The Rev. Canon Kristin Uffelman White



I grew up in a small town, where St. Andrew’s Church felt like my second home. My faith was formed through the prayers I knew by heart before I could read them on the page. As a priest, I was a member of the clergy staff of a large congregation, and then Rector of a mid-sized, growing parish. Currently, I am grateful to serve at a different church almost every Sunday.

As Canon to the Ordinary for Congregational Development and Leadership in the Diocese of Indianapolis, I connect leaders throughout the diocese and beyond, equipping them for ministry that helps the church, its people, and our communities, to flourish. My goal is to align diocesan mission with practice in the areas of discernment and transition, youth and campus ministry, racial justice, communications, and collaborative leadership – all toward building up the Body of Christ.

I find God in the daily prayer that grounds me, in the relationships that sustain me, and in the encounters with creation that inspire me. My husband John and I met in college. Our adult daughter, Katherine Grace, is married and lives in Germany. John and I live in Indianapolis with our two dogs, Lula and Lily.


Our bishop nominees have produced videos to introduce themselves to us in advance of our September meet-and-greet sessions

Essay Questions

As part of the application process, each nominee was asked to respond to a set of four questions.

How have you navigated a changing church in a changing world to enhance congregational vitality?

On my first Sunday as a member of the bishop’s staff in the Diocese of Indianapolis, I joined in worship and discussion with St. John’s Church, Speedway, as they discerned whether to leave the building they could no longer afford or maintain. The same Sunday, in Prineville, Oregon, the vestry of my parents’ church voted to sell its building. My sisters and I had been confirmed in the nave of that church. It’s where my father was ordained. My sister and her husband were married there. My role in leadership felt both personally and pastorally close to the surface that day. I sought a way to offer hope for vitality, even if it meant that church would not look like what people had known.

In seeking to offer a measure of hope within a practical framework, I was grateful to rely on my experience of the College for Congregational Development. The College functions from the premise that churches of every size, location, and condition can become more faithful, healthy, and effective communities of faith. In the College, trainers encourage church leaders to be clear about their unique purpose as a congregation. We invite participants to explore the qualities that make their church special. We look for the opportunities that congregations have, to respond to the challenges they face. We ask questions about sustainability: does their organizational life – their building, their costs, their leadership, their staffing – does it fit, for the church they are right now?

A few months later, St. John’s, Speedway did choose to leave its building. They would go on to lease worship space adjacent to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which made their common life both more sustainable and more visible to the community. They moved their formation offerings online, which situated them to be particularly resilient during the pandemic shutdown. St. John’s welcomed new members throughout the pandemic, and they welcomed back members who were homebound and had been unable to participate. They became clear that even once they were able to return to in-person worship, they would maintain an online option so that everyone could take part.

St. Andrew’s, Prineville sold its building to a local non-denominational church. The classrooms that members had lamented being empty throughout my childhood are now filled. The building is being used every day for worship and study. The proceeds of that sale made it possible for the congregation of St. Andrew’s to buy a smaller building that feels full when members gather for worship. St. Andrew’s new location next to a bicycle trail provides parishioners with opportunities for ministry that they didn’t have before. Instead of worrying about who would mow the large lawn, or how they would pay the large heating bill, members have space and time to pray, and offer pastoral care, and share in fellowship, and engage with their new neighbors.

There was grief in Speedway that day in October of 2018. People I met that morning asked if I had come on behalf of Bishop Jennifer to close the church they love. I assured them that I had not. They told stories about the people who had given the stained glass windows, about the beauty of Midnight Mass, about beloved members, now gone.

There was grief in Prineville, too. The new church that bought their building welcomed St. Andrew’s to stay for several months and worship in the smaller chapel space. Members appreciated the new owners’ generosity, but it was hard for them to see the changes the new congregation was making to the building that had been their home.

These churches have each found ways to explore their own unique purposes as communities of faith. It was a difficult process, and sometimes painful. We are incarnate beings, after all. The physical spaces where we have stood before God, in community with the people we love, at times of profound joy and great sorrow and all the ordinary moments in between – those spaces are sacred. They matter.

The particular things that made St. John’s and St. Andrew’s special, still do. Both churches continue to face challenges. But they face those challenges from the recognition that they have the capacity for change, and with a tether to trust that indeed, “God is not elsewhere.”1 God is right in their midst, even at this very moment.

My role in helping churches navigate this change toward vitality is to focus on what is most essential. The example of a church leaving its building is one choice among a multitude of faithful options, and it has been rare in my ministry. When I work with leaders seeking to find their way, I begin with prayer. I ask questions that point leaders and members toward their purpose as a congregation. I equip leaders, both clergy and lay, with the resources they need for continued discernment. I assure them that they are not alone – that I, and other members of our staff, and other leaders from the diocese, will be with them as they move forward.

