Meet Our New Diocesan Chancellor

Brothers and sisters, I’d like to introduce you to Steve Olson, our new diocesan Chancellor. (Read more about our Standing Committee and their roles.)

Steve, his wife Julie, and their two children (Evan, 21 and Jen, 18) have been part of Christ Church Madison since her pre-launch days at our Cathedral, Resurrection Wheaton. Steve co-leads Christ Church’s usher team. Julie is a floral designer who uses those gifts as the church sacristan. As Steve puts it, “she’s in charge of all things sacramental and beautiful.”

Steve’s diocesan ministry is invaluable, and I’m glad you have the chance to get to know him a bit better in this interview.

– Bp. Stewart E. Ruch III

Interview by Bonnie McMaken, Editor of Leaders’ Latest

Steve, what first drew you to Anglicanism?
It was a long and winding path. My wife Julie and I were each raised in nominal, mainline Protestant homes, but did not develop a strong faith until moving to the Chicago suburbs after the birth of our first child.

When we walked into Church of the Resurrection, we experienced the Holy Spirit in a service that combined rich elements like the historic and global liturgy, plus exceptional Bible teaching, all culminating in the Eucharist. We knew we were home.

After a few years attending the Cathedral, you and Julie moved to Madison to join the Christ Church launch team. What was that discernment process like?
Julie and I both attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and when Bishop Stewart announced the Madison church plant, we each felt a calling.

It was a really difficult decision. We loved so many things about our life in Wheaton, and our kids were settled. But after several months of discernment with our small group and friends, we felt drawn to help support this new church.

What have been some of the joys of being part of a new church? The challenges?
The greatest joy has been seeing the church grow from an idea into a strong and thriving community. People of different ages, backgrounds, and talents have been drawn together to form something absolutely amazing.

The greatest challenge: Just as Christ Church was getting off the ground and gaining momentum, COVID-19 arrived. Our home had high speed fiber internet—perfect for broadcasting an online church service. So for 33 Sundays, Christ Church Madison livestreamed from our living room. Though challenging, I still look back on that time fondly.

What are you looking forward to as diocesan Chancellor? What unique strengths or experiences do you bring to the role?
I’m looking forward to serving the Church in a new and interesting capacity and using my legal experience to help support the whole Diocese. Whenever I take personality or strengths assessments, the results that most often come up are “harmony,” “peacemaker,” and “empathy.” I’m told these are unique strengths for a lawyer, but I feel they give me the ability to see and understand the perspectives of others, which can make it easier to resolve issues more quickly and amicably.

What do you love about Madison?
To me, Madison is the perfectly sized city. It’s large enough to have a vibrant downtown, but just 15 minutes away (where we live), you’re surrounded by gently rolling hills, farms, beautiful nature areas, and dog parks—much to the delight of our French bulldogs.

For those of us who don’t know, what does a diocesan Chancellor actually do?
As chief legal officer of the Diocese, the Chancellor is the legal advisor to the Bishop, the Standing Committee, and the Diocese as an entity. The Bishop and Standing Committee can bring any legal issue that potentially impacts the Diocese to the Chancellor for advice and counsel, including but not limited to issues related to the Constitution or Canons of the Diocese.

Tell us a little about your law background.
After graduating from the University of Michigan Law School in 1990, I worked at the large Chicago law firm of Mayer Brown. In 1995, I joined the Arthur Andersen accounting firm. Then in 2002 I moved to the legal group of Accenture, a large publicly traded technology services company, where I primarily negotiate technology-related services agreements.

I’ve heard that you’ve led Christ Church’s Palm Sunday processional with the shofar every year. Tell us about that.
Well, Fr. Brett Crull does this nearly every Palm Sunday at Church of the Resurrection, so he’s the inspiration. Several years ago my mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I asked for a shofar. I quickly found out, however, that Fr. Brett makes playing a shofar sound much easier than it is. After practicing during Lent each year, it’s still a toss-up whether my Palm Sunday shofar blast will sound like a holy noise or a wounded goat. Fortunately, our church is very forgiving, so no matter what comes out of the shofar, they joyously process into the house of the Lord.