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Toward Columbus: Election of 26th Presiding Bishop set for June 18

By Pat McCaughan
4/18/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  The stage is set to elect the next Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church on Sunday, June 18, at the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio.

The 26th Presiding Bishop will succeed the Most Rev. Frank Tracy Griswold III, whose nine-year term ends on November 1.

At least seven names will be formally submitted to a 2:30 p.m. joint session of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies on Saturday, June 17, including a slate of four recommended by the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop.

"Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia and I will formally submit the names of our nominees for consideration," said Diane Pollard, who, along with Lee, co-chaired the 29-member nominating committee.

The nominating committee's slate is:

  • the Rt. Rev. Neil Alexander, Bishop of Atlanta;
  • the Rt. Rev. Edwin F. Gulick Jr., Bishop of Kentucky;
  • the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada; and
  • the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Jr., Bishop of Alabama.

Pollard, a member of Church of the Crucifixion, Manhattan, and a human-resources professional, said the committee's nearly three-year process of discernment, interviews and scrutiny included medical and psychological screening as well as background checks.

The committee developed a job description of sorts, entitled "Call for Discernment," which it mailed to General Convention deputies, bishops, and other church leaders, inviting them to submit nominations. It received 24 names in response to the mailing and determined that 22 persons met the criteria for eligibility established by the committee, according to its Blue Book report.


Three other bishops have been nominated and their names will presumably be formally submitted by their nominators, said the Rev. Dr. Gregory S. Straub, Executive Officer of the General Convention.

The additional nominees for 26th Presiding Bishop are:

  • the Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls, Bishop of Lexington;
  • the Rt. Rev. Charles Edward Jenkins III, Bishop of Louisiana; and
  • the Rt. Rev. Francisco Duque-Gomez, Bishop of Colombia.

Potentially, others could also be included for consideration.

"Nominations are not closed," Straub said. "There is nothing to preclude a bishop or deputy at the joint session from nominating any eligible bishop on June 17 and the canons do not allow the nominee to decline." Eligible bishops are those who have a seat and vote.

However, Bishop Ken Price of Southern Ohio, secretary of the House of Bishops, said bishops had agreed earlier this year to refuse to consider any nominees whose names had not been put forward by April 1. The deadline allows ample time to apply the same medical and psychological screening and background checks undergone by the other candidates.

Straub outlined how the process will continue once Griswold officially closes the nominations.

"How the joint session carries on from there will depend upon a special order of business," Straub said. "Last convention, each candidate had the opportunity for two supporters to give three-minute speeches but the nominees were not allowed to speak."

Once the joint session is adjourned, deputies and bishops return to their regular business sessions.

The following morning, after Sunday Eucharist, the bishops will convene at 10:30 in executive session at Trinity Church in downtown Columbus near the state Capitol to elect the 26th Presiding Bishop.

"The bishops will debate and vote on the nominees," Price said. "The bishops will be sequestered at Trinity Church. There will be a roll call so we have an exact accounting of who is present, and we elect by simple majority."

A total of 311 bishops are eligible to vote, although not all may be present, Straub said. Bishops will vote as many times as necessary until a majority is achieved. Unlike past elections, vote tallies will be made public.

Once the House of Bishops has chosen the Presiding Bishop-elect, it remains in session until the House of Deputies concurs with its choice.

After the deputies concur, the bishops certify the election. "The Presiding Bishop-elect will be introduced and office space and administrative support will be provided at the convention center," Price said. "The Presiding Bishop-elect will be invited to address both houses and to celebrate Eucharist" but will not officially assume the top position until a November 4 installation service at the Washington National Cathedral.

Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia, a co-chair of the joint nominating committee, said a House of Bishops Transition Committee chaired by Bishop Jack McKelvey of Rochester will offer support to all the nominees and their families.

"The Transition Committee will arrange space for them during the election and the confirmation process," Lee said. "They will make sure someone is assigned to them to offer transportation and to address other needs."

"The Transition Committee has a particular interest in the pastoral care and support of nominees and spouses," added Bishop Duncan Gray of Mississippi. "Each nominee has been assigned two shepherds to connect with them throughout the transition, whatever that might look like, to take seriously those who were not elected."

The Presiding Bishop is elected every nine years to serve as the chief pastor and Primate of the church. Canon law (Title I Canon 1.2.4(a)(1)), charges the Presiding Bishop with responsibility for leadership in initiating and developing church policy and strategy, and for representing church policies, strategies and programs authorized by the General Convention.

The Presiding Bishop is also charged to speak God's words to the church and to the world, as the representative of this church and its episcopate in its corporate capacity (Title I, Canon 1.2.4(a)(2)). In addition to these key roles, the Presiding Bishop oversees and presides at meetings of the House of Bishops, provides for episcopal ministry in cases of vacancies and visits the dioceses of the church (Title I, Canon 1.2.4(a)(3-6)).

Gray, a member of the joint nominating committee, said the committee "was seeking a Presiding Bishop who could clearly expand our mission into the domestic and wider culture, and address the reality of an increasingly diverse church as well as our Anglican Communion brothers and sisters."

For biographical information on all of the nominees, visit the website at: www.episcopalchurch.org/ens and click on the "Election of the 26th Presiding Bishop" button.