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Tennessee convention adjourns without election; new search envisioned

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
5/6/2006
[Episcopal News Service] 

The Diocese of Tennessee, after casting a total of 36 unsuccessful ballots, adjourned its convention to elect a bishop coadjutor May 6 and will begin the search process again.

Bishop Bertram Herlong, who intended to retire at the end of this year, will now have to meet with his staff to decide how to proceed.

The coadjutor, when elected, will eventually become the 11th bishop of the diocese.

This was the third time that the Diocese of Tennessee convened to elect a successor to Herlong. The first meeting of the electing convention on March 18 recessed after 14 ballots. The lay and clergy electors returned to Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Nashville March 25. They cast 11 more ballots without success. The delegates cast another 11 ballots on May 6.

The May 6 results had been available at http://www.tnbishopsearch.org/election.html for most of the day but were not posted later in the afternoon. The results of the March 25 Tennessee balloting can be seen at http://www.tnbishopsearch.org/election-old2.html. The March 18 ballots are available at http://www.tnbishopsearch.org/election-old.html.

It is not unusual for Tennessee bishop elections to require a number of ballots. Herlong was elected after 15 ballots and it took 39 ballots to elect his predecessor.

One reason for the length of the process is that both the lay order and the clergy order must cast two-thirds (66.7 percent) of their votes in favor of a single nominee on the same ballot.

On the 36th ballot on May 6, delegates were essentially split between the Rev. Canon James B. Magness, 59, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Kentucky, and the Rev. Canon Neal O. Michell, 53, canon missioner for strategic development in Diocese of Dallas. Magness had 40 votes in the clergy order and 42 votes in the lay order. Michell had 33 votes from clergy and 78 lay votes. A total of 76 clergy votes and 126 lay votes were cast on that ballot.

At that point, according to Jill Zook-Jones, canon to the ordinary, the electing convention had several options, including

  • recessing the convention to a time certain or to an unspecified time;
  • vote to change the special rules of the convention to allow nominations from the floor or by petition to be considered at a fourth meeting of the convention;
  • adjourn to a time certain and ask that the search committee be reconstituted; or
  • simply adjourn, requiring the diocesan office to determine how to proceed with a new search.

A motion from the floor called for the last option and was approved.

The Tennessee slate also included:

  • the Rev. Canon Brian Cox, 55, rector, Christ the King Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara, California, and
  • the Rev. Dr. Winston B. Charles, 57, rector, Christ Church, Raleigh, North Carolina (nominated by petition).

For additional information about the search and the nominees, go to http://www.tnbishopsearch.org/.

After the second session was adjourned, the four nominees were asked to submit their responses to an additional question: At this point, what further insights about you and your ministry would you like to share with the delegates and Diocese of Tennessee to help in our election process? Those responses, dated April 27, are available at http://www.tnbishopsearch.org/.