Hearings will start on the first day of the legislative session, Wednesday atr 7:30 a.m., when four or five bishops-elect will be reviewed in chronological order of their elections. One or two more will be reviewed on Thursday; New Hampshire’s bishop-elect Gene Robinson, notable for his election as an openly gay priest, will be reviewed Friday at 7:30 a.m.; and the final three will be reviewed Monday.
In addition to Robinson, others whose elections call for consent are: the Rev. Johncy Itty, Diocese of Oregon, who at age 40 is the church’s first Generation X bishop; the Rev. George Edward Councell, Diocese of New Jersey; the Rev. C. Franklin Brookhart Jr., Diocese of Montana; the Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, Diocese of Florida; the Rev. Joseph Burnett, Diocese of Nebraska; the Rev. Robert J. O’Neill, Diocese of Colorado; the Rev. Rayford High, Diocese of Texas; the Rev. Steven Andrew Miller, Diocese of Milwaukee; and the Rev. Dean E. Wolfe (July 12), Diocese of Kansas.
Chairs of the cognate committee on consecration of bishops are Bishop Suffragan Chester Talton of Los Angeles and the Rev. Carolyn Keil-Kuhr of the Diocese of Montana.
Because they were elected within 120 of General Convention, the bishops-elect must seek official consent by convention and be approved by a simple majority vote in the House of Deputies and by diocesan bishops.
The vote starts in the House of Deputies, and if it fails to accept the bishop-elect, the election is considered null and void, and does not go on to the bishops. If deputies or bishops withhold consent, the presiding bishop declares the election null and void, and the diocese must hold a new election.
A vote by orders may be called in the House of Deputies, which requires that both the clergy and lay people in each deputation be polled separately. In a consent vote, a majority of both the clergy and lay deputies must approve the bishop’s election to register a "yes" vote. If either the clergy or laity fail to approve the consent, the election is rejected.
In other elections, diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees give consent to bishops-elect.
Robinson’s gay relationship and reaction to his election has cast the national media’s spotlight on his consent hearing. Since his election in early June there has been speculation about what convention’s decision will mean for the church.
But Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has said, "Gene Robinson was elected...because he is a highly respected person. He is a fellow member of the body of Christ, not the symbol of an issue."
When bishops-elect are brought before General Convention—the number usually ranging from zero to six—consent is usually assumed. Church archives show no cases of bishops failing to win consent at convention in the past 60 years.
"My concern is how we move with grace through this time," Griswold wrote in a pre-convention letter to Episcopal bishops. "Though we may disagree, no one can say ‘I have no need of you,’ to another member of the church."