The Rev. Steven D. Paulikas
Dear Members of Diocese of New York:
Greetings from Brooklyn. I write with humility to offer myself for your discernment of whom God is calling to be your next bishop. It is my prayer that my participation in this process would be a blessing to us both and may in some measure help you clarify the character, temperament, experience, and spirit of the person best suited to this ministry.
I am surprised to be here. It had not occurred to me to participate in this discernment process until a few trusted friends urged me to look at your diocesan profile. As I studied it and prayed with it, I also began having conversations about the future of your diocese that simultaneously excited and humbled me. As a New Yorker, I know the daunting challenges faced by our historic churches, from fighting declining attendance to finding unity in the gift of diversity to sharing vision and hope with the faithful. I also know from my experience leading a parish from near-closure to joyful abundance that God can provide the will, resources, and faith to meet these obstacles. I have discovered that I feel called to share this perspective with you in the hope that my own optimism about the future of our Church can help the diocese feel a sense of holy renewal as it heads into the next chapter of its ministry.
The Diocese of New York can and should be one of the most prominent spiritual and moral leaders in our great city and state. The bishop must be aware that their flock includes those in pre-trial incarceration at Rikers Island, refugees making a new life in Westchester, and upstate residents who find themselves priced out of their own communities. The Bishop of New York stewards a powerful platform that can give voice to these and so many other New Yorkers who deserve justice and ultimately shape changes in policy. As a former journalist, I have sought to use media to apply the values of the Gospel to our society and has, I hope, projected our Christian values to a national and global audience and empowered leaders across the Church to use their own voices.
My intention in participating in this process is to offer myself for service to God and our neighbor. I will continue to pray for the diocese and my fellow nominees. I am as humbled as I am grateful for this opportunity. May Christ bless us in this sacred work.
The Rev. Steven D. Paulikas
University of Oxford; Oxford, England
D.Phil., Theology, January 2023 (expected) Thesis title: “Paul Ricoeur’s Theology of Evil” Thesis supervisor: Prof. Joel Rasmussen
The General Theological Seminary; New York, New York M.Div. cum laude, May 2008
University of Cambridge; Cambridge, England M.Phil., Jul. 2002
Yale University; New Haven, Connecticut
B.A. cum laude, May 2001
Comparative Literature (with distinction), International Studies (with distinction)
Rector (Dec. 2013 – Present); Priest-in-Charge (Jun. 2011 – Dec. 2013), All Saints’ Church
Brooklyn, New York
Led diverse urban Episcopal parish from near-closure to position of spiritual vitality and institutional stability. Renewed parish program life through new adult education, youth ministry, community and global outreach and partnership. Recruited and trained four new professional staff positions. Average Sunday attendance doubled to 139 (pre-pandemic) and pledged annual giving nearly quintupled to $250,000 during eleven-year tenure.
Assistant to the Rector, Grace Church Brooklyn Heights
Brooklyn, New York (Jul. 2008 – May 2011)
Shared leadership with Rector in preaching and liturgical duties, pastoral contact, outreach initiatives, and mentorship of seminarian interns. Designed and led adult and youth programs. Expanded youth program and attendance, adult education, and parish communications.
Vilnius, Lithuania (Oct. 2002 – Aug. 2005)
Contributed radio and television news items to the BBC as freelance correspondent for the Baltic states. Published feature articles and news items in Lithuania and internationally in publications including Newsweek, The Independent, The Toronto Globe and Mail, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Worthwhile, The Moscow Times, Lithuanian Business Review, Lithuania in the World.
Bureau chief, The Baltic Times
Vilnius, Lithuania (Jan. 2003 – Aug. 2004)
Published 2,000-3,000 words of original material per week on national political, economic, and cultural themes for the only English-language weekly in the Baltic states. Created editorial Lithuanian editorial plan. Recruited and coordinated activity of freelance journalists.
Service Member, Client Advisory Council, Church Pension Group (Mar. 2022 – present) Served on committee
Member, Pastoral Care Advisory Committee, New York Presbyterian-Brooklyn Methodist Hospital (Jan. 2019 – present)
Advised hospital pastoral care and CPE staff on community concerns. Mentored chaplain residents.
Member, Board of Directors, Episcopal Relief and Development(Jan. 2018 – present)
Chaired Advancement and Communications Committee for global economic development and disaster relief agency with a $22 million annual budget. Served on ad-hoc Strategic Planning Committee, “1000 Days of Love” capital campaign committee, led monthly prayer sessions for staff.
