice of the presence of God changed my life. I have a wonderful little book that my mother and I have read for a very long time that is a modern translation of Benedictine spirituality. There’s one line at the beginning of the book that goes like this, It is for us to train our hearts to live in grace and, when we fail, to begin again each day. Practice opens us to Grace. A rhythm of life opens us to experience the dynamic transcendence of a living God.
This practice of the presence of God deeply reflects the Incarnation of Jesus Christ in my life. Incarnation lived in the present tense. I recently read a book about Billy Graham that said all of Dr. Graham’s sermons were about John 3:16. For me my whole life is about Galatians chapter 2: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The abiding presence of Christ in my life is a guiding force. I find this in my daily ritual rhythm and practice of prayer. I’m both a mystic and deeply attracted to ascetical theology.
Actually, when I pray that verse from Galatians I pray it this way: It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. We live Christ’s Incarnation most fully together.
Nothing is possible alone. I found, and continue to find, the love of God within the liturgies and prayers of Christian community. I’ve been deeply influenced by Michael Battle’s recounting of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s theology of Ubuntu: We are made to be together.
Incarnational community is always aspirational. Christ abides in us and yet we are broken and live our faith in communities that are broken (and sometimes break us). Kelly Brown Douglas writes so powerfully about moral imagination. Seeking and serving Christ in each other— listening to each other’s stories— reminds us what’s possible and what’s needed.
2. What is it about our profile that gets you excited and how do you think your skills and experiences are well-suited to serve the Diocese of New York as Bishop Diocesan?
I have spent my entire adult life working for the renewal of Episcopal Church. This journey has been deeply collaborative and focused on how we listen and learn together.
I moved to my current diocese when I was 25 years old to help start Episcopal Charities in the Diocese of New York. I learned about Church by visiting summer programs for children, soup kitchens, small shelters, and an extraordinary range of activities that connected congregations back to their neighborhoods. Everywhere I went I found incredible creativity, innovation, and perseverance. And I found kindness. All through my life people have been willing to share what they know to help me learn.
My congregation now works with an Irish poet who says that listening is a sacrament. I think that’s true. Listening has been the bedrock of my ministry and the key to the renewal of the church.
I’ve been so fortunate to have been involved in projects over 27 years that help the Church try new things. As a new priest I helped my congregation envision hands-on mission in its neighborhood and globally that involved hundreds of parishioners and engaged our neighbors.
As rector I’ve helped my congregation re-imagine its ministry three times in a decade as we follow the Holy Spirit— launching ministries in arts and prison reentry and forming a daily online prayer community in the pandemic. We used the strange and difficult limits of the pandemic time to be creative in who we invited to join our ministries and lead our programs.
I play four roles as rector: pastor, strategist, storyteller, and organizer. All four roles support a healthy and dynamic pastoral fabric that cares for our people, engages their gifts in ministry, and invites our neighbors into Christian community. Pastoral fabric feels like a better way to describe “congregational system.” It’s organic, connected, dynamic, and Incarnational.
The Diocese is our people and our communities. The bishop and the bishop’s staff support these street-level communities. The role of a bishop is to support a healthy pastoral fabric across a Diocese, serve street level ministries, and to organize those communities together to witness to the world.
To do this, the bishop has to care for diocesan leaders. To do this, we have to change a diocesan revenue model which is broken, dismantle the inequities in the ordination and deployment process, and find creative ways to care for our aging buildings together. I’ve learned: it doesn’t matter how big or small the community, renewal isn’t possible alone.
3. What new and hopeful perspectives and ideas can you bring to the conversation about church decline that support and encourage long-term solutions?
We are Easter people. The question is always, what do we hope?
The last several years, and the last decade, have been exhausting. Just the basics of doing church keep getting more difficult. The world has been on a roller coaster ride and churches everywhere have been dramatically affected. The numbers are clear.
And yet, the essential question isn’t about decline. The question is about how we adapt and change within our dynamic traditions. Christian communities can look differently than in the past without the shame of failing imagined history. The Holy Spirit is as active now as in the 1950’s or when St. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth.
There’s no easy answer but there are incredible possibilities. How do we draw on our history, organize our neighborhoods with our gifts, and structure the bishop’s staff to support street-level ministry in congregations, schools, chaplaincies, and affiliated agencies?
