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Dean, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Phoenix, Arizona

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The Very Rev. Troy Mendez serves as dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, a historic and vibrant downtown Phoenix congregation.  Prior to his arrival in Phoenix in 2014, Dean Mendez served at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, CA, and previously at the historic Church of Our Saviour in San Gabriel, CA.

A native of Houston, Dean Mendez moved to Los Angeles in 1994 after graduating from the University of Notre Dame, and held positions in sales and marketing with Delta Air Lines and General Mills. He became active at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills, which led to a call to ordained ministry. His focus was engaging the wider Los Angeles community around issues of God’s radical welcome, mercy, and justice. For his efforts, he was recognized in 2001 and 2002 by Delta Air Lines as a “Heart of Delta” honoree.

Dean Mendez attended Virginia Theological Seminary and graduated Cum Laude in 2009. In 2013, he was elected to the Board of Trustees of the seminary and continues to serve as Chair of the Trustees Committee.  He was also a key part of the Dean’s Task Force on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity, which designed the first program by an academic institution to pay reparations to the descendants of enslaved peoples.  

While at Trinity Cathedral, Dean Mendez has overseen development of partnerships between the cathedral and local public schools.  He fosters a collaborative spirit of ministry that has championed the gifts and talents of cathedral members.  The music and arts programs at Trinity Cathedral are unmatched in the city of Phoenix. Dean Mendez is also a recipient of grants from the Forum for Theological Exploration to craft ministries to call young adults into active ministry, as well as programs to curate safe and nurturing spaces for young adults who identify as gender-expansive, so that all may find a welcoming home in the Episcopal Church. He has served as the deputation head of his diocese at the last two General Conventions, where he served on the Cuba Committee in 2018 and the Social Justice and International Policy Committee in 2022.  He also has served as Treasurer on the board of St. George’s College, Jerusalem, and on the board of the Episcopal Community Federal Credit Union, an economic justice ministry in Los Angeles.

Dean Mendez’s main call to ministry centers on guiding people through a life-long journey of partnering with the Living God. He approaches ministry with tremendous joy and is widely respected as a pastor, teacher and preacher.  He often contributes to stories about faith for Spanish-language television (Univision/Telemundo).  He is passionate about seeing the Church offer all people a sense of belonging, dignity, community and the grace of new life given to us in Jesus Christ. The work of encouraging society to achieve full-inclusion for all people, of practicing radical hospitality, and of proclaiming unconditional love to the world – this work is at the heart and center of Dean Troy Mendez’s call in his vocation.

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Question 1. Describe your relationship with Christ and how it shapes your ministry.

My relationship with Christ is not only vital, but it also shapes everything about me. 

Jesus is my ultimate joy and my ultimate hope for all of humanity. We live in an age of constant change and endless choices. Even if we would like to live in a simpler world, the fact is that new levels of complexity appear daily. Jesus’ presence in my life is an active guide to offer comfort, strength, and an abundant presence of love and wisdom for whatever is to come.

I would not have always described my relationship with Christ in this way. As a young adult, my faith was steeped in the tradition of the church, but my relationship with Christ was weak, at best. It took me a while to discover that, though I might have known about Jesus my entire life, I didn’t actually know Him. It was only when I recognized the need for my heart’s continual conversion that I actually began to understand how Jesus calls me into something greater and more expansive than I had ever imagined before.

In the past, some Episcopalians have told me that I preach far too much about Jesus, but I cannot imagine being faithful to my calling if I were to do otherwise. There is always more to learn. There is always more to experience about Jesus, too. 

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus invites John’s disciples to tell “what you see and hear” about Jesus, instead of what they’ve seen and heard (Matthew 11:4). Jesus is active and present in the world, both then and now. Jesus continues to extend the invitation to me every day to tell what I see and hear about what God is up to in the world, especially about what God is up to in my life, my church, and in my community. Jesus Christ is an active force of love in our world, and our quest to share this love alongside Jesus will change absolutely everything for ourselves and for everyone.  He is truly the savior of us all.

Question 2. 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 Jersey as Bishop?

The people of the Diocese of New Jersey serve as Christ’s heart and hands in over 140 worshiping communities. No two congregations are alike, and people’s concerns and interests vary from place to place. The diocese’s diversity is its greatest strength. The one person who unites us is Jesus. 

New Jersey is a place of endless opportunity, with a diversity of geography, demographics, language groups, and cultures. All of these dimensions have the power to enhance our understanding of God’s abundance. The people of New Jersey have the capacity to expand the reach of the Episcopal Church through ministries of God’s mercy and justice, combatting racism, telling the truth about our church’s history, championing LGBTQ equality, feeding the hungry, and proclaiming a love from Jesus to every person in this state.  

