I remember a time in my childhood when I didn’t know many people at my school and I had not yet played many sports.  In the usual games played at recess two teams would be picked by two of the better/stronger leaders.  There were a few times that I was the last one picked.  For those of you have been the last one picked you know how embarrassing and demoralizing that is – especially when it happens multiple times. 


That kind of experience sometimes gets internalized in a way that turns into an inferiority complex.  A person begins to develop a self-identity of worthlessness and that he/she has no value among others.  This influences not only any kind of future ambitions, but also changes how he/she behaves in the present moment – any situation can easily be seen as reinforcement of their already inferior self-identity and a self-fulfilling downward spiral gains momentum. 


A common sentiment expressed in the wake of being the “open” area to be served by interim bishops has been something like, “Why are we always the ones to get the bad end of the deal?!?  The bigger annual conferences always get their way!  New Mexico and Northwest Texas is the bottom of the barrel!” 


These kinds of comments presuppose, of course, that the current situation is bad.  The other thing that is suggested by these comments is that there are some in the NWTX/NM area that have an inferiority complex about our area. 


It IS true that we are the smallest annual conference in the jurisdiction.  It IS true that we are in the top 2 or 3 in terms of declining membership in the jurisdiction.  It IS true that we have one of the lowest “Shared Ministries” (apportionments) payouts in the jurisdiction.  I will not try to deny these facts nor try to put a positive spin on them.  


But I am not willing to let these things define me and my ministry.  I am not willing to let these facts influence the way I approach my calling.  I am not willing to internalize these things in a way that diminishes the emphasis on the true mission:  making disciples of Jesus Christ. 


New Mexico and Northwest Texas Annual Conferences stand at a unique crossroads.  While we will have excellent leadership by interim Bishops Hutchinson and Solomon, we also have the opportunity to step up.  To rise above.  To take some initiative.  There is more than one possible response to “being picked last.”  We can face the challenge.  We can work to be better.  And that is something that each individual must decide – regardless of who is Bishop.  Maybe this is just the opportunity we needed. 



  1. Randall W. Partin says :

    Jeff, since I expressed the “picked last” sentiment publicly at SCJ, I kind of feel like I should respond. I think you’re absolutely right. The harsh reality is that we are the “open” episcopal area. The various and varied motives behind our current status are murky, at best.

    Nonetheless, it is easy, for all the reasons you are open about (smallest annual conference, among the fastest declining, etc.), to feel like the 90-pound weakling on the beach, getting sand kicked in our face. Frankly, there are others in our jurisdiction who aren’t surprised that we might feel that way and are quite open in saying that we may even be justified in feeling that way.

    And yet.

    When I survey the leadership in our conference, the opportunities we have for ministry, the things that we are doing, can do, could be doing, I’m encouraged and look for the opportunity we have to “step up” as you put it and make it happen. Although I felt, in that moment, that we were “picked last,” I certainly don’t feel that way anymore.

    Thanks for your leadership!


  2. jefflust says :

    Randall – Thanks for your comment. Well said. I do hope you know that I was not aiming my “picked last” comment at you personally. There were many who said something similar. Since the announcement that we would be “open” could not be coupled with the announcement that Bishops Hutchinson and Solomon would be assigned to us (which I knew but could not say) it is totally understandable that people had such a negative reaction and had their sense of inferiority (as an annual conference) reinforced. I appreciate your thoughtful comment and your leadership in our area.

  3. Vernon Baker says :

    Jeff, it is far to easy to allow ourselves to see the negatives rather than the positves. Jesus offered us unconditional love and yet still expects us to make the choice to be on the winning team. The “Fab 5” acheived Gold through accepting the gifts God had given them, then focusing on a goal and working increadable hard to get there.

    From scripture we know that we have been given all the gifts and resources we need to succeed, we only need the action to go with it. I am preaching to myself here by the way.

    We are blessed with Bishops Hutchinson and Solomon, and the episcopacy does not change the game or the rules of the mission. The Jurisdiction did not decide for us to be in last place in those categories, we did.

    Jesus chose me and now I have to choose myself for the team.

  4. Craig Cockrell says :

    I’m not sure of the “why always us” aspect of some responses I’ve heard. We have had some reasonably good bishops assigned to us in the past. I’ve had no sense there that we have received “leftovers” – maybe I’m wrong. We are who we are and the choices WE make are more important than ones others choose for us. Imagine the panic of some of the larger conferences if they had been left standing without a chair when the music stopped?!? We’ll be fine and we know it, at least as far as bishops go. We’ve got bigger fish… Will we even exist as a separate conference five years from now? We need to quit worrying about who the captain is, and take notice that the boat is sinking…

  5. Layloni Drake says :

    I know that leadership can make a huge difference. I like the leadership that created these places to dialog about our current life together as an Annual Conference. I sense a much stronger feeling within myself about what comes next and at the same time realize that there is great leadership in this Annual Conference. I think that each of us has place in developing a stronger Annual Conference. I don’t mean in the measures of attendence…As much as I mean a close adhesive group of people who are seeking to make disciples…There are great skills and talents in our conference.In my heart I want us to get to know each other well, not compare ourselves, and pull for one another.

  6. Larry Heacock says :

    If we have to be the “last picked” in order to get Bill Hutchinson for our Bishop, then we are truely blessed. Bill is a man of great wisdom and compassion. Welcome home Bill and Kay!.

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