How one gets called into nomination for Presiding Bishop is a matter of some interest these days. How that call is spiritually registered internally and how it gets publicly registered for consideration by electing bishops are two different questions. About the first we must rely on the testimony of those who discern that they are called into consideration. About the second we have continuing surprises of life in the body ecclesial and politic.
It was agreed, by decision of the House of Bishops at their fall 2005 meeting, that they would not consider candidates nominated from the floor that had not previously been announced and vetted. The date set by them for the close of nominations by deputies and bishops is April 1, 2006, which allows ample time for investigation. So far three bishops have been added to the list, joining the four nominated by the Joint Nominating Committee. Assuming their successful vetting, this gives us seven. There are eleven days to go.
Bishop Stacy Sauls of Lexington was nominated by petition before the March meeting of the House of Bishops. Bishops Charles Jenkins of Louisiana and Francisco Duque of Columbia have been nominated by petition, and the announcement was made while at the House of Bishops meeting.
The Episcopal News Service carried the news in a carefully nuanced statement, “Bishop Charles Edward Jenkins III of Louisiana and Bishop Francisco Duque-Gomez of Colombia announced their intention to accept nomination at the House of Bishops meeting at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina."
Fr. Jake Stops the World has a good article on the candidates, and Anglicans Online does its usual fine job in researching the issue.
Bishop Jenkins reported in a message to his diocese, “I had to decide last Friday night whether or not I would agree to the request of twelve Bishops who asked me to allow them to nominate me from the floor for consideration as the next Presiding Bishop. As you may know, I had been previously dropped from the process by the Nominating Committee. These twelve Bishops who asked me were from across the specturm of the Church and included liberal and conservative, male and female and are of various colors.” The “floor” to which Bishop Jenkins refers in his diocesan statement is the floor of the Joint Session at General Convention called for that occasion. Information on both bishops can be found in the ENS story.
The canons governing the nomination and election of the Presiding Bishop were written for less suspicious, but certainly not less political, times.
Actual nominations are made at General Convention at a joint session at time specified by the calendar of the Convention. At that time the Joint Nominating Committee makes its nominations and other nominations are taken from the floor. Of course the names to be submitted by the Committee may be released whenever the Committee chooses. But they are not “real” until presented that day, and at least in theory the Committee could until the last minute revise the list. In any event, political and social accountability have come to require that the names from the Nominating Committee be released early enough for conversations to take place with the candidates. The required background checks are part of the Committee process anyway.
For other persons, the “naming date” has been set as April first, so there would be time for vetting. With the spring meeting of the House of Bishops so close to that date, there would of course be some real advantage to having additional persons named in time for conversations at the meeting to take place, thus the announcements at the meeting of additional names.
The actual nomination of ANY of the names that are brought forward is on the day of the Joint Session. What the two processes do is provide the ways by which names may be brought to that session.
I think the process of having both nominations by committee and nominations from the floor is mostly a positive one. The Joint Nominating Committee (of which I am a member) worked at the problem of reviewing a fairly large group of bishops who essentially placed their own names in consideration using the Call to Discernment sent to all bishops by the committee. From that the committee came to a final set of candidates.
Persons nominated from the floor, even in advance of the Convention, use another avenue for candidacy. They are placed in nomination by specific persons and their candidacy stands without being weighed with other persons in a group process.
At its best this gives a range of candidates: some drawn from the pool of those answering a call to discernment, some brought forward by the discernment of others. Of course both are a mix of personal and communal call, as it should be.
The down side of this process is that the electing bishops will have a rather large ballot to work with, one that is perhaps not yet complete. If the ballot ends up being seven to nine persons long it may take a while to shake out the top three or so contenders. Voting could go on at some length.
It is interesting to note that it is up to the House of Bishops itself to determine if they cannot elect from the slate provided. So they can meet in the church where they are in executive session all day if they wish and into the night. There is nothing to indicate whether or not they can break for lunch, dinner, or overnight. There is nothing to indicate how many ballots they can go. The rules of the House state that they “should” remain in the church where they are meeting until such time as the deputies confirm the election, but should is not must.
If they are stuck, the Bishops must come back to another Joint Session and there take new names in nomination. At that point one presumes the Bishops' distast for election first and investigation second is overcome and new names are presented. We can all hope that the initial list is enough.
So the possibilities are many, as are the calls, but few are chosen - actually one.