By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
All eyes will be on St. Mark’s Cathedral in Salt Lake City as the Episcopal Church goes through the elaborate, time-honored process of electing a new presiding bishop to serve a nine-year term.
That’s where the House of Bishops will convene for a closed meeting to choose from among four of their own who have been nominated for the church’s highest position. Security will be tight; no media will be allowed access. Bishops have been asked not to send any texts, tweets, or other messages until the process is complete.
The world will learn the result of the bishops’ vote from the House of Deputies, which must confirm the bishops’ choice before it becomes official. Upon hearing the name, the House of Deputies will have only two options: confirm or reject. Deputies have never said no to the bishops’ choice.
Pageantry will surround the process, which began with morning Eucharist. In a sermon, the Rev. Cathlena Plummer of Navajoland reflected on the nature of shepherding as the church prepared to elect its new shepherd.
“We have a complicated life — we have other people that we follow, unlike the sheep,” she said. “Those who are his spend time in his Word and recognize his voice.”
The congregation applauded after her homily.
After morning Eucharist, bishops will line up to board buses for the cathedral. Once they have a selection, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will appoint a delegation to travel by car to the House of Deputies.
There a caucus, appointed by House of Deputies President Gay Jennings, will consider whether to recommend the name to the full House. If the candidate is recommended, the House will learn the name, take a vote and — if the vote results in confirmation — send the delegation back into the car to notify the House of Bishops. At that point, the church will have a new presiding bishop, and bishops will leave the cathedral.
Photo of St. Mark’s Cathedral by Asher Imtiaz