Member, Board of Governors, Episcopal Church at Yale (Sept. 2011 – May 2020)
Designed and executed comprehensive communications and development strategy that doubled individual giving to $42,000 in first year of implementation. Formed and chaired Development Committee. Preached and celebrated at Sunday evening services. Led student retreats.
Core Team, Diocese of Long Island Commission on Ministry (Nov. 2008 – Dec. 2019)
Advised Bishop on all applications for ordination. Organized and directed discernment process for holy orders.
Term Member, Council on Foreign Relations (Aug. 2012 – Jul. 2017)
Co-chaired New York Term Member Advisory Committee for 2016-2017 program year. Advised staff on meeting content and chaired meetings in the Religion and Foreign Policy Initiative.
“Denying Biden Communion is the nuclear option” The Washington Post, Jun. 23, 2021 Publications “My Parishioner Was Not Sentenced to Death. He Still Died” The New York Times, May 31, 2021 “The World is Empty Now. How Should We Fill It?” The New York Times, Apr. 11, 2020
“Mayor Pete and the Queering of the American Soul” The New York Times, Apr. 17, 2019
“17 Years after September 11, Will We Learn to Love Our Enemies?” The Nation, Sept. 11, 2018 “Christianity Does Not Justify Trump’s ‘Fire and Fury’” The New York Times, August 14, 2017 “Want to strengthen American democracy? Exercise your freedom of religion” Quartz, Apr. 16, 2017 “How Should We Respond to ‘Evil’?” The New York Times, Jun. 27, 2016
“Church is the next frontier for same-sex marriage acceptance” The Guardian, Jul. 1, 2015
“How Should We Respond to ‘Evil’?” in Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments, New York: Liveright, 2017.
Lithuanian (fluent), German (fluent), Russian (proficient), French (proficient), Spanish (conversational), Biblical Hebrew (reading proficiency), Koine Greek (reading proficiency)
- Describe your relationship with Christ and how it shapes your ministry.
I began attending an Episcopal parish when I was a teenager. I had been raised mostly outside organized religion but felt a deep desire to connect with something higher, so I asked my parents to take me to a church. I was surprised by the Jesus I met there. Whereas the loudest Christian voices I had heard led me to believe he was a God of rules and judgment, here I was introduced to a messiah who said the most important thing in life is to love God and love your neighbor.
The ministry of The Episcopal Church gave me this way of relating to Jesus, and I have dedicated my life to both living out my faith and attempting to do for others what was done for me in my first parish home. For guidance, I turn to the verse from Ephesians commonly used as an Offertory Sentence: “walk in love as Christ loved us.” I have learned as a Christian and an ordained person that moving through the world in God’s love enables the Holy Spirit to transform the places you visit, wherever you are. Living this way is a precious gift I endeavor never to take for granted.
I renew my faith most mornings by saying the Daily Office and/or practicing centering prayer. I also keep a spiritual journal, which I’ve done since I was a kid. These personal spiritual practices are the bedrock of my daily life and ministry and keep me connected to God. They empower me to be present spiritually and emotionally in leading worship, preaching, pastoral conversation, and in administrative tasks. But I also find God in the personal interests that point to different modes of holiness. I’m an amateur cellist and voracious Spotify listener, read poetry most days, and have always loved travel and languages.
Finally, I have found Christ in embracing my life as a queer person, which has made me a more authentic Christian and effective pastor. LGBTQ+ people brave enough to claim a place in church have no option other than to live out the truth that the Holy Spirit works through all parts of who we are. Someone recently told me that just being a gay priest was all the ministry they needed from me; may we all be so blessed that simply being the people God created us to be is a ministry to others.
- 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 see in the profile an underlying desire for two fundamental spiritual gifts from the next bishop to the diocese: vision and cooperation. I am moved in large part to participate in this discernment process because I am excited to share my perspective on both.
I have a simple vision for the Diocese of New York: that there be more Episcopalians in the diocese at the end of the next episcopate than there were at the beginning. We can look to the description of the earliest church in the Acts of the Apostles for guidance in making this vision a reality. The first Christians were “filled with awe” at God’s grace, and the love and enthusiasm of their communities drew in ever more people to their fellowship. I share this vision from Acts—of a church so filled with the Spirit that the faithful are uplifted, the skeptical are welcomed as equals, and strangers become family. I have lived this spiritual reality in my own parish as it transformed from a handful of the faithful facing serious challenges to a loving, diverse, and growing Christian community. This type of growth may not be possible in every ministry setting across the diocese, but I would argue that a leader who believes it is possible can do much to create the circumstances for it to happen.
