Three men and two women have been nominated to stand for election to succeed the Rt. Rev. Peter Lee as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.
The election will take place January 27 at the diocese's 212th Annual Council meeting in Richmond. On January 27, 2006, Lee told the annual Council that he planned to retire by 2010 and called for the election of a coadjutor. His successor is due to be consecrated on May 26, 2007 at Washington National Cathedral.
The nominees, announced November 18, are:
- The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Dannals, 51, rector, Christ Church, Greenville, South Carolina, Diocese of Upper South Carolina;
- The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, 55, associate director, CREDO Institute Inc., Memphis, Tennessee;
- The Very Rev. Shannon Sherwood Johnston, 48, rector, All Saints' Episcopal Church, Tupelo, Mississippi, Diocese of Mississippi;
- The Rev. Canon Irwin Morgan Lewis, Jr., 54, Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of Southern Virginia; and
- The Very Rev. Caroline Smith Parkinson, 63, rector, Grace Church, The Plains, Virginia, Diocese of Virginia.
Dannals is also on the slate of nominees to succeed Southwest Florida Bishop John Lipscomb.
Lewis was a nominee earlier this year to succeed Northern California bishop Jerry Lamb. He withdrew from the race about two months before the election. He wrote to the Standing Committee explaining that he could not uproot his 15-year-old daughter.
"This field of nominees is exceptionally strong," said Lee in an announcement posted on the diocese's bishop-search website, "and I congratulate the Nominating Committee on providing the Council delegates with a difficult choice. It is clear that whoever is chosen will be exceptionally well qualified to lead this diocese in a time of transition, when a number of difficult issues face the Episcopal Church, not only here in Virginia but nationally, and within the worldwide Anglican Communion."
After a regularly scheduled meeting November 17, the Virginia Standing Committee issued a statement and a letter concerning claims made by the vestries of Truro Parish and The Falls Church that their decisions to ask their congregations to leave the Episcopal Church were following a protocol established by the diocese.
The statement said that the Executive Board and the Standing Committee voted on November 9 to receive a special committee's report (http://www.thediocese.net/News_services/pressroom/docs/special_committee_report.pdf) about how "those churches continuing in conflict over the decisions of the 74th General Convention in 2003 get on with their mission in as close a union as possible with the diocese." The statement said neither body endorsed or approved the report.
Virginia, the largest diocese in the Episcopal Church, comprises more than 90,000 Episcopalians worshipping in 193 congregations. The diocesan profile says the diocese has planted 16 congregations in the last ten years, and has 450 clergy, six schools, six diocesan homes, two conference centers and an annual budget of nearly $4.3 million dollars.
Jean Reed, the president of the Virginia Standing Committee, the body which has oversight of the nomination process, said, "The members of the Standing Committee are deeply grateful for the diligence and commitment of the Nominating Committee."
From an original field of more than 50 people, 10 were chosen for in-depth interviews, conducted in October and November, and five nominees were selected from that group.
Nominations by petition can be made until December 1, and must adhere to rules adopted by the Standing Committee. Nominations from the floor of the electing council meeting will not be allowed. Rules concerning petitions are described on the bishop-search web site.