Deputies say Presiding Bishop may retain diocesan seat

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Jul 7, 2012

[Episcopal News Service — Indianapolis] The House of Deputies took another step toward changing the church’s status quo when it adopted a resolution that permits the next presiding bishop, who will be elected in 2015, to remain a diocesan bishop. Canons currently require the presiding bishop to resign her or his seat upon election.

Debate on resolution B013 centered on whether this action should take place now or wait for a larger discussion about restructuring that is being dealt with by the Committee on Structure.

The Very Rev. Bill Ellis, deputy from Spokane, likened this action to “getting the cart well in front of the horse.” He said, “We have no idea what we’re getting into. We have not even begun to talk about re-understanding the office of the presiding bishop and whether or not a move of this sort is appropriate.”

Dr. Fredrica Thompsett, deputy from Massachusetts, argued for taking this action now. She said that she and other members of the Structure Committee “are aware that we have to look at the whole piece, but we also have to start. This gives us a creative and permissive possibility to allow wise decision making and options in a period in which we are considering and will be considering the nomination of a next presiding bishop.”

Other speakers questioned whether it was feasible for someone to serve as both diocesan bishop and presiding bishop, given the demands of both jobs. Ultimately the deputies voted to adopt the resolution and send it to the House of Bishops for its consideration.

It also adopted resolution D037, which asks the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance to consider restoring nearly $3 million in funding for Christian formation and youth ministry, which had been cut in draft versions of the budget.

Deputies also elected 12 people as trustees of the Church Pension Fund:

  • Diane B. Pollard
  • Barbara B. Creed
  • George L.W. Werner
  • Diane M. Jardine Bruce
  • Rosalie Simmonds Ballentime
  • Gordon Fowler
  • Vincent C. Currie
  • Ryan K. Kusumoto
  • Kathryn Weathersby McCormick
  • Delbert C. Glover
  • Sleiman (Soloman) Owayda
  • Cecil Wray

The deputies also heard from Marcia Hines, president of the Episcopal Church Women, who are meeting for their Triennial Meeting, and the Very Rev. George Werner, who served as president of the House of Deputies from 2000 to 2006.

It also adopted other resolutions on a variety of topics:

  • D042 — recommiting the church to protecting victims of human trafficking;
  • A114 — a call for increased funding for world missions;
  • A107 — designating the secretary of General Convention as the Convention’s official registrar;
  • A026 — directs the church’s chief operating officer to develop an information technology strategic plan for the staff of the Episcopal Church Center
  • A035 — reaffirming the church’s commitment to interreligious engagement at all levels;
  • B017 — calling on the church to support the Diocese of Jerusalem’s Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza with fundraising and advocacy after the United Nations Relief and Works Agency cut its financial aid, slashing the hospital’s budget nearly in half.

— Melodie Woerman is a member of the Episcopal News Service team at General Convention.



Comments (8)

  1. I think the editor who wrote the headline rather overstated the action of the House of Deputies. To say they called for the PB to retain his or her See is inaccurate. The action taken permits the PB-elect to decide whether to do so; it simply repeals the mandate of surrender – mistakenly in my opinion. It certainly did not constitute any sort of “call” that we return to the 19th Century practice of the PB continuing to be a diocesan.

    1. The Rev. Jesse ABell says:

      I didn’t take the headline to imply that at all. The “may retain” seemed to me to state that the next PB will have an option whether or not to give up his See in order to assume the duties of PB.

  2. Tony Price says:

    Is this a budget issue? The demands of a diocesan bishop and a presiding bishop are quite different, and I wonder if it isn’t unfair asking a bishop to excel at both. In Mexico the PB is a also a diocesan bishop, and it is a struggle balancing the load.

  3. I agree with the policy, but let’s have a designated See for the Presiding Bishop. Maybe Bishop of Austin, TX encompassing only those churches within the City of Austin? Austin would be ideal. It has liberal politics, it is centrally located as to the rest of the country, it has warm weather, it has a seminary, it has transportation available by train, bus and plane, and about half-dozen or so Episcopal Churches. Also, land is inexpensive compared to the rest of the country.

  4. Frank Bergen says:

    I’d like to hear our current and former PBs speak to the subject of allowing future PBs to remain diocesan Ordinaries. I suspect we may already be doing too much to encourage diocesans to be world travelers. To combine responsibility for a diocese with the far-flung ministries of the three most recent PBs makes little sense to me. If on the other hand we are to significantly shrink our national headquarters operations and turn the PB ministry back into a largely intramural prima (primus) inter pares ministry, then diocesan responsibilities might be appropriate, even essential to the episcopal nature of the office.

  5. Br. James Teets BSG says:

    I’m wondering whether anyone will again raise the issue of changing our Primate’s title from PB to Archbishop? It seems to come up at GCs as often as does the selling and moving of the Church Center. This sort of Resolution would be the right venue to tag it onto.

  6. Charles Smith says:

    I will say that having the PB retain their see seems like a good idea. Not only would it keep them grounded in the day to day realities of the church, it would allow less time for making meaningless statements on every minor issue on PRNEWSWIRE.

  7. Ron Roberson says:

    As a friendly Roman Catholic observer of The Episcopal Church, I have always found it an anomaly that the Presiding Bishop does not have his or her own diocese. In Orthodox and Roman Catholic ecclesiology, the primacy in a region does not belong to a lone bishop disconnected from a diocese, but to a local church and its bishop. After all, the Pope is the Pope only because he is the bishop of the church of Rome, which is where the primacy lies. The Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas even maintains that the diocese is part of the very ontology of the episcopate. With all this in mind, I think it would make the most sense if the Presiding Bishop were always the Archbishop of Washington, headquartered at the National Cathedral. This would have ecclesiological significance that would not be found in an office building perhaps moving from place to place depending on who was elected to the office of primate.

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