We can do all these things because we have amazing people. We are salt and light together.
The long history of the Diocese of New York shows courage, leadership, and struggle. The Diocese was born from empire and enslavement. But the Diocese also flourished over two centuries with energy to create a New World through the Gospel. It has always widened invitation into the joy that Christ’s love provides.
The Diocese of New York helped lead women’s ordination and acceptance of LGBTQ+ clergy. It stood with Desmond Tutu in South Africa to fight apartheid and with farmworkers in the Hudson Valley to achieve basic rights. It helped build the South Bronx and Harlem through community organizing. Its cathedral was long a beacon for pageantry and justice. It leads the whole Episcopal Church in addressing reparations for slavery.
The Diocese can recognize where it has been complicit in evil (The Bishop of New York should apologize for the Diocese’ participation in enslavement) and commit itself to repair.
Then, the Diocese has the tools it needs for renewal— beginning with amazing lay leaders, deacons, and priests. Great ministry comes from deep relationships. Deep relationships inspire incredible imagination.
The Diocese of New York is too diverse for one answer to how renewal looks. Years ago I helped create an initiative called Feed the Solution with the goal of increasing the impact of congregation-based feeding programs. We wanted to engage urban, suburban, and rural congregations. At first, I thought the answer was obvious: soup kitchens and food pantries should help their guests connect with local or federal benefit programs. Our area left billions of dollars in benefits unused.
I was wrong. We listened to participants in the initiative. Each program figured out one next step that fit their community. Some expanded benefit counseling. Others taught cooking classes. The lesson extended well beyond feeding programs. Congregations know their communities best and each community can organize its gifts differently in response to the opportunities they find.
Congregations need support to organize. Leadership has become more lonely. The bishop and the bishop’s staff should be organized around how they support street-level organizing and Diocese-wide witness. The Diocese of Pennsylvania has re-organized exactly this way.
There’s grief and loss. The Diocese has lost familiar faces and centuries-old communities have either been lost or stand at risk. We’re exhausted and there is abundance. That’s the Easter Day Gospel story.
What do we hope? The Diocese of New York can be more vibrant in ten years than it is today, if it changes together. It has the history, gifts, and imagination to make it possible.
4. Given the impact of COVID on the life of our ministry, we are curious about how you will pastor our congregations, both clergy and laity.
I’ve been an amazed and grateful recipient of pastoral care in the Diocese of New York for my entire adult life. I arrived as a twenty-five year old from far away with no friends or family in the area. People within the Diocese immediately invited me into a community that has shaped my adult life. At multiple points— particularly in the ordination process— people offered care and support beyond what I could have imagined.
Throughout my ordained life it’s been my guiding belief that pastoral care is always our most important ministry because it reflects God’s unconditional love. Individual pastoral care weaves into a healthy pastoral fabric for communities. We can do anything when we know that we are loved.
In March 2020 I heard an Episcopal lay leader in public health say the pandemic would present as a health crisis but would actually cause an emotional and spiritual crisis. The key to navigating the difficulty was emotional resilience.
Emotional resilience has been a constant question through these several years. We showed up for our parish community every single day. I led online morning prayer and compline daily through the first year of the pandemic so that we could pray together even in lockdown. Though we increased our presence we also made sure that our staff team has flexible work schedules and time for family. Care for ourselves and each other made care for a hurting and anxious community possible. We’ve expanded our pastoral care practices for a changing community— including care for some who now join only online.
As difficult as the two-year COVID pandemic has been, so many have been affected much longer by the trauma of endemic racism. Reparations for generations-long hurts— including in the ordination and deployment processes— are crucial to forming a healthy and caring pastoral fabric in a diocese.
A bishop models care for a diocese and supports a pastoral fabric that supports care for lay and clergy leaders. Care goes well beyond intervening in crisis situations. It means being present in the rhythm of the lives of those serving grass-roots communities. A bishop called me on my first Christmas Eve as a priest. That meant the world to me. The bishop’s staff should be present to the daily cares and concerns of lay and clergy leaders, from stewardship season and Holy Week bulletin preparation.
