Check! Presiding Bishop makes her move … Tea hee!

20 09 2007

From Episcopal News Service … commentary follows the article

Eight bishops agree to serve as ‘episcopal visitors’
by Bob Williams

[Episcopal News Service, New Orleans] Eight bishops have accepted Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s invitation to serve as “episcopal visitors” to dioceses that have requested this provision.

At her request, the Presiding Bishop’s canon, the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, advised Episcopal News Service of this measure the evening of September 19. The announcement preceded the opening plenary session of the House of Bishops’ September 20-25 meeting in New Orleans. Robertson said Jefferts Schori expected to announce the names of the eight bishops during that session, which is devoted to the bishops’ private conversation with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and is closed to the public and media.

Jefferts Schori has conferred with Williams about the invitations, which she extended after a process of consultation with bishops in the Episcopal Church, Robertson said.

“All eight are true bridge-builders who empathize with the concerns and needs of dioceses that are struggling with the issues of the current time,” Robertson said, adding that “while all are sympathetic to to these concerns, each is clear that the Presiding Bishop’s ultimate goal is reconciliation.”

The eight are active diocesan bishops Frank Brookhart of Montana, Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina (based in Columbia, S.C.), John Howe of Central Florida (based in Orlando), Gary Lillibridge of West Texas (based in San Antonio), Michael Smith of North Dakota, James Stanton of Dallas, and Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, together with retired Connecticut Bishop Clarence Coleridge.

Robertson said all have agreed to serve as official “episcopal visitors” (the lowercase adjective referring generally to bishops and their ministries rather than the church’s denomination), or to provide “Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight” (DEPO), an option provided by the House of Bishops’ March 2004 statement “Caring for All the Churches” and a concept affirmed by the General Convention in 2006.

Jefferts Schori’s invitation to the eight bishops seeks to delegate the first of three primary canonical duties of the Presiding Bishop, that of visiting each of the Episcopal Church’s 110 dioceses during each Presiding Bishop’s nine-year term. The Presiding Bishop’s other two principal canonical roles are to “take order” for ordaining and consecrating bishops, and to oversee certain disciplinary actions as needed.

The Presiding Bishop’s invitation to the eight bishops “offers opportunities for dioceses to have an episcopal visitor other than herself,” Robertson said.

“This gives dioceses the pastoral guidance and care they need while remaining faithful and loyal members of the Episcopal Church,” he said. “It is also the Presiding Bishop’s hope that at some point in the future she would be invited to visit these dioceses.”

The action is “a significant effort at building a bridge while still honoring our uniquely American polity,” Robertson said.

He added that Jefferts Schori is “comfortable letting the details be worked out by the bishops involved.”

From among the Episcopal Church’s 110 total dioceses, six stand by requests
initiated in 2006 for pastoral oversight other than that of the current Presiding Bishop. Those dioceses are Central Florida, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy (based in Peoria, Illinois), Springfield (Illinois), and San Joaquin (based in Fresno, California). A similar request by the Diocese of Dallas was later modified.

In all of these dioceses there has been expressed opposition to the 2003 election and ordination as diocesan bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson, who is openly gay and lives in a long-standing committed relationship with his male partner.

In three of these dioceses — Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin — the bishops have not ordained women despite the General Convention’s 1976 authorization to do so.

— Canon Robert Williams is director of Episcopal Life Media, the new communication group that includes the Episcopal News Service.


Well, this is all very interesting indeed … Eight conservative / conservative leaning moderate bishops have accepted ++Katherine’s invitation to be “episcopal visitors” to those dioceses that cannot accept either her gender or whatever has their mitres and robes in a knot. These episcopal visitors can also participate in the DEPO provision. If I’m reading this right, these folks will be able to not only provide pastoral oversight to disaffected/disillusioned parishes, but also to the disaffected dioceses meaning they would, in fact, be “representing” The Episcopal Church instead of ++KJS.

Quite an interesting choice of folks … and they’re all “Windsor Bishops” unless I’m mistaken, and some of them belong to the Anglican Communion Network. This clearly is an official breaking of the ranks in the conservative/evangelical wing of the House. Now, I know nothing about Brookhart, Lillibridge, Smith or Coleridge, but from what I’ve read coming directly from Howe, Wolf, and Henderson are things that I can respect and see their point, even when I would disagree with them. Bishop Howe of Central Florida has clearly shown he was a conservative loyal to the Church in recent months, and I think Bishop Wolf handled the situation surrounding the priest claiming to be both Christian and Muslim very well. Stanton, I can’t make up my mind about.

I know DEPO is seen as a failed attempt, but it’s a concept that never really got off the ground except in isolated instances, so hopefully this will get some new life. What I would also like to see is DEPO in operation where a liberal or loyal conservative parish would prefer to receive pastoral oversight from a similar minded bishop (for instance, a parish in Pittsburgh requesting oversight from +Geralyn Wolf).

Two things about this arrangement stick out in my mind —

  • ++KJS is not delegating her roles either as Chief Consecrator of Bishops (at least for right now) or her role in the disciplinary process (which she shouldn’t at all).
  • ++KJS is allowing the various bishops sort out the details of this plan.

This, in my mind, is very much a good faith effort on the part of All Parties Involved … well, except for the schismatics, who probably would leave anyway unless we turned back the clock to when The Episcopal Church was “the Republican Party at Prayer” and they would probably find that not Anglo-Baptist enough, and leave anyway. I don’t think that there is anything that will keep Pittsburgh or Fort Worth in the fold. I do think that there is a possibility that even San Joaquin might back-pedal, despite being one of three dioceses (along w/ FW and Quincey) that do not ordain women, but that’s coming mostly from the fact that I can respect Fr. Dan Martin (even though i disagree whole-heartedly with a lot of things he says on his blog), who is a member of the House of Deputies and i understand has considerable influence in that Diocese.

I wonder what the “price” will be for this? My overall guess is that in the end, our relationships with most of the Communion will not change, and some will continue at their breakneck speed towards forming their own “anglo-baptist” communion. We will still be THE Episcopal Church and THE Anglican presence in the US. On the flip-side, I am not going to be surprised one bit if the Very Rev. Tracey Lind (a fellow gay person who is happily partnered), should she be elected to be bishop of Chicago, not get confirmed by the requisite number of bishops and Standing Committees.

Which would be very sad for Chicago and for the entire Church, since what i’ve read about her indicates her ministry would be fantastic. And more to the point, a great witness for evidence of the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in us GLBT folks.

It will be interesting to see what happens as the day unfolds ….


Note: This is my first crack at a “real” commentary in the sense that I have only read the ENS report prior to writing this, and no other blogs … I personally will be very interested to see how correct I am in my observations.




One response

20 09 2007

How does one manage to get a knot in their mitre. That strikes me as quite the feat of strength. 😉

I too wondered if alternative pastoral oversight would be equally offered to liberal parishes in mostly-conservative dioceses.

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