Two members of St. John’s graduated from the College for Congregational Development last summer. One of their leaders had had Covid and was still testing positive, so she and the leader who was present in person demonstrated their resilience by once again making a way. The member who was present brought the member with Covid to our plenary and small-group meetings on her iPad, until she had a clear test and was able to join us mid-week.

Last Sunday, St. John’s gathered at a local photography studio for Eucharist and the baptism of a new baby in their congregation. Members shared in conversation about their dreams for a future that fits with who they are now. Leaders are taking what they have learned through the College and applying it to a new way of being church, as they seek to grow more fully into the vibrant congregation that God calls them to be.

1 Esther de Waal. Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict.

Describe a situation in which you needed to create a sense of shared interests and community among individuals or groups who felt disconnected from one another. What is the role of the bishop in bringing a diocese together, and what gifts do you bring to the ministry of connection?

Our primary governing body, the Executive Council, had begun restructuring the regions of our diocese in the months prior to my arrival as canon. The diocese had previously had a deanery system which gathered on an uneven basis, almost exclusively as clergy. The exceptions were the annual deanery fall budget meetings, prior to diocesan convention, which were required for all clergy and convention delegates to attend. People met the requirement of attendance, but few seem to have loved taking part.

The Executive Council reorganized the seven deaneries into six regional neighborhoods. Neighborhoods were geographically organized to meet in a central location that would ensure that no one would have to drive more than an hour – ideally, 45 minutes – to participate. Instead of a priest serving as dean, neighborhoods were charged with each electing two co-conveners: one clergy, one lay leader.

Canon Brendan, Bishop Jennifer, and I chaired the initial meetings in the spring of 2019, at which neighborhoods elected their co-conveners and each chose a name for themselves. These first meetings involved constraints: the central location for what became the Confluence Neighborhood in the southwest region of the diocese was the town of Princeton. There is not an Episcopal congregation in Princeton, and meeting spaces at the library and other churches were unavailable, so the neighborhood had its first meeting in the lodge of a local park.

The Executive Council charged the neighborhoods to meet at least twice per year with all members: once in the spring and once in the fall. Fall meetings took place in September and October of 2019, with newly elected co-conveners leading. Then at the point of the planning call for the spring meetings in 2020, the pandemic shutdown meant everything needed to be virtual.

Of the six regions, the River Bend Neighborhood is the smallest in number and was most affected during the pandemic. Our diocesan geography means that this neighborhood, in the southeast area of the diocese along the Ohio River, includes just four congregations whose leaders could drive to a central point within about an hour: Christ Church, Madison; St. Paul’s, Jeffersonville; Trinity, Lawrenceburg; and St. Paul’s, New Albany. The rectors of all four of those congregations either moved or retired during the pandemic, as well.

Mid-way through 2021, the remaining lay co-convener stepped back from serving in that role. I facilitated the subsequent fall meeting, and another person volunteered to serve as the co-convener for the remainder of the year. When she tried to convene the spring meeting in 2022, no one responded to her inquiries about gathering.

At the same time, our transition minister was diligent and creative about helping churches move forward in their searches and seeking new clergy to lead. By summer, two of the four congregations had called new rectors. The other two congregations had sent wardens to participate in the College for Congregational Development that July, which meant the wardens had gotten to know each other, as well as other leaders in the diocese.

Recognizing the need for a re-start, I invited clergy and leaders from all four congregations to join me for a fall neighborhood meeting over dinner at a restaurant in Madison, the most central of the four towns. I reached out to one of the new rectors before the meeting to ask him to consider serving as clergy co-convener. He agreed, and he even rearranged his original plan to be out of town that night so that he could be with us to take part in the dinner.

Everyone who was invited attended. We crowded around a table in a busy restaurant, where we prayed, introduced ourselves over dinner, and talked about the purpose for creating neighborhoods. The person I had asked to consider serving as clergy co-convener did not actually stand for that role, because the other new priest volunteered as soon as I explained what was involved. All the positions to be filled were filled. People asked questions, and talked about their churches, and then continued in conversation around the table. Shortly after our main business had concluded, a rainstorm threatened and our phone alerts sounded, and the River Bend meeting drew to a close.

One of a bishop’s primary roles is to convene people. What I know about that evening is that gathering a group of leaders together for prayer and food and fellowship, showing them that I cared about them as individuals and about the churches they represented, was essential. I believe in the apostle Paul’s teaching that the Church is the Body of Christ, that we can only be fully who we are when we are joined with all of our members. I bring that recognition, and the ability to prioritize and establish connection.

