I trust that by now all of you have received the schedule of events for the upcoming Consecration of Bishop-Elect Bonnie Perry to be held on February 8 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn. What an exciting time for our diocese! It’s hard to believe it was over a year ago that Bishop Gibbs announced his upcoming retirement. Thanks be to God we had that year because the process of electing a new bishop is rather long and time-consuming. Fortunately the Canons of The Episcopal Church detail that process quite nicely (This process may be found under Title III: Ministry Canon 11: Of the Ordination of Bishops.) The Standing Committee, the Search and Nominations Committee, the Transitions Committee, and the entire Diocesan Staff have been working hard over the past year to ensure our transition goes as smoothly as possible.
Most of us are aware that our new Bishop-Elect was selected from a slate of four candidates during the Special Convention for the Election of a New Bishop held at our Cathedral on June 1, 2019. But did you know that wasn’t the end of the selection process?
After a diocese selects a candidate for bishop and submits to The Presiding Bishop a Certificate of Election, The Presiding Bishop notifies every Bishop of the Church and requests a written statement of consent (or withholding of consent) from each Diocesan Standing Committee. These notices are then sent to the Standing Committee of the Diocese for which the Bishop was elected, who then forwards them along with other required information to The Presiding Bishop. If the Presiding Bishop receives a majority of statements of consent, the Presiding Bishop then notifies the Standing Committee of the Diocese for which the Bishop is elected and the Bishop-Elect of the consent. The action by the Standing Committees must be done within 120 days after the certificate of election is submitted.
So what happens in dioceses where the Standing Committee isn’t scheduled to meet within those 120 days? The Standing Committee for The Diocese of Michigan meets very regularly but that’s not the case in every Diocese. Due to financial and/or geographical difficulties, some Standing Committees meet as little as twice each year.
The Canons were modified at the last General Convention to address that exact situation:
Proposed by the Committee on Constitution and Canons ~
A282 Amend Canon III.11.3(b)
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That Canon III.11.3(b) is hereby amended to read as follows:
(b) Evidence of the consent of each Standing Committee shall be a testimonial in the following words, signed by a majority of all the members of the Committee:
We, being a majority of all the members of the Standing Committee of ______________, and having been duly convened at ______________, fully sensible how important it is that the Sacred Order and Office of a Bishop should not be unworthily conferred, and firmly persuaded that it is our duty to bear testimony on this solemn occasion without partiality, do, in the presence of Almighty God, testify that we know of no impediment on account of which the Reverend A.B. ought not to be ordained to that Holy Order. In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our hands this _____ day of _________in the year of our Lord _________.
(c) Testimonials required of the Standing Committee by this Title must be signed by a majority of the whole Committee, at a meeting duly convened, except that testimonials may be executed in counterparts, any of which may be delivered by facsimile or other electronic transmission, each of which shall be deemed an original.
This resolution allows for dioceses for whom meeting in person is not possible more than semi-annually due to financial and/or geographic limitations. It should be noted that the word “convene” is understood to also mean a virtual or teleconference gathering where participants may hear and speak live. Consensus is meant to be reached in this meeting. An email vote is not to be understood, in this instance, as consensus.
I suspect that as technology continues to evolve, more and more of our traditional face-to-face meetings will be held via teleconference or other virtual means. Not only does it allow for meetings to be held when weather or other geographical limitations make physical gatherings difficult, it also saves on fuel and other valuable resources.
I hope to see many of you at the Consecration service on February 8! Remember that it’s not too late to volunteer, donate to vestments, register for childcare, or book a hotel room at a discounted rate at The Henry.
Let us pray ~
To you, O Father, all hearts are open; fill, we pray, the heart
of this your servant whom you have chosen to be a bishop in
your Church, with such love of you and of all the people, that
she may feed and tend the flock of Christ, and exercise
without reproach the high priesthood to which you have
called her, serving before you day and night in the ministry
of reconciliation, declaring pardon in your Name, offering the
holy gifts, and wisely overseeing the life and work of the
Church. In all things may she present before you the acceptable
offering of a pure, and gentle, and holy life; through Jesus
Christ your Son, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be
honor and power and glory in the Church, now and for ever. Amen.
(From the Ordination of a Bishop ~ BCP p. 521)
~ The Rev. Diana Walworth, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council