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Meet Bishop Mark Zimmerman of the Diocese of the Southwest

The Right Rev. Dr. J. Mark Zimmerman was consecrated as the first Bishop of the Anglican Church in North America’s Diocese of the Southwest on February 28, 2014, at St. Clement’s Church, El Paso, TX. Bishop Zimmerman ((M.Div 1986, Trinity School for Ministry, Ambridge, PA) is the nineteenth alumnus of Trinity School for Ministry to be consecrated as a Bishop.
Bishop Zimmerman has spent the last fifteen years serving in Somerset, PA, first as rector of St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church, and then most recently as rector of Somerset Anglican Fellowship. In late January 2014, Mark and his wife, Cindy, moved to Albuquerque, NM to begin their new ministry.

How did you become a Christian believer?

Many seeds were planted growing up in the home of an Episcopal priest. But my relationship with Jesus began to blossom and bear fruit when I was a Junior in college. I was wrestling with many of the classic questions one has about Christianity when I opened the Book of Romans and began to read. After two sleepless nights, the answers in Romans made much more sense than my doubts. I have sought to follow Jesus ever since.

What led you to the call to pastoral ministry?

I graduated from college with a degree in English Literature and Communications. I met my wife, Cindy, soon after graduation and we both desired to serve the Lord in the mission field. We ended up teaching English in the Sultanate of Oman. In this literal desert experience I began to sense a call to ministry. Upon returning to the States, I talked to The Rt. Rev. John Rodgers. He believed I was “running from a call” and encouraged me to attend Trinity School for Ministry.

Before you and your wife Cindy moved to New Mexico, you spent fifteen years serving in Somerset, PA, where, in addition to your role as rector and church planter, you supported Young Life and developed a Spanish-speaking worship service.  What led you to make these ministries a priority in your pastoral ministry?

Small communities and small churches often find it difficult to support full-time youth pastors. There are often not enough teens to form a critical mass and funding is often difficult. Both Cindy and I had a very positive experience with Young Life when we were growing up. Cindy actually came to the Lord through her time in Young Life.

The youth in Somerset needed help. In one summer we lost a number of kids to heroin overdoses. One day after our prayer time, the Lord laid it on our hearts to see if we could bring Young Life to Somerset. The Lord had also laid it upon the heart of the Young Life regional director to bring Young Life to Somerset. We began to make contacts and the Lord blessed the effort. I must say the start-up was not easy, but the program is now bearing fruit. We just heart they had 57 kids at the last club and they are working toward bringing 20 kids to Young Life camp this summer. I have heard of kids coming to a saving relationship with Christ. All the difficult times were worth it.

I would never have guessed that we would be able to plant a Spanish service at Somerset Anglican. It is probably the last place in the Diocese of Pittsburgh that one would try to start a Hispanic ministry. God had other plans. It started when my wife befriended the mothers of some Mexican children she was working with. They asked if she would help their English. She loved it because they could help her Spanish. The Spanish-speaking families also needed a building to host parenting classes. We offered Somerset Anglican. In the meantime, some of the mothers also wanted to have a Bible Study. Some of our members helped with that. I asked the women at the study if they would like a service in Spanish and they thought it might work. The best part of the service was that God provided translators, musicians, and support for the service at every step of the way. Bishop Frank Lyons provided needed encouragement at just the right time. In God’s economy, we were able to bring these families back to church. They brought new life and beautiful children into our fellowship.

How do you envision your role as a bishop in the Anglican Church in North America?

+Terence Kelshaw told us in seminary that “our people’s greatest need is our personal holiness.” When one looks at the biblical criteria for an overseer in 1 Timothy 3, it is clear that personal holiness should be the first priority of a bishop. We cannot run a diocese well “if we cannot lead in our family.” We cannot “teach well” if our actions don’t match our words. Perhaps my greatest role is to set an example of a sinner transformed by the gracious love of Jesus Christ. My life must reflect the humility of one completely dependent on the grace of God. I also need to reflect the power of God working in me to transform my life. John Newton put it well: “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”

I must be a person who lives out the transforming love of Jesus Christ that people might know the power of a relationship with him. As Christ brought healing into my broken life, I must bring the power of his healing, unifying Spirit into the life of the diocese.

You are the first bishop of the Diocese of the Southwest.  What is your vision and priorities for your diocese?

My vision for the Diocese of the Southwest is that we would become a “Maundy Thursday” Church. The principles of Maundy Thursday were the last that our Lord gave his disciples before he entered into his passion. He offered them in the context of the disciples arguing about which one of them was the greatest. It was his last teaching to help them finally understand the priorities of the kingdom of God.

