The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop and controlling the process.

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop has written a short essay on the nomination process. This committee has undertaken its work somewhat differently than the last (on which I sat).  Remember that each General Convention elects a new Committee and the canons under which it operates gives it a great deal of room for variation in developing the nomination process.

The essay is clear enough about the process it will use. And it appears that his Committee will be playing it close to the chest and will attempt to exercise considerable control of the final candidates list.  

The Committee writes:

  • The JNCPB will announce its nominees in early May 2015.
  • For two weeks after the May announcement of the JNCPB’s nominees, any deputy to the 78th General Convention or bishop may indicate their intent to nominate other bishops from the floor at the 2015 General Convention in accordance with a process that the JNCPB will announce.  In the spring of 2015 the JNCPB will provide further information on the process by which bishops and deputies can nominate additional bishops. (Underlining mine)
  • The identity of the additional nominees will be made available to the Church in early June 2015.

The first thing to note is that there may be no chance for the House of Bishops in their spring meeting of 2015 to have meetings with the named candidates prior to the time of election, something they did last time around. 

Secondly, the Committee seems to believe that the JNCPB will determine the process by which bishops and deputies can nominate additional bishops. 

Their first stab at this is to suggest that bishops and deputies are to indicate their intent to nominate PRIOR to the actual occasion in the calendar of Convention for doing so.   They then suggest that there will be "further information on the process by which bishops and deputies can nominate additional bishops."  But the canons clearly indicate what that process is. 

"At the Joint Session to which the Joint Nominating Committee shall report, any Bishop or Deputy may nominate any other member of the House of Bishops for the consideration of the two Houses in the choice of a Presiding Bishop, and there may be discussion of all nominees." (Canon I.2.1(f))

That means, as I read it, that whatever the JNCPB may otherwise do, any Bishop or Deputy may nominate from the floor of the Joint Session, without any other rules modifying that.

The JNCPB then writes about the election process:

The Election Process
  • On the day before the first legislative day of General Convention, the JNCPB will present both its nominees and those of other bishops and deputies to a joint meeting of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops.  At that meeting the JNCPB will facilitate conversation and questions and answers with the nominees.
Note that the JNCPB seems to assume that all nominations worth their salt are in place before the meeting of the Joint Session.
  • Early in General Convention there will be a Joint Session of both Houses at which the names of the nominees of the JNCPB and any others by bishops or deputies will be officially entered into nomination.(underling mine)
Note here that the JNCPB again avoids actually mentioning the possibility of nominations from the floor. Instead its speaks of names of those proposed "by bishops or deputies will be officially entered into nomination."  

The essay by the Joint Committee thus avoids dealing with the clear intent of the Canons, namely that bishops may be nominated from the floor directly and on the spot at the Joint Session set aside for consideration of nominations for PB.

There are all sorts of reasons for delaying the release of the nominations from the Joint Committee and there are I suppose some reasons for wishing that there would be no last minute nominations, and no doubt the Committee is trying to do its work well. Still, in not having the Committee's names early enough for the House of Bishops to have some time with the Committees nominees and by not clearly stating that bishops and deputies by canon can on the floor nominate others it feels as if the JCNPB is exercising control tactics that ought to be challenged.

Why might the Committee be concerned to control the process in this way?  

Well, there are several quirky things about this election - (i) there is always the possibility that the current PB will think to run again, (ii) TREC (the Taskforce on Reimaging the Episcopal Church) will be giving its report and that might influence the final list the JCNPB puts together, (iii) the Blue Book, which will include recommendations from Liturgy and Music about marriage rites will be out and the next round of liberal / conservative muttering will be in full swing. Any one of these, and I am sure other, possibilities might make it very tempting to hold off on names until the last moment and at the same time pull back from the possibilities of surprise from the floor.


  1. Mark as I am sure you know every jurisdiction in the episcopal church has moved away from nominations from the floor. Nominations will be welcome but they must be made earlier in order to allow some background checks. Nominations from the floor do not allow for this. You know that we have has problems with people elected without proper background checks. This is not an attempt to control the process by the committee which I serve on but an attempt to make sure that we do not elect someone embarrassing to the church as has happened in some bishop elections.

    Bill Fleener, Jr.

  2. Doesn't the PB have to be chosen from those who are already bishops? And doesn't the church do background checks on its bishops? This isn't like choosing a priest to be a diocesan bishop. Sounds like more power plays from the national church. And I can't help wonder if it doesn't have something to do with the comment PB Jefferts-Schori made in a recent interview saying that rectors and bishops should be appointed, not elected. 815 will decide the next PB and everyone else will approve their choice.

    Bill, perhaps they should change the canons before they start just ignoring them. As I noted over at the Lead article about the interview, consolidating power in the TEC national government seems to be a theme the last few years.

    Chris H.

  3. Since the logic of background checks makes little or no sense, what is behind this? Is this an effort to keep the PB from being nominated from the floor, as this would be a difficult/awkward proxy?


  4. I understand the desire for order (just look at my handle), but that is not always the best way forward. Following the rules is the best way to organizations to do things. We have rules for changing rules, which don't seem to have been followed in earnest.

    If the JNCPB have information that could be actionable under Canon IV, please follow those procedures. That is the safest way to "avoid embarrassment."

  5. Brother Chris H: Regarding the background check, the question is still pertinent. Any cleric in the Episcopal Church goes through a new background check for any new position - as, for example, if I left my chaplaincy position to take a parish, even in the same diocese. One could argue whether that's the best use of resources; but there could certainly also be problems with only checking at the beginning of a career and not with subsequent changes. Since those subsequent background checks are required, they apply as well to the election of the Presiding Bishop.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.