Slate of 28th presiding bishop nominees to be released April 2, starting petition process

By David Paulsen
Posted Mar 18, 2024

[Episcopal News Service] The slate of nominees for The Episcopal Church’s 28th presiding bishop is scheduled to be announced April 2. From this list and any petition nominations,  bishops will elect and deputies will confirm a new churchwide leader when they gather in June for the 81st General Convention in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop selects the nominees. The committee’s member bishops, clergy and lay leaders were elected by the church to develop a nominating process and produce a slate of at least three bishops. On March 18, the church’s Office of Public Affairs issued a news release with the committee’s latest timeline, including the process by which any bishop or deputy to the 81st General Convention may petition to add a name to the committee’s slate after it is released. Those additional nominations must be made April 3-15 with the consent of the bishop being nominated by petition.

In addition to electing a new presiding bishop to succeed outgoing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, General Convention also will consider proposed canonical changes that would affect future presiding bishop transitions.

General Convention, the triennial churchwide gathering, splits its authority between the House of Bishops and House of Deputies, and each house has a distinct role in the selection of a new presiding bishop for a nine-year term. In Louisville, after the nominating committee formally presents the nominees on June 25, the House of Bishops will gather in a closed session June 26 to elect one of them. The House of Deputies then will vote to confirm or not confirm the result of that presiding bishop election.

The 28th presiding bishop is scheduled to take office on Nov. 1, and an installation is scheduled for Nov. 2 at Washington National Cathedral, the traditional seat of the presiding bishop.

The presiding bishop has a range of responsibilities, as outlined by The Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons. Those include presiding over the House of Bishops, chairing Executive Council, visiting every Episcopal diocese, participating in the ordination and consecration of bishops, receiving and responding to disciplinary complaints against bishops, making appointments to the church’s interim bodies, and “developing policies and strategies for the church and speaking for the church on the policies, strategies and programs of General Convention.”

There are few canonical requirements for presiding bishop candidates. They must be members of the House of Bishops and cannot yet have reached the church’s mandatory retirement age of 72. Nothing prohibits the election of a presiding bishop who would turn 72 in the middle of the nine-year term, though historically nominees have been able to complete the full nine years.

The church’s Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons has proposed Resolution A063 for consideration by the 81st General Convention recommending changes to clarify the timeline of future presiding bishop successions. Under the proposal, a new presiding bishop would take over for the outgoing presiding bishop 91 days, or 13 weeks, after the adjournment of the electing convention. Existing canons give fixed dates for the nine-year term, beginning on Nov. 1. The commission also recommends allowing a presiding bishop to remain in office beyond nine years if the electing convention has been postponed. In such a scenario, the church’s mandatory clergy retirement age of 72 would not apply, under the proposed changes.

Church leaders identified the need for those changes after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a one-year postponement of the 80th General Convention to 2022. Although that postponement didn’t coincide with or affect the end of Curry’s term, the commission’s proposal is intended to alleviate any future uncertainty.

“There is no provision in the existing canon for the presiding bishop to continue in office if there is a delay in the electing convention,” Christopher Hayes, the standing commission’s chair, told Episcopal News Service.

By contrast, the existing canons mark the end of the House of Deputies president’s term at the adjournment of the meeting when a successor is elected. That is why the previous president, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, was able to serve an additional year, until the House of Deputies met in 2022 and elected Julia Ayala Harris as her successor.

“Our hope, as always, is that the legislation will serve its purpose for the indefinite future, no matter who is in office,” Hayes said.

The canonical changes, if approved by the 81st General Convention, would take effect Jan. 1, 2025.

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.


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