By Kirk Petersen

In a significant theological transition, the Diocese of North Dakota has selected the Rt. Rev. Thomas Ely, retired Bishop of Vermont, to provide episcopal leadership to the diocese on a temporary basis.

Bishop Thomas Ely

Ely, who retired in Vermont in 2019, was appointed assisting bishop by the Standing Committee of North Dakota, in an announcement made January 2.  Despite the “assisting” title, he will be the only bishop in the diocese. An online convention has been scheduled for February 6 to vote on Ely’s nomination as provisional bishop, a part-time role.

The appointment is significant because the most recent bishop diocesan in North Dakota, the Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith, who served from 2004 to 2019, was a strong opponent of same-sex marriage. Ely is a strong supporter.

When the 2015 General Convention voted to permit same-sex marriage rites throughout the Church, Smith was one of eight bishops out of nearly 100 who exercised a veto provision to forbid the use of same-sex marriage rites in their dioceses. The General Convention of 2018 ended that veto power by passing Resolution B012, and most of the dissenting bishops responded by asking another bishop to oversee usage of the rites within their diocese.

Ely supported B012, and later publicly criticized his fellow bishop, the Rt. Rev. William H. Love of the neighboring Diocese of Albany, the only bishop who defied B012. Ely noted that he already was providing delegated episcopal pastoral oversight (DEPO) to two parishes in the Diocese of Albany who “hold a theological understanding different from their bishop and have shared their disappointment and hurt with me.”

In his retirement, Smith has served as assistant bishop of Dallas, and is a frequent contributor of Daily Devotional messages for TLC.

Upper South Carolina

A deadline of January 29 has been set for nominations to become the IX Bishop of South Carolina. Election of the new bishop is scheduled for a special convention on Saturday, September 25, 2021, and consecration of the new bishop is planned on February 26, 2022.

The current bishop, the Rt. Rev. Andrew Waldo, announced in June 2020 that he intends to retire at the end of 2021. He has served since 2009.