First, he gave them the commandment to love one another as he had loved them. He told them that the identifying characteristic of the church would be its love. The ACNA needs to become identified for its love for Jesus, his Word, and the lost sheep of the world he created. Our love for the Lord should be reflected in passionate worship of him and in a lively and vital prayer life. Our love for the Word should be expressed in regular study and a heart that longs to be obedient to Christ’s Word. Our love for the lost sheep of the world should be seen in a longing for mission and a heart to share the Gospel. Our churches must become known as loving united communities.

Secondly, our Lord modeled love in the humble act of washing the disciples feet, a profoundly shocking yet simple act of service. I have encouraged the churches of the diocese to concentrate on one act of service. We are a small diocese and have small resources. It is easy to spread ourselves too thin. However, every church in the diocese can find one act of service that they can do well. Good relationships can be built in simply seeking to understand the needs of the communities we find ourselves in. We then need to enter into prayerful discernment to see what need can best be met by the unique gifts and talents of our local Anglican congregations.

Finally, the Lord instituted the sacrament of his Body and Blood on Maundy Thursday. Anglicanism offers this spiritual nourishment on a regular basis and in a particularly delicious form. We must celebrate the ancient beauty and future glory of the wedding feast of the Lamb. Our challenge is to enter into the full mystery and joy of gathering together with the angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven as we allow Christ to dwell in us and seek to dwell in him. Ancient words and actions give us an opportunity to lift up our hearts to the Lord and let him melt them and make them new.

 If the Diocese of the Southwest can become a loving, obedient community, humbly serving our neighbors, and transformed by the blood of Christ, we will have moved toward becoming the kind of Church our Lord calls us to be.

How do you incorporate prayer into your daily life?  What have you learned by having a regular prayer life?

My wife and I read the lessons from the Daily Office every morning. We have found it helpful to have a special place that we love to go to when we study and pray in the mornings. We also have learned the joy of a good dark roast prepared in a french press to encourage us. Following the lessons, we pray for the needs of the day. We have found the psalms to be a great transition from the Word into prayer. I like to run long distances. That has always been a valuable prayer time. Regular prayer with my wife in the mornings has been a great way for us to stay connected and to stay connected to the Lord.

Can you tell us about your family? How do you balance your family life with your calling as a pastor and bishop?

Cindy and I just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. She is a great complement to my ministry and a blessing when she can make parish visitations with me.

I have been very fortunate to have three children involved in ministry. Kipp, my oldest son, is a youth pastor in the Valley Forge area. Seth, is nearing completion of his M. Div. from Trinity School for Ministry and has opened a Juice store in Sewickley, PA. He sees this business as an opportunity for ministry and a way to build a healthy community. Kirsten is active in Young Life in Colorado and soon to attend her first Young Life camp as a volunteer leader. I stay connected to my wife through our daily prayer time and walks with our dogs. We have always eaten together as a family. I try to lose my cell phone on my days off.

What is the name of a book you are reading right now?  What do you like about it?  What do you enjoy doing as hobbies or interests?

I am reading Richard Hooker by Philip Secor. It is fun to realize that I still remember some of what I was taught long ago in seminary. It gives me hope to see that Anglicanism survived the pull between ardent Protestants and dedicated Catholics. We too should be able to find a way forward through issues that might cause tension even after we have all taken a stand for orthodox Christianity.

I have a love of little sports cars and driving too fast. I learned to behave myself when I became a chaplain for the Pennsylvania State Police. I have been blessed more than I thought possible by Kairos prison ministry. I still like to run, but as I get older I often find myself on my bicycle. I have developed a love of watercolor painting. I like old British cars and motorcycles, but for the most part am old enough to know to stay away from them.

What do you see as a major challenge facing Christians today?  How do you see Anglican Christians making a difference in that challenge?

More and more, we live in a culture that is becoming hostile to orthodox Christianity. Too often we have let the culture define us in terms of what we “hate” and not in terms of what we love and the Lord who loves us. Somehow upholding Christian values like traditional marriage and standing for the sanctity of life has been twisted to make us “haters”. We do not hate women. We love them so much that we want to see them live.

It is wrong to end a child’s life in the womb, but even more wrong to end that life just because it is a baby girl. We do not hate homosexuals simply because we love the way “God created them male and female in his image.” He instituted marriage when he said, “ A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” We must be honest in that the world will label us as naive for believing miracles, prayer, and a God who loves us enough to talk to us in Scripture and who is powerful enough to transform our lives. But that is the good news we must share. The best way to share it is to let our light shine by reflecting the gracious transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. By our love they will know us. People should be drawn to the Gospel by the joy and unity of believers. Christ is infinitely attractive. We must become like him so others will be drawn to him.

How may we pray for you?

Pray that I, my family, and the Anglican Diocese of the Southwest will be passionate followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.


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