By Kirk Petersen
The Diocese of Wyoming has elected a well-traveled new bishop.
The Rev. Canon Paul-Gordon Chandler, currently a rector in Qatar, was elected the X Bishop of Wyoming on the second ballot on September 19, out of a field of three candidates. He will succeed the Rt. Rev. John S. Smylie, who has served since 2010.
“I am profoundly humbled and look forward to serving with all of you,” the bishop-elect told the electing convention, speaking via Zoom from Qatar, where he is in a precautionary quarantine because of a recent visit to the United States.
Chandler is rector of The Anglican Church in Qatar (The Church of the Epiphany & The Anglican Center) in the Persian Gulf, a church that hosts 85 other church congregations of varying sizes, in addition to their own. He previously led congregations in Cairo, Egypt, and Tunis, Tunisia. He grew up in Senegal, West Africa. He was the only Episcopalian recognized in the 2020 Lambeth honors, when Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby presented him with an award for leadership in peace and reconciliation.
He is also the Founding President of CARAVAN, an international peace building non-profit closely associated with The Episcopal Church that uses the arts to build sustainable peace around the world, and which has held several strategic inter-religious art exhibitions throughout Wyoming. TLC featured CARAVAN’s 2019 London exhibition of “peace donkeys” in a 2019 feature.
The election requires consent from the majority of diocesan bishops and standing committees. Assuming that consent is received, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is scheduled to consecrate Chandler as Bishop of Wyoming on February 13, 2021 in Casper, Wyoming.
The other candidates were:
- The Rev. David L. Duprey, an active-duty U.S. Navy chaplain for the past 12 years, who was nominated by the search committee.
- The Rev. Mary Erickson, associate rector of St. John’s Church in Jackson, Wyoming, who was nominated by petition.
In a letter to the diocese on September 18, the Rt. Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal announced he will retire for health reasons on the First Sunday of Advent, November 29.
“I have been spending time in a skilled nursing facility to regain my ability to walk after a long hospitalization,” Breidenthal said. “I am regaining my strength, and am beginning to walk unaided. For that I am very grateful to God and to all who have been praying for me. I am confident that I will be able to return to normal life sooner than later.”
The letter continued, “It has become clear that it is time for me to retire, so that I can see to my own long-term health, and more importantly so that I can devote my attention to my family.”
Julie Murray, associate director of communications for the Cincinnati-based diocese, told TLC that the bishop has been battling an infection that she declined to describe. “It’s not COVID, I can tell you that,” she said, adding that the bishop has requested privacy.
Breidenthal, 67, has been the IX Bishop of Southern Ohio since 2007. There was no announcement of arrangements for a search for a new bishop. “There are many details to address, but rest assured that the Presiding Bishop’s office in conjunction with the Standing Committee will ensure a timely and smooth transition,” Breidenthal wrote.
The Rt. Rev. Porter Taylor, who served as the VI Bishop of Western North Carolina from 2004 to 2016, joined the Diocese of Virginia this summer as an assisting bishop.
“He shares with Bishop [Susan] Goff and Assistant Bishop Jennifer Brooke-Davidson in episcopal visitations to churches, schools, colleges and retirement communities; the support of clergy and congregations; and development of clergy teaching days around diocesan mission priorities,” according to the diocesan website.
The Diocese of Virginia, one of the original nine dioceses of the Episcopal Church, is the second-largest diocese in terms of average (pre-pandemic) Sunday attendance, behind only the Diocese of Texas.
The Diocese of South Carolina, another of the original nine dioceses, is receiving nominations until October 15 to become the XV Bishop of South Carolina. The diocese expects to hold an election in the spring of 2021, and to consecrate a new bishop by the end of that year. The election had been announced for November 2020, but has been postponed because of the pandemic.
The diocese has been without a full-time bishop since December 2019, when Provisional Bishop Gladstone B. “Skip” Adams III retired. As provided in the canons of the Church, the diocesan Standing Committee is serving as ecclesiastical authority, and the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Jr., the retired Bishop of Alabama, serves as a visiting bishop to perform duties that require a bishop.
In 2012, then-Bishop Mark Lawrence and a majority of the membership of the diocese left the Episcopal Church because of doctrinal differences. This touch off a series of lawsuits that shows no sign of abating, over ownership of church buildings and the name of the diocese.