This vision can only become a reality through the spiritual gift of cooperation. Returning to Acts, the first believers saw their individual lives as a common good and strove for unity. The bishop is uniquely positioned to foster the cooperative spirit that the people of the Diocese of New York deserve. I have learned both in my parish and in service to the wider church that decisions reached with input from leaders from a variety of backgrounds have a far greater impact while building trust and a sense of common mission. The tools for creating this type of cooperation are things I happen to find spiritually rewarding: asking people for their opinions, seeking out underrepresented voices, listening before talking, and admitting fault when I inevitably fall short of the mark. A clearly articulated vision for the diocese will naturally bring together a diverse community and inspire cooperation.
- What new and hopeful perspectives and ideas can you bring to the conversation about church decline that support and encourage long-term solutions?
I am one of the oldest Episcopalians only to have known the church in decline. Those born even a few years before me face the difficult challenge of adjusting from a church we could take for granted to our present situation, but anyone my age or younger has never had that privilege. And yet, I believe with my whole heart in the treasures our particular expression of Christianity has to offer the world. Like most people reading this, I have seen how our way of responding to Jesus can transform lives and breathe life into communities. We are stewards of a sacred and unique gift from God, one worth fighting to preserve and pass on to future generations.
In 2011, I became priest-in-charge of All Saints’ Church, where I am currently rector. Our church is one of those grand old places where most things that can go wrong in a church did go wrong, and a previous bishop had planned to close it shortly before I arrived. I accepted the call against the warnings of colleagues and even former diocesan staff because I genuinely loved the people I met there and felt the Holy Spirit calling us to work together.
Our first years were spent learning about each other, healing, and simply enjoying being a church after years of turmoil. We worked on strategies to hone parishioners’ natural charism for welcome and began to build meaningful program life. We introduced discipline and organization to governance and finances as well as liturgy. We started reaching out to community groups and began articulating the gift of our remarkable diversity. Crucially, All Saints’ patiently and graciously nurtured and formed me into becoming a leader, forgiving my mistakes and adjusting to my faults. Through all of this, we had fun—the kind of godly fun that is as attractive as it is infectious.
After more than 11 years of ministry together, our parish is the type of place where you can pretty much feel the love of God the minute you walk through the door. The usual metrics Episcopalians use give a snapshot of growth in attendance and resources. But far more precious is our spiritual growth, which has transformed lives, inspired lay and ordained ministries, offered hope during the pandemic, served our wider community, and restored and deepened faith in God.
Our story cannot necessarily be replicated everywhere, but I am motivated to share it to give hope to other parishes facing similar challenges. Were I to become bishop, I would lead as one who knows our churches can and will grow given the right circumstances and the will to be conduits of God’s grace in the world.
- 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.
All Saints’ is situated directly across the street from a major hospital. For several months during 2020, if the church doors were open, there was a direct view from the altar to two refrigerated morgue trucks. It felt like a Good Friday that would never end.
Like clergy and laity in so many places, I stayed put through the depths of the pandemic, streaming liturgies and sermons, keeping pastoral hours in the parish garden, and doing my best to keep our beloved flock together. My parish community and I are exhausted, and our joy is, at best, tentative. We are faced not only with the grief of all we have lost, but the uncertainty of what church will be in the future—and all when we have all been stretched beyond what we previously thought was the limit of stress and anguish.
A wise bishop will approach all personal and institutional encounters with the clergy and laity with the sensitivity that we are all traumatized. Key to the healing of the diocese will be the accessibility of the bishop and the bishop’s staff to the people of the diocese, and especially to clergy. I will admit to having wished from time to time for an encouraging call or text message from staff in my own diocese; I know how much even a small but warm gesture can mean to clergy on the front lines of ministry.
But it will be equally important that the bishop rally the diocese around a shared sense of mission in the post-pandemic world. What our battered and heroic churches most need today is hope for the future—and I’m stubbornly optimistic about our future, because we did the spiritually and ethically right thing when it mattered most. While some other religious and secular institutions denied the danger of the virus or flouted measures that would protect their people, Episcopalians demonstrated our faith in a life-giving God by making self-sacrificial decisions so that all could live. Now that the pandemic is subsiding, I am confident that we possess the very gifts that the pandemic made people aware might be lacking in their lives: genuine community, meaning in the face of tragedy, integrity in word and deed, and the beauty of holiness in an ugly world. We are already seeing this happen at All Saints’, where every week we welcome newcomers who are looking for these very things.