When leaders gathered a few weeks ago from across the diocese for the Episcopal Mutual Ministry Review, one of the neighborhood leaders who was present at dinner that night shared what that fall meeting had meant to members of the River Bend Neighborhood. People built connections and shared resources that helped them overcome the separation they had experienced during the extended season of pandemic and clergy transition. He shared that the evening’s meal had rekindled a sense of belonging among the four congregations of the River Bend Neighborhood. He expressed his hope that other neighborhoods in our diocese would find similar ways to connect and work together to build community.

What is your theology of money? Tell us a story of exercising your leadership to move an institution into a more Jesus-centered, mission-oriented relationship with money.

“What are you looking for?” Jesus asks some of the earliest disciples, in John’s gospel.

They have already begun to follow him. Their response to his question is to order their lives after Jesus’ life, as disciples. They stay where he stays, they walk where he walks, they give what they have to give, that they might continue to follow him faithfully.

“What are you looking for?” Jesus asks the disciples, then, and now.

In 2017, the people of the Diocese of Indianapolis offered their responses to a version of the question about what they were looking for as followers of Jesus. Their participation in a series of listening sessions led to what would become the five pillars of our diocesan mission.

Episcopalians across central and southern Indiana can name those pillars. They can share examples of how they, or their churches, are seeking to live consistently with the mission we share.

My theology of money connects with both of these stories. I believe that Jesus asks us what we as Christians, and as the Church, are looking for. I believe that Jesus calls us to give what we have to give, in order to follow him faithfully. I believe that the conversations in central and southern Indiana which led to our diocesan mission are a frame for us to shape and order our common life as disciples who follow Jesus. So, the work embedded within this theology of money begins with a focus on aligning the gifts that we have been given with the mission that we have discerned.

Upon his death in 1977, Eli Lilly made a generous bequest to the Diocese of Indianapolis and to the three congregations that he had been a member of in his lifetime. That gift comprises most of our diocesan endowment, which makes possible in our budget things that would be impossible, without it.

In the summer of 2019, I initiated a conversation with Canon Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale about the diocesan budget, specifically the line item of direct cash aid to eighteen of our forty-seven congregations, which made up thirteen percent of our total budget. As canon with oversight of congregational development, I felt a responsibility to ask what those resources were doing to help the receiving congregations become more vibrant. We considered the diocesan mission, and how the funds were being used by churches to live more fully into their call.

Many of the churches receiving direct cash aid had been receiving it at consistent levels for more than a decade, with little evidence that the funding had improved the congregations’ health, faithfulness, or effectiveness. There was also a widespread perception among leaders of aided congregations that those not receiving diocesan aid did not face financial struggles. Leaders of churches that were not receiving aid wondered why the aided churches were being shielded from the same difficult choices they themselves had had to make. The system felt unfair to everyone.

Brendan and I brought the discussion to Bishop Jennifer. We talked and thought and prayed and took breaks and returned to the conversation. We asked questions about whether the diocese could continue to distribute the funds as it had, and reasonably anticipate the revitalization of those churches as a result.

We returned to the diocesan mission. Earlier in 2019, we had had banners printed and delivered to every congregation which detailed the mission that people from across the diocese had helped create. One of those banners stood in our office. The fifth pillar talks about developing leaders for the church of today and tomorrow. What encouragement could we offer leaders in the future, if we were not able to make necessary changes now?

Together, we brought this conversation to the Executive Council, which included leaders from congregations receiving diocesan aid. We developed a plan for reducing that aid at a level that churches could adapt to, and at the same time providing resources for congregational development for those parishes and for the whole diocese.

One member of Executive Council, the rector of a congregation that chose in the first year to stop receiving diocesan aid, called leaders of each parish to tell them about this change. All eighteen churches received a letter that shared the same information. Canon Brendan and I, together with our diocesan treasurer, Dr. Laurel Cornell, followed up by meeting with each of the vestries or bishop’s committees. By the time of diocesan convention in November 2019, initial discussions with all the vestries or bishop’s committees for aided congregations had taken place.

I believe that money can be a catalyst for growth and creativity. I believe that it can also insulate us from having the conversations we need to have. This change in funding for aided congregations led to vulnerable and faithful discussions within some of our parishes about their own callings as church. They had not had those kinds of conversations in a long time, because they didn’t have to. I believe that making these changes as a diocese, in an effort to follow Jesus more faithfully, has helped us begin to turn from stasis toward the hope of renewal.

That line item in our diocesan budget has moved consistently with the plan we shared in 2019. Congregations receiving aid have adapted to the reduction over these past four years and have participated in the congregational development that the diocese provides. Some have found new vitality through connections with other churches and community partners, or as their leaders have been equipped to guide them as the congregations they are becoming.

