The Anglican Church in North America’s newest bishop has ambitious and challenging goals ahead of him. The Rt. Rev. Mark Zimmerman is the first bishop for the Anglican Diocese of the Southwest and began his Albuquerque-based ministry in February of this year. The bishop immediately faces the challenge of growing and expanding the ministry of the 14 small congregations that make up the new diocese. Zimmerman is simultaneously learning Spanish as his goals include reaching out to the large Hispanic populations in the area which includes Northern Mexico.
Bishop Zimmerman told the American Anglican Council he welcomed the challenge and was prepared for it by his years of service in smaller Episcopal and Anglican congregations. Specifically, the challenge of leading a congregation out of The Episcopal Church and into temporary buildings while at the same time positively responding to new ministry opportunities was formative and helpful to the 57-year-old new bishop. St. Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Somerset, Pennsylvania was a special place for Bishop Mark. By 2008, he had spent nine years leading the parish and taking it from a small, 30-member congregation to nearly 100 on a Sunday. He also led the church to be free of debt for the first time in its history.
Nevertheless, un-biblical teaching, practices and leadership in the national church compelled him to make a decision of conscience. Zimmerman says he first announced his decision in front of the entire parish. “I simply got in front of the pulpit on a Sunday and told the congregation that I had to make a personal decision to leave The Episcopal Church. I told them I would be preaching the next Sunday at the local mall in what used to be a men’s clothing store and gave them the address.” A week later, Father Zimmerman and 80 percent of the members of St. Francis-in-the Fields Episcopal Church met for worship at the local mall, effectively leaving their building and past behind them.