5/18/2015

Why are there no additional bishops nominated to be Presiding BIshop?

The Joint Committee for the Nomination for the Presiding Bishop made the following announcement: 

"The JNCPB is canonically charged with “establishing a timely process for any bishop or deputy to express the intent to nominate any other member of the House of Bishops from the floor at the time the Joint Nominating Committee presents its nominees to the joint session of the two Houses, and for each Bishop so nominated to be included in the information distributed about the nominees”.
The JNCPB outlined this procedure in a message to the Church on April 27, 2015.
The deadline for bishops and deputies to nominate a bishop under this procedure was May 12, 2015. JNCPB announces that no additional bishops were nominated.
Therefore, the list of bishops presented by the JNCPB will be formally placed in nomination before a joint session of the two Houses of the General Convention on June 26, 2015."
So no additional nominations were made. Apparently that is that.  I still would argue that nominations can indeed be made from the floor quite independent of the process.  But the fact is the JNCPB set out a "timely process" as canonically charged, and was clear about it.  It would take a person of great courage to rise to nominate from the floor anyway, and a bishop willing to be raked over the coals for allowing her or his name to go forward. So, chances are it will not happen. So much for the possibility that between now and then, just a few weeks away, some strange stirring of the Holy Spirit were to arise to test the whole matter of "timely process," the currently nominated" or "intent to nominate."  
I quite understand the reality that essentially makes "nomination from the floor" moot. But I am appalled that the the only way for new nominations to arise is the failure of election and the return to a joint meeting of the houses to name new persons. Essentially nomination from the floor is reserved for failure of the nomination system.  There is no possibility (apparently) for a genuinely new nomination to come from the General Convention at the time it meets until and unless the House of Bishops is unable to elect from among the candidates.
We know that the work of the Holy Spirit is not contained, but you wouldn't know that by hearing the Church speak. It would seem that the Church considers the Holy Spirit its friend in this nominating and electing process. Too often the name "The Holy Spirit" is involked to assure us that this or that work is guided by the Holy Spirit, mandated by the Holy Spirit, demanded by the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately the work of the Holy Spirit, at least as I understand it, is an occasion for judgment, grace, and glory, since it is the Spirit, not us, who sets the ground rules.  
The Holy Spirit is not, in other words, to be called upon to confirm our tidy processes, but rather is to be recognized in those occasions when we are surprised, dumbfounded and even confused by the incursion of the Divine in human affairs.  We do not invoke to bring the Holy Spirit in, we are compelled to announce the Holy Spirit has already struck or to plea that the Holy Spirit strike. The first, our own willingness to invoke, can be a pious incantation, the latter, the compelling call to affirm or plea, is asking for trouble. 
In our caution (quite understandable of course) the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, is expressing once again its prayer for "no surprises."  And no doubt we have been rudely surprised these days and not in Godly ways.  So how might the Holy Spirit strike, vis-a-vis the election of the Presiding Bishop? Will the Holy Spirit even join the fray?  We will of course make our plea that the Holy Spirit inspire our hearts, or at least the hearts of the bishops assembled. But should the Holy Spirit strike, how will we know that presence?  And how, in God's name, can the Holy Spirit strike in a process where no room for immediate, incarnate, raw and dangerous ideas are allowed (a nomination being the "idea" that this or that person ought to be tested as a candidate)?
To be fair, there has been a window of a few days for persons to bring forward other nominations. None have come. Why?  
Is the list just fine as it is? (It may well be.)  
Is the job so onerous that no more bishops were willing to even consider standing for election? Could be. 
The current list is all male, all members of the class "diocesan bishop."  Did the nominating committee just lean towards established authority models or did they determine that that was precisely what is needed?  Was that on their minds at all? Who knows. But we do know that there are no women, no bishops other than diocesan bishops. And we know now that no one has signaled intent to nominate a woman or a non-diocesan.
My opinion is that there are no other names because in the midst of the TREC conversation, the decline in numbers in all mainline denominations, the distrust of institutions, the continuing culture of snarl and growl, and the very real difference bishops can make in the place where they have been called, service as Presiding Bishop seems more and more a an opportunity for failure. Not failure that is put to good use by God, but just failure. 
There are no other nominations for this job because few people have the stomach for it.
And that is precisely the reason for wanting to assure a place for the Holy Spirit in the nominating "process."  The work of the Holy Spirit in this instance might well be to give courage to the hesitant, so that in the end the bishops would have a wider, more varied list from which to choose.  And that same Holy Spirit might well find voice in the Joint session where nominations are received and potentially made.
And the next time someone patiently explains to me just why the inconsistency exists between the call to the Nominating Committee and the canonical call for nominations from the floor, and just why we need to do screening in advance of election, and so on, I want to remind them that should the process fail to produce an electable presiding bishop, the canons do indeed call for a second joint session at which new names are put forth. No prior screening possible.  And, just to be clear, the idea of immediately inducting the Presiding Bishop, as some would propose, assumes that screening always takes place before election.  
The possibility of nominations from the real floor is done in by the need to have things neatly packaged. How's that for openness to the Holy Spirit, or even other spirits, principalities and powers? Better safe than sorry or amazed. 

2 comments:

  1. Father Mark, rumor has it that some folks are operating under the assumption the nominee has to be a diocesan who has been a diocesan a minimum of 5 years. And that the only woman to so qualify is +El Comino Real, but that bishop Mary has declined to be nominated.

    Bro David

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  2. The Holy Spirit who visits the foot of the volcano in Central America keeps whispering; ¨The National Cathedral/Cathedral Church of Peter and Paul, diocese of Washington D.C., The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde in the ear of this member of TEC.¨(lead with your strongest suit during this time of reimaging)

    ReplyDelete

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