On the Election of The Presiding Bishop, round two.

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) has now published three papers on the electing process, history and the "evolving role and changing selection process."  The last of those essays, with links to the first two, may be found HERE.

I have previously posted some comments on the first of these essays, HERE.  Not surprising there were very few comments on my offering.  No doubt some decided that my comments were boring on the face of it and some may have simply determined that reading such foolishness on a good summer's day is a bad use of time.  

Still, I did get this remark from a member of the JNCPB who took an exception to my thoughts about controlling the process, and in particular about making it increasingly difficult to actually nominate from the floor, as per the directions of the canons.

Bill Fleener writes, 

"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 is quite right in his cautionary note re episcopal elections. But his comment does not bear on the election of a Presiding Bishop.  This is not an election of someone to be bishop, it is an election of a bishop to a particular set of roles and duties (see essay three). We might hope that sitting bishops are under sufficient scrutiny such that any shortcomings would come to the surface when the House of Bishops actually meets to elect. 

But more to the point, the whole reason for having a Nominating Committee is to come up with well reasoned and researched names. The whole reason for nominations from the floor is to make sure the shades of caution drawn around every nominating committee does not obscure the possibility of God's additional surprises. The Nominating Committee, after it makes its recommendations to the Joint Session, is no longer the only voice that can name a candidate, and it ought not control that voice.  

I am unaware of there being any canonical provision for background checks re the Presiding Bishop.  It is assumed that those have been done when the person was made bishop, and that an "active file" on possible embarressments is already in place.

Now to new concerns:

It reports,   

"An amendment to the constitution in 1919 required that “the House of Bishops shall choose one of the bishops having jurisdiction within the United States to be Presiding Bishop by a vote of a majority of all bishops entitled to vote in the House of Bishops, such choice to be subject to confirmation by the House of Deputies”.

The current reading of the Constitution (Art 1, Sec 3) states,

"The House of Bishops shall choose one of the Bishops of this Church to be the Presiding Bishop of the Church by a vote of a majority of all Bishops, excluding retired Bishops not present, except ...."

The requirement that it be a bishop having jurisdiction within the United States was dropped, thereby ending the discussion about what "jurisdiction" means (does it mean a diocesan bishop?) and whether or not there is a distinction between bishops who have "jurisdiction within the United States" and those whose jurisdiction is elsewhere.

At least in theory, then, any bishop of this church may be nominated. The bishop of Haiti or the Dominican Republic having every bit as much standing as the Bishop of Chicago or California, and the second suffragan of Los Angeles as the Bishop of Springfield. 

The JNCPB has quite a task ahead of it.  Having been on the last round I can note that we were blessed to meet and get to know a number of bishops and to put in nomination a range of fine candidates. And we were blessed to have nominations from the floor to complement those we already had proposed. The process was well served by a broad range of names, not all chosen by the JNCPB.  I trust that will happen this time as well.




  1. Mark, I agree that nominations from the floor should be permitted. One would assume that a sitting bishop of the church would pass a background check. What is the time period from when the candidates are chosen and the election? If there are concerns about nominees from the the floor, would there be enough time to do a background check if it is deemed necessary?

  2. Bob Duncan was elected as Bishop Coadjutor in Pittsburgh from the floor in 1996, despite the recommendations of the nominating committee that refused to put his name on the slate.

  3. Is no one able to answer the question I posed in my comment?

  4. Grandmere...the nominations come one day, the voting by the HoB the next. not much time. No background check possible in so short a time.

    Jim, yes, Duncan was elected from the floor. The recommendations from the committee were regrettably not taken. Was a background check later done? If so, I presumed he passed.

    Agan - Grandmere and Jim (honored to have you both write) - my point in part is that the bishops are not electing a bishop to be a bishop (for which the canonical provisions for background check, psychological and physical exam and so forth are well documented.) They are electing one of their own for a peculiar piece of work = being presiding bishop.

    I suppose that as an employee of the DFMS the presiding bishop has to take a physical and pass a background check prior to hire. I don't know. Maybe not. The PB is not hired, but elected. It's a done deal. But that is entirely different from what is required for election - that she or he be a member of the HoB. Period.

  5. hi G. Mimi....our notes crossed in the mail. Hope you are well and up to great things! M

  6. My comment must have traveled by the technological equivalent of a slow boat to China. Thank you. I'd seen your previous response

    I'm well, but hardly up to great things. Sorry. :-)


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.