It also involves working for healthy relationships within communities and between those communities and the bishop’s staff. It’s an anxious time. People are assaulting airline attendants and erupting in supermarket check out lines. This constant tension is excruciating for leaders.
It’s important the bishop’s staff have their backs in conflict resolution.
Care for each other is the foundation of healthy communities. With care, we can repair and renew also.
5. Social justice is near and dear to the heart of the Diocese of New York. How has social justice been a part of your ministry? Please give examples.
Four Januarys ago we sat in a New York City court room for the murder trial of a police sergeant who killed our parishioner. The parishioner was a 68-year-old African-American woman who was mentally ill. She was experiencing a schizophrenic episode, and instead of calling for support the neighbors called the police. When the police came, they shot her in her nightgown inside her bedroom. The church— my congregation and others in our city— were her family. So we showed up every day to witness to her wife that she was a child of God and worthy of dignity.
We didn’t just witness in a courtroom for our parishioner. Our bishop, a priest friend, and I met with the deputy police commissioner to ask the police to fund stronger mental health training for officers— so that officers wouldn’t be put in situations where they don’t have the training to respond. The deputy commissioner said “no.”
It is the mission of the church to witness to the dignity of every person. By this you will know that you were my disciples, that you love one another. That means that we witness, that we advocate, that we organize, and that we coordinate really basic logistics that allow the church to be agents of reconciliation and justice in the world. Throughout my ministry I have done all of these things. I have learned these things from mentors in the Diocese of New York.
I helped found Episcopal Charities in New York. I helped organize diocese-wide programs to connect congregations to HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa and with public schools next door to our churches. I led a campaign for the Presiding Bishop to ensure reconciliation with the Episcopal Church in Cuba by fully funding the pensions of Cuban clergy. We’ve shifted the buying practices in my congregation to favor Black and minority-owned businesses.
It’s the role of the Bishop to advocate and, with the bishop’s staff, to organize witness with congregations and support really basic logistics that make powerful presence possible.
God did not put us on earth to do small things. By this you will know. Our biggest call is to love one another as God has loved us. Social justice is both the Church’s witness to the world and invitation into Christian community.
6. A significant part of episcopal ministry is overseeing administration, property, and financial development. Give some examples of when you have done this kind of work and what you have learned from the work you’ve done.
More than two decades ago I worked with the family of Martin Luther King Jr. to help children carry out service for the MLK Holiday each January. We offered service curricula for 20,000 schools and 5 million children nationally. We visited schools from all over— Boise and Compton, Austin and suburban Richmond— to learn from their experiences. We made mistakes, some hilarious. We listened and tried to do better the next time. Our best program ideas came from students and teachers. We organized logistics to support very different local schools in very different communities.
The same should be true of a bishop’s staff: great administration means organizing resources for street-level leadership. Saul Alinsky said, leaders organize people and money. Church leaders also organize property.
I’ve led a congregation and served as chief operating officer of two national non-profit organizations designed to catalyze grass-roots leadership in schools. I’ve helped lead strategy development for two Episcopal seminaries. I’ve raised money for congregations, dioceses, and the wider Episcopal Church.
I really enjoy engaging complex systems (pastoral fabric!). I’m a geek. Leadership and strategy are my hobbies. I’ve learned that keeping trains running on time is important but it’s only one dimension of a healthy pastoral fabric that includes strategic narrative, pastoral care for the system, and attention to grounding rituals.
The multi-dimensional approach is really important because administration often means navigating change.
Change and possibility is often possible because of hard, daily work on challenging basic logistics. “Revenue model” sounds like it might involve Lego blocks. The phrase sounds defined and mechanical. Our congregational experience of changing our revenue model to include more earned income is more akin to Hosea. Sow the wind. Reap the whirlwind. It could be politely described as “dynamic.” But constant attention to revenue, systems, and property has allowed us to expand our ministries significantly over the last decade and remain financially sound.
Dioceses globally are making the same shift. Communities in the Diocese of New York could benefit from the same attention to shifting how we support our ministries. We have a lot to learn from the entrepreneurial energy of the global Anglican Communion.
Administration and logistics are vital as threads in a wider pastoral fabric that can support care, repair, and renewal for the Gospel.
Interview of the Candidate by Veronica Dagher