By Kirk Petersen
The Diocese of Southern Ohio has announced that it will not renew its contract with the Rt. Rev. Kenneth L. Price, who has been serving as an assisting bishop since Bishop Thomas Breidenthal resigned for health reasons in late 2020.
“We want to be clear that this decision is not a reflection of the fine work Bishop Price has done to this point. In fact, we are deeply grateful for his pastoral care, his wisdom, and his love of the diocese,” the Standing Committee said in a letter to the diocese.
“At the same time, we believe strongly that for us to move forward to a place where we are ready to call a new Diocesan Bishop, Southern Ohio needs an outside leadership perspective,” the letter said.
Standing Committee President Larry Hayes told TLC that the Cincinnati-based diocese had conducted a series of surveys of clergy, lay leaders and staff, a normal part of the process in any bishop transition. “The general satisfaction of the responders was very low, about how things were being done, and secondly, the energy that they feel about the diocese is very low,” he said.
Hayes said the lack of satisfaction was not a reflection of Bishop Price’s performance, but said “he’s an insider, and the survey clearly told us we needed an outsider,” Hayes said. When asked about the nature of the low satisfaction in the diocese, Hayes said “we want to get more definite detail on that from the listening sessions,” which will take place soon with various constituencies. The Standing Committee will hold an all-day offsite meeting in May to discuss next steps.
When asked how he felt about the announcement, Price told TLC “I’ve been in this diocese for 27 years and I’ve been in a lot of different positions. It’s a great diocese, I enjoyed what I was doing, and I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”
Price, 77, served as suffragan bishop of the diocese from 1994 to 2012, and beginning in 2009 he served concurrently as Provisional Bishop of Pittsburgh. In the latter role he worked toward healing the diocese after the former bishop and a majority of the clergy left the Episcopal Church in 2008 over doctrinal disagreements.
He will remain on duty until his six-month contract expires on May 1, and Hayes said Price will continue to be available to the diocese for duties that can only be performed by a bishop, such as ordinations and consecrations. Hayes said it is not clear yet whether the diocese will sign another short-term contract with a bishop, or hire a provisional bishop who might serve for a period of years.
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, XV Bishop of Connecticut, has announced that he will retire on October 8, 2022, in the 13th year of his episcopacy. That is the target date for consecrating the next Bishop of Connecticut, the search for whom will begin now.
“My reasons for retiring are twofold,” Douglas, 62, wrote in a letter to the diocese. “First, by the fall of 2022 it will be time for you to have a new bishop with fresh ideas and vision to lead you forward in the 21st century and who has other gifts and perspectives than I have. Second, while I have loved every minute of being your Bishop Diocesan, the work of a bishop is an arduous and nonstop vocation. I look forward to retiring with energy and in good health both to serve God’s mission in new ways and also to spend time with Kristin, our children, daughter-in-law, and grandchild.”
Douglas has been active in the wider Church. In the Episcopal Church, he has served as a member of Executive Council, chair of the Standing Commission on World Mission, founder of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, and Bishops United Against Gun Violence. In the Anglican Communion, he has served on the Anglican Consultative Council and its Standing Committee. When he was elected Bishop of Connecticut in 2009, he had served for two decades as a professor at Episcopal Divinity School, then located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Rt. Rev. Martin Scott Field, who in 2018 announced his intention to resign as the VIII Bishop of West Missouri this year, has set September 14 as his last day in office. The Standing Committee “is actively seeking a Bishop Provisional to guide the diocese through a period of self-examination and a missional visioning process before the call of the next Bishop Diocesan,” said Communications Director Gary Allman, in making the announcement.
“It has been my extreme honor and profound privilege to be the Bishop of West Missouri for over ten years. This time has yielded much personal growth for me, and I cannot thank the members of the diocese enough for their faithfulness to, and love of, the mission of God,” Field said in the announcement.
Field and the diocese had a sometimes-rocky relationship. In 2016, the Standing Committee initiated a canonical mediation process for “Reconciliation of Disagreements Affecting the Pastoral Relation between a Bishop and Diocese,” found in Title III of the Canons of the Episcopal Church. The nature of the disagreement was not made public, and Field could not immediately be reached for comment.
In 2017, the bishop and the Standing Committee announced that “Bishop Field will participate in professional counseling with a counselor appointed by the Presiding Bishop in order to improve his emotional accessibility and cultural sensitivity and to become better aware of how he is perceived by some and how he relates to all people.”
In November 2018, the Standing Committee said the mediation had been “a partial success,” and Field announced his intention to resign “on or about my 65th birthday in 2021.” Field “invited direct feedback from the Standing Committee and Diocesan Council as a means of continuing the process of reconciliation,” the Standing Committee said, and the episcopacy will have remained in place for nearly three more years.
Prior to his consecration, Field served churches in Ohio, Maryland, Tennessee, and Michigan, and served as a U.S. Navy Chaplain.