A New Committee Member and a Deadline for PB Nomination

By Kirk Petersen

A change of membership on the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop raises questions about what, if anything, it may indicate about the identity of potential candidates. Meanwhile, an October 31 deadline is approaching for an online survey designed to inform the committee’s work.

The Rt. Rev. José McLoughlin, Bishop of Western North Carolina, has been named to the committee, replacing the Rt. Rev. Rob Wright, Bishop of Atlanta, who resigned from the committee. Both bishops are young enough to serve a nine-year term before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 72. When the next presiding bishop’s term ends on November 1, 2033, Wright will be 69 and McLoughlin will be 64.

The announcement did not give a reason for Wright’s resignation, but he told TLC he stepped down to focus on leading the Diocese of Atlanta, the seventh-largest domestic diocese in the Episcopal Church. “I had to really look at my calendar in terms of the time commitment,” he said, adding that it was not the only membership he has discontinued.

When asked if he resigned to clear the way for potentially being nominated himself, he said “were I interested in being presiding bishop, I never would have put my name in for the nominating committee.” But when pressed on the question, he did not reject the possibility entirely. “That’s not how we preach in this church,” he said, adding that it’s not the role of any individual to make a decision like that, but rather a discernment process between the individual and the church.

“I know right now I’m quite happy serving as Bishop of Atlanta,” he said.

Nothing in the canons prohibits the nomination of a member of the nomination committee, but it could be awkward. There are four other bishops on the committee:

  • Mark Lattime, Bishop of Alaska and co-chair of the committee, who will be 67 in 2033;
  • Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, Bishop of Indianapolis, who will be 67 in 2033
  • Phoebe Roaf, Bishop of West Tennessee, 69 in 2033
  • Audrey Scanlan, Bishop of Central Pennsylvania, 75 in 2033

There also is nothing in the canons to prohibit electing a presiding bishop who would have to retire before the end of the term, but it would surely be considered a negative factor in an election. Curry will be a few months away from mandatory retirement when his term ends. The election will be held in the summer of 2024 at the 81st General Convention, in Louisville, Kentucky, with the winner taking office on November 1.

Fifteen of the 20 members on the nominating committee were elected online in June 2021 after the General Convention was postponed due to the pandemic, with the remaining five appointed by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, then-president of the House of Deputies. The committee has held eight online meetings and has met twice in person, including a three-day meeting in progress as this is written.

The canons specify that the elected members of the committee include five bishops, five clergy (at least one of whom must be a deacon), and five lay people. The president of the House of Deputies appoints two members of age 16 to 21, and the two presiding officers jointly appoint three more members “to ensure the cultural and geographic diversity of the Church and the skill sets needed for effective service on the Nominating Committee.”

The committee will nominate at least three bishops, and additional names could be added by petition. Only the members of the House of Bishops will get to vote for their preferred candidate. The House of Deputies will then hold an up-or-down vote and could theoretically veto the selection, although it’s hard to imagine that level of conflict between the two houses.

As part of its discernment process, the committee launched an online survey on October 10, with a deadline of Monday, October 31. “The survey — which takes about 15 minutes to complete — asks respondents to define the most important issues facing The Episcopal Church and the world in the next 10 years, as well as the foremost gifts or skills the next presiding bishop will need to lead the church,” the committee said in the announcement.

The survey results will be used in creating a search profile, which the committee expects to release in the spring of 2023, the Episcopal News Service has reported.

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