In 2020, I helped create the Bishop’s Committee on Mission Strategy. This group of lay and clergy leaders invites congregational development grant applications from all diocesan churches who have met the prerequisite of participation in the College for Congregational Development. It aims to align resources with our mission in projects throughout the diocese, helping us move toward what it is that we are ultimately looking for: to follow Jesus ever more faithfully.

In many ways, our region reflects the social inequalities (gender, education, health, housing, race/ethnicity) that afflict our country as a whole. Please discuss the ways in which you have had experience dealing with and supporting multicultural populations. What do you see as a bishop’s role in addressing and healing these disparities?

The Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, Illinois was the first church I served, initially as a seminary intern, then as a transitional deacon, and then as a priest. Holy Spirit had a partnership with a nearby Spanish-speaking congregation, La Iglésia Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Waukegan. The Church of the Holy Spirit had actually purchased the building and gifted it to La Iglésia Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe almost 10 years earlier, and Holy Spirit provided ongoing funding for the parish from its budget at the time I served there.

Part of my role was to be a liaison between the two congregations. I met regularly with a leader of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, with the goal of moving the connection between our churches from a patron-client relationship toward one that was deeper and more mutual.

When members of the two churches gathered for an event at either location, they generally congregated by group: people from La Iglésia Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe would sit on one side of the room, and people from the Church of the Holy Spirit sat on the other. Aside from a few members of each of the two parishes, people didn’t really know each other. They didn’t have meaningful ways to get to know one another.

Olivia Díaz, the congregational leader with whom I worked, and I asked ourselves what would bring people together across the congregations to help develop relationships that might transcend the separation we experienced. One of the practices that Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe had was an abundant meal offering after every service. We had members at Holy Spirit who loved to cook and liked to learn. Some of the members of Nuestra Señora were amazing cooks and were willing to teach us.

The Church of the Holy Spirit hosted a cooking class one evening in our kitchen, with people from La Iglésia Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe leading us in the preparations. We made tacos and salsa and empanadas together, and then we ate together. There was a point in the evening when more than 40 people were gathered in the kitchen, and I realized that the separation that had been characteristic of many of our joint efforts until then was just not true of this one. People were cooking and laughing and learning and tasting. I heard Spanish and English, and the salsa music someone was playing over the sound system, and children laughing as they ran around the parish hall. It felt like a glimpse of the kingdom.

My work in supporting the people of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe was, first, to know them. I could speak basic Spanish, but I studied and worked with a tutor so that we could talk to each other more easily. I helped at after-school homework sessions with middle and high school students at the church in Waukegan to support the students who attended, but more than that, to be present in their midst.

Bryan Stevenson, the author of Just Mercy and the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, spoke at the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, in October of 2021. In his lecture, he talked about the separation and isolation that many people experience, at a time when what they need most is a sense of community, a place to belong. He spoke particularly to church leaders that evening, calling all of us who were present to find a way of being proximal to people on the margins.

The greater the position of power that a person inhabits, the greater degree of insulation they are often afforded. It gets easier for people to maintain separation from other people who are not like them, in any of the categories this question names: education, wealth, housing, race, ethnicity. Living inside this kind of insulation can serve to reinforce whatever impressions we might have about people with whom we are not proximal.

That is not what Jesus calls us to. He eats with people who others call sinners. He touches people’s faces, he picks up their children, he lets a woman wash his feet with her hair. He is proximal to them.

I think the work of a bishop is to be proximal: to get to know people, to find out what is happening in their lives and in their communities, to have the humility to learn from them.

One aspect of our diocesan mission that people in this diocese can readily name is the call to stand with people who are marginalized to transform systems of injustice. That mission pillar is stitched through my ministry: I helped create and now staff our diocesan Racial Justice and Education Team; I joined initiatives to re-establish community in one of the primary historic Black neighborhoods in Indianapolis; I shepherded early explorations of the development of affordable housing on under-used church properties. What I believe is that we can best stand with people when we know them. And knowing each other is a process of earning trust, which is especially dear among people who are vulnerable and have been marginalized. As we work to build that sacred trust, we invite God’s transformation.

I believe that a bishop’s role in addressing the disparities this question names is: first, to recognize the disparities that exist; to pray for the Holy Spirit’s presence and guidance; to give voice to what they learn, from people who have been most affected by the injustices that they encounter; and, finally, to engage the church in working to stop injustice and resolve disparity. Healing is God’s holy work. A bishop can cultivate the opportunity for it by serving as an example, by encouraging and expecting people to be proximal with one another, by creating meaningful ways for them to get to know each other, and by holding prayerful space in which this can occur.