Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe named petition nominee for 28th presiding bishop

By David Paulsen
Posted Apr 16, 2024

[Episcopal News Service] Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe on April 16 was added as a nominee by petition to stand for election as The Episcopal Church’s 28th presiding bishop, joining four other bishops who were announced two weeks ago on the initial slate of nominees to succeed Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

Central New York Bishop De-De Duncan-Probe became a nominee by petition for 28th presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church on April 16.

The two-week petition period closed at the end of the day April 15, and Duncan-Probe was the sole petition nominee. She joins Nebraska Bishop J. Scott Barker, Pennsylvania Bishop Daniel G.P. Gutiérrez, Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright and Northwestern Pennsylvania Bishop Sean Rowe, who also serves as bishop provisional of the Diocese of Western New York.

“We are grateful that the Holy Spirit continues to guide the church’s discernment process towards electing our next presiding bishop,” Steve Nishibayashi of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles said in the April 16 news release announcing Duncan-Probe as a nominee. Nishibayashi and Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime are co-chairs of The Episcopal Church Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop, which produced the initial four-bishop slate.

Electing and confirming a new presiding bishop to serve a nine-year term will be a top order of business for the 81st General Convention when it convenes June 23-28 in Louisville, Kentucky. The five candidates are scheduled to address bishops and deputies in a two-hour session on June 21. The nominating committee will formally submit their names June 25 during a joint session of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies, and on June 26, the House of Bishops will hold a closed session at Christ Church Cathedral for the election. The bishops then will ask the House of Deputies to vote to confirm the result of the election.

Duncan-Probe, 61, has led the Syracuse-based Diocese of Central New York since 2016. The nearly 80 congregations in the diocese span from the Canadian border to the Pennsylvania state line.

After a career in education and business, Duncan-Probe earned a Master of Divinity degree from The General Theological Seminary in New York and was ordained to the priesthood in 2004 in the Diocese of El Camino Real in central California. She also holds a doctorate in theology from the Graduate Theological Foundation, completed at Oxford University, and served as an adjunct faculty member at Virginia Theological Seminary before her consecration as bishop.

The nominees will not make themselves available for news interviews, consistent with past practice in presiding bishop elections, the nominating committee said in its news release.

View each nominee’s videos on the General Convention Office website.

The nominating committee declined to say whether Duncan-Probe was among a group of finalists who had been invited by the committee to attend a March retreat at a conference center in the Diocese of Western North Carolina. The bishop, however, confirmed in a message to her diocese that she had been a finalist in the original search process. “When my name was not included in the initial announcement on April 2, colleagues petitioned and I have been added to the slate as a nominee,” Duncan-Probe wrote.

Her nomination by petition follows some complaints from members across the church that the committee’s initial slate, though racially diverse, included no women or LGBTQ+ bishops.

ENS reported in May 2023 on the rapid diversification of the House of Bishops since Curry was installed as presiding bishop in November 2015. During that period, at least 43 women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, or a combination of more than one of those categories had joined the House of Bishops out of 66 total Episcopal bishops either consecrated or “translated” since Curry’s installation. Since that story published, four additional women have been consecrated bishops.

“On the plus side: We have become a church where BIPOC representation on the PB slate is so expected that the slate isn’t considered diverse because it includes no women or Queer bishops,” the Rev. Susan Russell, a Diocese of Los Angeles priest and prominent advocate for greater LGBTQ+ inclusion in the church, said in a Facebook post when the April 2 slate was announced.

“On the minus side: We are still a church where the pool of qualified potential candidates includes so few women and Queer bishops that it is statistically unsurprising that none are represented in the slate.”

Some other Episcopalians, while lamenting the absence of women on the initial slate for 28th presiding bishop, also noted that many of the women and LGBTQ+ bishops in the House of Bishops have taken office within the past five years. There is no canonical requirement that nominees have a certain amount of experience, though length in office traditionally has been seen as a factor in the nominating committee’s decision.

The church’s first and only female presiding bishop, the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, had served as bishop of Nevada for five years when she was elected presiding bishop in 2006.

Among the 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 during the nine-year term, though historically nominees have been able to complete the full term.

The committee chose this year’s initial slate of nominees from a list of names submitted by 111 Episcopalians during a two-month window last year. Some names were submitted multiple times, and though bishops were invited to nominate themselves, none did.

Bishops named during the two-month window were asked to enter the discernment process. Those who agreed to be considered were asked to provide biographical information, references and responses to the committee’s questions. They also were interviewed on Zoom. From those candidates, the committee invited a smaller number of bishops to the March retreat after which the committee finalized its slate of nominees.

The committee said Duncan-Probe, as a petition nominee, was vetted through the same process of background and reference checks as all nominees, as required by the canons.

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. When the nominating committee released its presiding bishop profile in March 2023, it identified via survey several qualities needed in “a presiding bishop for our time.” Among the most important characteristics are strong leadership, a love of communicating and faithfulness.

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.”

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