- 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.
A year after Bishop John Henry Hobart sent the Rev. Eleazer Williams to be a missionary to the Oneida people in 1817, he told Diocesan Convention, “we ought never to forget that the salvation of the Gospel is designed for all the human race,” including “the humble Indian.” By 1822, Williams had maneuvered within Oneida politics sufficiently to convince them to abandon their ancestral lands. Hobart—one of the towering historical figures of The Episcopal Church—believed his ministry to the Oneida was a Christian act of mercy. And yet his failure to imagine them as co-equal partners in ministry caused him to set in motion an irreversible act of injustice.
The Bishop of New York is the spiritual heir of both Bishop Hobart’s significant accomplishments and his ignorance and hubris born of what he perceived to be good intentions. At the same time, New York City and State suffer from a moral vacuum in which the clear voice and advocacy of a spiritual leader are sorely needed. The next bishop is called to be that unequivocal voice while at the same time recognizing the damage our church has so often done in the supposed cause of justice. It is possible—indeed imperative—that we do both.
There is a simple formula to threading this ethical needle: abandoning the notion that in true justice there is ever a difference between “us” and “them.” The authority of the bishop’s words rests on the conviction that they are not speaking or acting on behalf of someone else, but rather as a member of the one Body of Jesus Christ, in which the suffering of one member is suffering for all.
New York is enduring an array of social injustices that would make Jesus shudder in disgust. Shocking disparities of wealth in the city are being exported upstate, pricing out people in their own communities; there is a homelessness crisis in our urban areas; two years after George Floyd’s murder our law enforcement system has yet to undergo major reform. These are not partisan issues—they are Gospel issues. The parish is a powerful tool for social change, and I am proud of my parish’s efforts in founding a Racial Justice Initiative and sponsoring an Afghan refugee family for resettlement. As part of my ministry, I have also written about moral issues in national and global media, and I have spent years cultivating relationships with policy experts, activists, and elected officials in New York. In all things related to social justice, it is not someone else’s body that is broken, but ours—and the Gospel compels us to action.
- 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.
The role of a leader is not simply to manage systems, but constantly to discern if the systems as they exist further the mission they support. Without this vigilance, there is always a risk that preserving systems will become the mission itself. Sadly, this form of idolatry is often something we Episcopalians fall prey to. Moreover, a leader must not be satisfied that the complexity of the system equals the sophistication or effectiveness of the organization; rather, the most efficient organizational patterns are usually the clearest and simplest ones.
We all know that The Episcopal Church is over-governed in such a way that consumes massive resources of talent, effort, and money that do not necessarily aid us in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe the next Bishop of New York would be wise to study the governing patterns of other large and diverse dioceses across the Church and the Communion and discern with other ordained and lay leaders in the diocese how to adapt systems that have a proven record of success elsewhere to the New York context. A new episcopate will present an opportunity to scrutinize everything from the ordination discernment process to the parochial assessment to the size and structure of diocesan staff to possibilities for regional oversight. This may seem like a bold agenda, but the challenges of our time dictate that we do not have time to waste in creating rational processes and systems that serve the mission of proclaiming the Gospel.
My experience leading a parish with limited resources has taught me the importance of setting priorities among a menu of equally important needs. At a Vestry retreat in 2017, the leaders of our parish discerned a call to strengthen our ministry with children. We used a process of asset-based community development to inventory what resources we already had for this ministry priority and what more we would need. We decided we would need to fully renovate our program space and hire another full-time priest for ministry with children and youth. As is so often the case, money followed mission, and we raised the money we needed to fulfill our goals. We now have a beautiful new program space itching for post-pandemic use and a nursery bursting with kids eager to learn about God.
Outside the parish, I have learned much about healthy systems through service on the board of Episcopal Relief & Development, where I chair the Advancement and Communications Committee responsible for supporting staff in raising $12 million annually from individual and church donors. I served on the Commission on Ministry of my diocese for 11 years and administered the discernment process for 6 of those years. I served on the Board of Governors of the Episcopal Church at Yale for 6 years marked by reform and growth while giving me an outlet for my passion for campus ministry.
Interview of the Candidate by Veronica Dagher
- https://open.spotify.com/show/2YzE55WVyjohGCRgzOTmSH, allsaintsparkslope.org