Create a Task Force to Study Episcopal Elections and Appointments of Bishops

We propose a task force to study episcopal elections and report to the 79th General Convention with possible changes to our current process of discernment, nomination, election, and transition of bishops, including the selection and training of transition consultants. We also propose that this task force be given the authority to work with the Office of Pastoral Development to provide updated and digitized resources for dioceses in search processes. We have requested significant funding in order to make the updating work possible.

D004: Create a Task Force to Study Episcopal Elections and Appointments of Bishops

Resolved, the House of ____________ concurring, that a Task Force on the Episcopacy be appointed by the Presiding Officers composed of four bishops, four presbyters or deacons, and eight lay persons; and be it further

Resolved, that at least one member of the Task Force will have been a finalist in an Episcopal search who did not receive enough votes for election in the last three years; at least one member of the Task Force will have served as a Transition Consultant in an Episcopal search over the past three years; and at least two members of the Task Force will have served on an Episcopal Search and/or Transition Committee in an Episcopal search process over the past three years; and be it further

Resolved, that the Task Force will study the election, appointment, roles, and responsibilities of the Episcopate, including the use of Bishops Diocesan, Bishops Coadjutor, Bishops Suffragan, Provisional Bishops, Missionary Bishops, and Assistant Bishops in this Church; looking specifically at the particular gifts, life experience, and expertise required for episcopal office; and be it further

Resolved, that the Task Force will pay particular attention to the recent trend away from a diverse House of Bishop, and seek ways to encourage diversity in the Episcopate; and be it further

Resolved, that the Task Force will propose to the 79th General Convention a new process for discernment, nomination, formation, search, election, and transition of bishops in The Episcopal Church including, but not limited to: the roles and responsibilities of the Office of Pastoral Development; the selection of, roles and responsibilities of Transition Consultants; how adjoining dioceses may aid and inform the discernment of a diocese in transition; and any required Constitutional and Canonical changes necessary; and be it further

Resolved, That the Task Force will work with the Office of Pastoral Development to develop best practices and educational materials to be published electronically and made publicly available, and may use some of its budget to retain consultants who will help with this task; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance to consider a budget allocation of $150,000 for the implementation of this resolution.

6 Comments

  1. Lisa Fox

    I can’t tell what problem this resolution aims to fix or what opportunity it intends to create. I know GC resolutions usually have a rationale included. I don’t yet see a rationale for this resolution, nor can I guess what it is.

    Reply
  2. Episcopal Resurrection (Post author)

    Hi, Lisa. The TREC report recommended a Task Force on the Episcopacy, without giving their reasons. Their resolution was much less specific than ours. We agreed that such a task force needs to be created, and wanted to add a great deal more specificity to the charge, the composition of the task force, etc. While TREC was not specific about the issues it saw, I think we saw many. One was the lack of diversity referred to in the fourth Resolved. Another was the fact that many resources provided to search committees by the church-wide office are out-of-date, un-indexed, and not available online, and this needs to be fixed. The criteria for selecting search consultants is not widely known, and since consultants have a great deal of latitude to guide the searches, we felt that there needed to be more consistency and transparency. Add to all this the concerns brought to light in one recent, widely reported, election when pertinent information was not shared with the electing convention. We believe that a task force with significant funding could explore all these issues, create a set of updated resources and best practices, and help improve a process which, after all, is very important to the church.

    Thanks for the question – Susan.

    Reply
  3. Lisa Fox

    Thank you for the explanation, Susan.

    I can’t imagine the fourth “resolved” will change anything. I don’t know this for a fact, but I bet those who “opt in” to our process of Episcopal elections are white males. I doubt any greater diversity will occur in the candidate pool until more women and minorities feel motivated to stand for election to the episcopacy. And that’s something those individuals will drive, having nothing to do with any task force.

    Yes, I understand what you mean about that recent election in which some information was not shared with the electing convention.

    I’m not yet persuaded that a special task force will have any impact on episcopal elections, nor that the actions proposed here are worthy of my support. But I’m keeping my ears and heart open.

    Reply
  4. Nurya Love Parish

    Hi Lisa,

    I want to second what Susan said, and I will confess that I was one of the instigators behind this proposal (although I couldn’t make it to the gathering where these resolutions were drafted). My sense of urgency around this particular resolution grows from having served on the Bishop Search Team in the Diocese of Western Michigan in 2012-2013.

    I am deeply grateful to God for the outcome of that election. However, the process of serving on that search team was one of constantly needing to make things up on the fly that I was shocked didn’t already exist. As the communications liaison for our team I can tell you we received no particular guidance about how to manage either our internal or external communications, other than that we should require applicants to provide their documents electronically and that we should ensure every team member used email regularly. I set up the application processing sequence and project management system for our team to review each application, then trained the rest of our team on how to use it, always feeling like I was probably missing something important. Why did I have to create that from scratch when it matters so much that applicants for the episcopacy are treated with respect and consideration? What happens if a search team doesn’t have a “me” to do that – which is quite possible as I am on the edge of the church which is comfortable with online project management tools?

    Further, there were no easily accessible resources we could share with our diocese about what it meant to elect a bishop – no officially commissioned or approved YouTube videos, for example. Thank God for our diocesan staffmember who came up with a booklet for kids and youth to understand what we were doing – there wasn’t one of those already available to us either.

    Significantly, there was no written information whatsoever about how social media use can impact a bishop search and election process – because the last set of resources available to us were written before social media existed. This resulted in at least one significant snafu toward the end of the process when we discovered we weren’t all on the same page regarding the purpose and use of Facebook.

    Again, I couldn’t be more grateful and excited about the outcome of our episcopal transition. But I do not want other diocesan search teams to have to go through what we went through to get there!

    The only reason the church doesn’t have a clear, transparent, published set of resources for episcopal search and transition teams is that we haven’t mobilized our resources to do so. I don’t think there’s any intent behind the way things are – it’s just how they evolved over time. The Office of Pastoral Development is responsible for managing the process of diocesan transitions, as well as putting out every.single.fire. that relates to the episcopacy. There aren’t enough people there to give a comprehensive review of the episcopal election process and make changes, if they were to even see that as their job (and it’s not – it’s General Convention’s job).

    If we see that the process of episcopal search and transition isn’t working as well as it could (and I do), then it’s time to empower some people to figure out how to make it work better. That’s what this resolution intends to do.

    Sorry for writing a book-length reply,
    Nurya

    Reply
    1. Lisa Fox

      I’m very grateful for your detailed reply, Nurya. Having never been involved in an episcopal search, I had no idea of the existence of the kinds of hurdles you mention. I am grateful for your insights.

      Reply
  5. Elise Johnstone

    Hi all, thanks for your good work on these! Was any thought given to including some kind of overlap between the Office of Transition Ministry and the Office of Pastoral Development in this task force?

    Reply

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