As your bishop, I will invite us to nurture our common life together by cultivating a new sense of unity in Christ. I will help us see that as St. Paul reminds the early church (and us) that we are “one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.”  (Romans 12:5)   

My professional and vocational life has been one of building a strong sense of community, uniting people for common causes that benefit everyone,  revealing a new sense of God’s goodness.  My background promoting best practices in both the business world and the church has only further complemented my ministry and allowed me to lead people into new realities that were previously unimaginable.  

I hope that the people of New Jersey will realize that their uniqueness as congregations, as ministry centers, and as individuals, is a great blessing to the world.  Together, these unique gifts and talents will transform this diocese into something that glorifies God on an entirely new level.

Question 3. What new and hopeful perspectives and ideas can you bring to the conversation about church decline that support and encourage long-term solutions?

As the Book of Common Prayer states, the Church is the community of the New Covenant, and the Church’s mission is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ (BCP, pg. 854-855). If we accept this, then our truth is that Jesus Christ himself established the Church. It follows that because we believe Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again, then we also must believe that the Church will be ever-present here on Earth until Jesus returns.  

What we observe in our present day is not decline, as some would argue, but rather rapid change. The ways in which people engage with the Christian faith and life are undergoing a transformation, and the mainline church has not prioritized our discernment about how to embrace what is taking place. Yes, the statistics we record indicate a decline, but they only tell one side of the story. What they do not capture is how people’s lives in society are enhanced by the church whenever people have engaged with church ministries.   

When the Episcopal Church commits to loving our neighbors as ourselves, we shine Christ’s light into each community we serve. We see the hungry fed, the sick visited, and the marginalized given opportunities for full inclusion. What we have not yet fully understood is how much the church’s ministry in the world has shaped our neighborhoods and our communities. We owe it to ourselves to identify new ways to measure what we are doing for the world on behalf of Jesus Christ himself.

My current congregation, Trinity Cathedral, Phoenix, almost closed in the 1980s. Low attendance and financial challenges seemed insurmountable. A fire destroyed the nave in 2002. By strategically developing the congregation through identifying the people’s core strengths, building trust, and discerning ways to be more fully present in the greater community, the people of Trinity literally rose from the ashes, and the congregation has grown to worship in both English and Spanish. The congregation is not only surviving, but thriving, as a result of wisdom, discernment, and hard work. 

Episcopalians like familiarity. We like doing things in the same way in which they’ve always been done. We value tradition, and that is commendable. These habits, however, are not habits that are serving us well in every capacity. Are we truly heeding Christ’s call to love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves? If we spend time discerning how we might do exactly that differently, we will find imaginative answers for the Episcopal Church of the future.

Question 4. Social justice is near and dear to the heart of the Diocese of New Jersey. How has social justice been a part of your ministry and how would you see your role in moving social justice forward in the Diocese of NJ? Please give examples.

One of my greatest joys has been serving as dean of a cathedral in the largest state capital city west of the Mississippi. Cathedrals find their ministries intersecting sets of civic concerns which can be political, environmental, legal, cultural, artistic, musical, socioeconomic, and spiritual. In that environment, the needs for social justice are endless.  

My ministry has seen the cathedral address social justice in two specific ways.  One is through the work of advocacy. Being present in the state capital allows the people of Trinity to meet with elected officials, to join community groups who champion the voice of the poor, to collaborate with faith leaders to confront anti-Semitism, racial disparity,  immigration issues, and LGBTQ inequality. The ministry of advocacy also works through existing educational and social service networks to address extreme poverty and advocate for the full inclusion of everyone. 

The second aspect of this ministry happens by solidifying community partnerships. Eight years ago, I envisioned a time when Trinity would be a strong ally to local public schools.   Since that time, the people of the cathedral have not only organized literacy programs, art and music projects, a food bank, and a community garden, but they have also engaged other churches to join in the practice of supporting local schools that are most in need.  The result is a sustainable model of church-school partnership that benefits absolutely everyone. 

These strategic partnerships are not limited to schools. By collaborating with other churches, the people of Trinity have founded more than six nonprofits that champion the working poor, that offer music instruction to children, that provide child care, and other organizations that have worked tirelessly to minister to people with HIV/AIDS, to combat LGBTQ homelessness, and to create safe spaces for those who identify as gender expansive, helping all realize that the Episcopal Church is a welcoming place for everyone.

As bishop, I would serve as a strategic visionary to help identify the opportunities that our churches are being called into addressing in their respective communities. No idea will be dismissed outright, because the Holy Spirit works in each of our hearts. Just as God told Moses, “I have heard their cry,” God will also give us new ears to listen to the needs of our world, right here and right now.   

The people of New Jersey know that the Episcopal Church will continue to evolve and emerge stronger, more relevant, with greater societal impact when we heed Christ’s call upon our hearts to follow Jesus and his way of love. We must settle for nothing less.

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