4 on Presiding Bishop Slate

By Douglas LeBlanc

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop has announced a four-member slate. Simple biographies of the four nominees are available in the 15-page document [PDF] announcing the slate:

  • The Rt. Rev. Thomas Breidenthal, Bishop of Southern Ohio
  • The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina
  • The Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas, Bishop of Connecticut
  • The Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith, Bishop of Southwest Florida

Each of the four nominees has formed a distinctive identity in the House of Bishops. These early notes reflect only on one aspect of the nominees’ lives and theology. TLC will present further coverage of the nominees in the weeks ahead.

Thomas Breidenthal was among the bishops who declined consent when the Diocese of Northern Michigan elected the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester as bishop. Like other bishops, Breidenthal expressed concern about Thew Forrester’s understanding of the doctrine of atonement. Unlike other bishops, Breidenthal reflected at length on that doctrine a few years later, in an essay published by Sewanee Theological Review and presented as part of the DuBose Lectures at the University of the South’s School of Theology.

Michael Curry is a bishop immersed in social media, both through his ChurchNext course How to Be a Crazy Christian (adapted from his book of the same title) and through his nearly weekly video episodes for the Diocese of North Carolina’s Please Note. His passionate sermons have led to many invitations for Curry to preach at diocesan conventions.

Ian Douglas is a long-standing scholar of the Episcopal Church’s place within the broader Anglican Communion. His books on that topic include Fling Out the Banner: The National Church Ideal and the Foreign Mission of the Episcopal Church (Church Publishing, 1996) and Understanding the Windsor Report: Two Leaders in the American Church Speak Across the Divide, with Paul Zahl (Church Publishing, 2005). At General Convention in 2012 Douglas proposed Resolution B013, which would have allowed any Presiding Bishop to retain the role of a diocesan bishop after election as PB. That resolution failed to gain consent, despite the convention’s widespread interest in restructuring questions.

Dabney Smith is the one bishop on the slate who has not declared whether his diocese will extend sacramental blessings to same-sex couples.

“Clearly my pastoral sensitivity to people is I want people to be able to feel protected, love who they love, be accepted,” Smith told the Tampa Bay Times in June 2014. “Furthermore, there’s the reality that people of all sorts of different perspectives struggle with issues of cultural dynamics, biblical authority and the interpretation of Scripture.”

He added in the same interview: “A bishop’s role is to be the guardian of the faith and I don’t take that lightly.”

Bishop Smith began a new marriage in 2013, after being widowed the year before. He married Marry Wallis, who was widowed in 2000.

The committee will receive any additional nominations until May 12.

Presiding Bishop Nominees

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