Second Essay in PB Nomination Process

Adapted from the Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs

The Episcopal Church Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) has issued the following information.

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) continues its work to prepare The Episcopal Church for the election of the 27th Presiding Bishop at General Convention next summer.  The Committee has published the second of three essays designed to begin a discussion about the election which will take place in the summer of 2015.

The second essay outlines the current roles, functions, and responsibilities of the Presiding Bishop.  This first essay described the basic time-line and steps of the nominating and election process.  The third essay will discuss how the constitutional/canonical role of the office has changed and evolved from being the senior bishop by consecration who presiding over meetings of the House of Bishops to the complex multifaceted position it is today.

It is the hope of the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop that all members of General Convention and all Episcopalians will take the time to read these brief essays to learn the importance of what we will do next summer.  Should you have any questions or comments about these essays or the work of the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop please contact

The JNCPB is comprised of a lay member, a priest or deacon, and a bishop elected from each of the nine provinces of the Episcopal Church, plus two youth representatives, appointed by the President of the House of Deputies. The General Convention Deputies and bishops serve a three-year term to conclude at the close of General Convention 2015 in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah).

Election of the Presiding Bishop in 2015:  Essay #2
July 2014

The Roles and Functions of the Presiding Bishop Today

The goal of this second education piece of the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop is to provide The Episcopal Church, and potential candidates with information on the vast responsibilities of the complex and multifaceted position that the Presiding Bishop holds today.

The most familiar description of the roles and functions of the Presiding Bishop can be found in Canon I.2.4 of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church (pp. 28-29):

(a)  The Presiding Bishop shall be the Chief Pastor and Primate of the Church, and shall:
(1)  Be charged with responsibility for leadership in initiating and developing the policy and strategy in the Church and speaking for the Church as to the policies, strategies and programs authorized by the General Convention;
(2)  Speak God’s words to the Church and to the world, as the representative of this Church and its episcopate in its corporate capacity;
(3)  In the event of an Episcopal vacancy within a Diocese, consult with the Ecclesiastical Authority to ensure that adequate interim Episcopal Services are provided;
(4)  Take order for the consecrations of Bishops, when duly elected; and, from time to time, assemble the Bishops of this Church to meet, either as the House of Bishops or a Council of Bishops, and set the time and place of such meetings;
(5)  Preside over meetings of the House of Bishops; and, when the two Houses of the General Convention meet in Joint Session, have the right of presiding over such Session, of calling for such Joint Session, of recommending legislation to either House, and, upon due notification, of appearing before and addressing the House of Deputies; and whenever addressing the General Convention upon the state of the Church, it shall be incumbent upon both Houses thereof to consider and act upon any recommendations contained in such address;
(6)  Visit every Diocese of this Church for the purpose of: (1) Holding pastoral consultations with the Bishop or Bishops thereof and, with their advice, with the Lay and Clerical leaders of the jurisdiction; (ii) Preaching the Word; and (iii) Celebrating the Holy Eucharist.

(b) The Presiding Bishop shall report annually to the Church, and may, from time to time, issue Pastoral Letters.

Canon I.2.4(c) goes on to provide that there are many other roles and responsibilities prescribed throughout the Canons of and “to be enabled better to perform such duties and responsibilities, the Presiding Bishop may appoint, to positions established by the Executive Council of General Convention, officers, responsible to the Presiding Bishop, who may delegate such authority as shall seem appropriate.”  These other canonical duties may be grouped into five other categories.

I. Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and Executive Council

The Presiding Bishop is ex officio President of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society which carries on all of the corporate matters of the Episcopal Church.  In addition to being ex officio Chair and President of the Executive Council, as Chair and President the Presiding Bishop is the chief executive officer of Executive Council “and as such the Chair and President shall have ultimate responsibility for the oversight of the work of the Executive Council in the implementation of the ministry and mission of the Church as may be committed to the Executive Council by the General Convention.” (Canon I.4.3(a).  It follows that as chief executive officer the Presiding Bishop is in charge of all the Executive Council staff and has authority as well to oversee the Chief Operating Officer and the Chief Financial Officer of the Church.

II. The Presiding Bishop exercises the right of making many appointments including:
• Appoints all the members of the House of Bishops legislative committees
• Appoints bishop members of Joint Committees and Joint Standing Committees of General Convention
• Appoints bishops to the Board of the Archives of The Episcopal Church
• May appoint up to four members of the General Board of Examining Chaplains

III. The Presiding Bishop has responsibility for congregations:
• In foreign lands
• In the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe
• In Navajoland

IV.  The Presiding Bishop has special roles at the time of vacancies in missionary dioceses and the election of missionary bishops, and in the event of a vacancy in the office of bishop assigned jurisdiction in an Area Mission

V.  The Presiding Bishop has the highest dispensing power for vows of members of religious orders of The Episcopal Church

VI.  The Presiding Bishop exercises authority in disciplinary and dissolution proceedings against bishops including
• Responsibilities in the proceedings for the dissolution of the relationship between a bishop and a diocese
• Substantial responsibilities in the discipline of bishops including appointing the Intake Officer, serving on the Reference Panel, issuing Pastoral Directions, Administrative Leaves and restrictions on ministry to bishops, and negotiating  agreements for discipline with bishops

VII. The Presiding Bishop participates in the governance of the Church with the President of the House of Deputies:
• Both serve ex officio on the Joint Standing Committee on Planning and Arrangements that plans General Convention, the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance, and the Joint Standing Committee on Nominations
• Both serve ex officio on all Standing Commissions
• Together with the President of the House of Deputies, the Presiding Bishop does the following:
– Appoints the Executive Officer of the General Convention
– Appoints all members of Executive Council Committees
–  May change the date and the length of General Convention
–  Nominates the Chief Financial Officer of the Executive Council
–  Nominates members of the Joint Audit Committee
–  May set the House of initial action for each Resolution of the General Convention
– May authorize variations and adjustments to, or substitutions for, or alterations in, any portion of liturgical texts under trial use, which do not change the substance of a rite.

Each Presiding Bishop brings her/his particular gifts to bear to shape and organize these myriad responsibilities of this office.  Yet as the Shared Governance document of 2012 reminds us, at the core “the roles of Chief Pastor, Primate, Leader, and Spokesperson are the integral keys to this ministry.”


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