Kansas Seeks Assisting Bishop

The 14 trustees of the Diocese of Kansas announce their decision to call an assisting bishop:

In our letter of Feb. 7, we told you that, in consultation with the Presiding Bishop’s office, the Council had discerned that the diocese would be served best by a part-time provisional bishop. However, we have discovered that at this time, there are very few retired bishops who are available to serve in this capacity.

We discussed this at length during our meeting on Feb. 15, and we feel confident that the diocese will function well by instead engaging an assisting bishop to perform liturgical functions, notably confirmations and ordinations, while the Council continues its oversight of diocesan matters in its capacity as the interim Ecclesiastical Authority. We also noted that, should the need arise in the coming months, the option of electing a provisional bishop remains.

Engaging an assisting bishop does not require a special convention. Instead, the Council will enter into a contract for designated services and events. We are in the midst of conversations with a bishop who might serve us in this capacity, and as soon as we have this finalized we will share that with you.

The trustees wrote in their previous letter on Feb. 7:

A hallmark of good leadership in transition is open and regular communication. This letter is the first in a series of communications that will keep you informed of our work and progress over the next 18-24 months as we prayerfully move forward from the oversight of one bishop to that of another. We hope that it will be seen as an invitation to an open conversation about our common life in God.

From the time Bishop Wolfe announced his resignation, the Council of Trustees has been working quietly in the background to prepare for a smooth and grace-filled transition. Now that the bishop’s resignation has taken effect, it is time for the Council to share with you what we have been up to.

The Council’s most centering work took place in retreat last week. In our time together we came to understand ourselves to be gifted children of God rather than anxious children of Adam. Immersed in prayer, worship and theological reflection, the Council discerned a theological statement to guide its work as the leadership of the diocese in this interim period:

We, the Council of Trustees, believe in and trust the God-given gifts that abide in the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas. During this season of transition, we will not be fearful. Directed by the Spirit, together we joyfully walk with Jesus the road ahead.

We recognize that we all have God-given gifts that, when shared openly and freely, are more than sufficient to meet our needs. Mindful of God’s provision and directed by the Spirit, we will not be afraid in this transition, but we will walk this road joyfully in the company of our Savior.

As for the work leading up to this retreat, since the end of November we have been in conversation with the Rt. Rev. F. Clayton Matthews in the Office of the Presiding Bishop. Bishop Matthews oversees the Office for Pastoral Development, and in this capacity he works with dioceses in transition as they seek interim episcopal leadership in their searches for diocesan bishops.

Working with Bishop Matthews, the Council has discerned that the kind of interim episcopal leadership we need is that of a part-time provisional bishop. (A provisional bishop has full jurisdiction within a diocese until a new diocesan bishop is consecrated.) On Feb. 1, the Council received the names of two candidates for this position. A working group within the Council is beginning its review of these candidates this week.

At this time it is unclear how long it will take before a special diocesan convention can meet to elect a provisional bishop; our canons require 30 days’ notice before a convention can take place. The reality is that it could possibly take several months to have everything in place. However, the members of the diocesan staff and the Council are working to arrange the services of visiting bishops to fulfill any episcopal liturgical needs in the interim, such as the Chrism Mass and regional confirmations.

Once we have seated a provisional bishop, we will turn our attention and gifts to the work of forming a Search Committee and a Transition Committee to coordinate the work of calling our next diocesan bishop.

We realize that this interim time may bring other questions of urgency for you. It is our intention that to the extent possible, the regular functions of the diocese continue. These would include, at the least, things like ordinations, lay licensing and clergy deployment. The work of bishops is diverse and demanding; in candor, we may not always be able to anticipate or fully address absolutely everything. We hope that you will be patient with us and kind to one another as we move forward.

As we said at the beginning of this letter, we hope that you will consider this communication to be the start of a conversation. Please feel free to direct any questions or comments to the Council through those you have elected to represent you, either through the convocations or at-large. And please remember to keep us in your prayers. We need your wisdom and your support.

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