Bishop Roundup: Virginia, Florida, Nevada, Springfield

By Kirk Petersen

The Diocese of Virginia, one of the oldest and largest dioceses of the Episcopal Church, on March 28 announced a slate of four candidates to become the XIV Bishop of Virginia. They are:

  • The Rev. Joseph H. Hensley, Jr., Rector, St. George’s Church, Fredericksburg, Virginia
  • The Rev. Canon Alan C. James, Interim Canon Missioner, Diocese of Western Michigan
  • The Very Rev. Gideon L. K. Pollach, Rector, St. John’s Church, Cold Spring Harbor, New York
  • The Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministry Within The Episcopal Church (and member of The Living Church Foundation)

It is the first bishop candidate slate in recent memory to consist entirely of White men. (The acting top bishop of the diocese is a woman.) There could be additional nominations by petition, the window for which will close April 8. The 10 most recently elected bishops have included five men (three White, one Hispanic, one South Asian) and five women, two of them Black. The three White men were on slates with female or non-White candidates.

Walkabouts are scheduled for late May, and the election will be held June 4, with the bishop-elect to be consecrated December 3. The winner of the election will succeed the Rt. Rev. Susan Goff, who was consecrated as bishop suffragan in 2012 and has been ecclesiastical authority of the diocese since 2018, when the Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston retired. In 2019, Goff announced her intention to retire after the consecration of the next bishop diocesan, and subsequently set her retirement for December 31, 2022.

The Diocese of Virginia is based in Richmond and encompasses the northeast part of the state, including suburbs of Washington, DC. It originally encompassed all of Virginia, and now shares the state with Norfolk-based Southern Virginia, and Roanoke-based Southwestern Virginia. It is one of the nine original dioceses of the Episcopal Church, and has 179 congregations. With 66,455 members in 2020, it is the third-largest diocese in the church, behind Haiti and Texas.

The Diocese of Florida on March 10 announced a slate of five candidates to be elected bishop coadjutor, and, subsequently, to become the IX Bishop of Florida. They are:

  • The Rev. Canon Wiley Ammons, regional canon, Diocese of Florida, and rector, Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, Jacksonville, Florida;
  • The Rev. Charlie Holt, associate rector for teaching and formation, Episcopal Church of St. John the Divine, Houston, Texas;
  • The Rev. Fletcher Montgomery, regional canon, Diocese of Florida, and rector, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Gainesville, Florida;
  • The Rev. Miguel Rosada, canon for Hispanic ministries, Diocese of Florida, and rector, St. Luke’s-San Lucas Episcopal, Jacksonville, Florida;
  • The Rev. Beth Tjoflat, canon for urban ministry, Diocese of Florida, and vicar of St. Mary’s Episcopal, Jacksonville, Florida.

Four of the five candidates are priests within the Diocese of Florida itself — an unusually high concentration of local candidates.

Walkabouts are scheduled for early May, and the election will be held May 14, with the bishop-elect to be consecrated October 8. The winning candidate will work with Bishop of Florida Samuel Johnson Howard as bishop coadjutor until Howard’s retirement in late 2023, and will then automatically become bishop diocesan. Howard was elected bishop coadjutor in May 2003, and became Bishop of Florida in January 2004.

The Jacksonville-based Diocese of Florida used to encompass all of Florida, but is now one of five dioceses that are wholly or partly in the state. The diocese was created in 1838 but has had only eight bishops. The average tenure of a Bishop of Florida has been 21 years, two have served more than 30 years, and all have served longer than the churchwide average of about nine years. The diocese encompasses 76 congregations, and had membership of 23,734 in 2020, making it the fourth-largest diocese in the state.

Bishop Gardner with her family at her consecration | Diocese of Nevada photo

The Rt. Rev. Elizabeth Bonforte Gardner was consecrated the XI Bishop of Nevada on March 5 at Christ Episcopal Church in Las Vegas, becoming the 1,142nd bishop of the Episcopal Church.

“My deep heart’s desire is that we begin a new season today of resurrection, hope, justice and love in the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada that will be a beacon for all,” said Gardner during the service, as reported by Episcopal News Service.

Gardner was elected on the fourth ballot from a slate of four candidates, in an online convention on October 8. The other candidates included two women and a Native American man. She succeeds the Rt. Rev. Dan Edwards, who retired in December 2018 after serving since 2008.

The Diocese of Nevada encompasses the entire state, with 29 congregations totaling 4,760 members in 2020. Gardner is the second woman to lead the diocese. The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, who currently serves as an assisting bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles, was Bishop of Nevada before serving as the XXVI Presiding Bishop from 2006 to 2015.

Burgess

The Diocese of Springfield has been notified that the Very Rev. Brian K. Burgess has received the required majority of consents from standing committees and diocesan bishops, the last hurdle before his scheduled consecration as the XII Bishop of Springfield on May 21.

Burgess was elected bishop diocesan on Dec. 11. The Diocese of Springfield encompasses 50 congregations in the southern two-thirds of Illinois, with 2020 membership of 3,582. It shares the state with the Diocese of Chicago.

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