Diocese of California Releases Profile

Bishop Marc Andrus at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco | Diocese of California

By Douglas LeBlanc

The Diocese of California has published a 37-page profile in its search for the ninth Bishop of California.

The profile offers a fairly thorough review of the diocese’s history and its challenges, and its hopes for the next bishop.

It is clear about the diocese’s long history of support for gays and lesbians in ordained ministry, which has expanded into topics of gender identity:

As the Episcopal Church discerned and debated the inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in the ordination process, Bishop [William] Swing quietly ordained numbers of faithful clergy from these communities. Our diocese has ordained openly transgender and non-binary clergy since at least 2006, and at least two transgender clergy are heads of congregations. We have multiple parishes with transgender and non-binary members of all ages, and the diocese has created a Trans and Nonbinary Task Force, one of only two in the Episcopal Church.

The profile also describes long-standing struggles within the diocese related to racism:

These complex systemic issues of racism include the founding of various “ethnic missions” of the diocese, resulting in congregations that remain under-resourced. Another example is our ordination process, which has historically not acknowledged cultural or linguistic differences. Repeated efforts to provide appropriate Spanish-language theological education and to ordain Spanish-speaking and Latiné priests remain largely aspirational. Our long-standing Tongan congregation has for many years sought to nominate candidates for ordination, who have been hampered by racialized understandings of educational requirements and vocational call.

In a section on economic and social challenges, the profile acknowledges the prevalance of religious skepticism in the Bay Area:

For many people living in the Bay Area, Christian belief, church affiliation, and participation in Sunday worship are not part of their daily lives and spiritual practices. Our congregations require support and encouragement to reimagine their identities and to share the spiritual gifts they can offer their communities. Members of the diocese express an interest in expanding the use of church facilities as community-facing centers that embody Christian faith by welcoming people across faith traditions, including those who do not claim faith. This work will require broader collaboration with secular, civic, and public organizations, especially those that involve youth and young adults.

But the profile also mentions the diocese’s 375 clergy (including 151 retired priests), the striking and gothic Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, a budget of about $4.5 million, two generous endowments ($9,783,774 in restricted funds and $7,442,404 in unrestricted funds), and “a bishop’s residence, located in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco near the Presidio, an area known for its architecturally significant homes.”

The profile lists four “personal characteristics” the search committee has identified after consulting with members of the diocese: trust and building relationships, intercultural competence, comfort with conflict and mess, and spiritual and psychological depth and maturity.

“Our ninth bishop will be someone who views life through a Jesus-focused lens and enables others to do the same,” the profile says. “We hope for a passionate preacher, for whom every step into the pulpit is an opportunity to help others see Jesus; a pastor who sees Jesus in every person at the altar rail while pressing the Eucharistic bread into their hands.

“We look for someone whose life is rooted in private prayer and corporate worship, for whom a major festival in our grand cathedral and a quiet Sunday in Ordinary Time in the tiniest mission church are both opportunities to gather together and meet Jesus. And we seek a leader aflame with the Spirit, for whom the evil, deprivation, inequality, and need in the world spur righteous anger and action in the name of the Gospel.”

The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, the diocese’s bishop since 2006, informed the diocese in July 2022 that he intended to retire in 2024.

The diocese, founded in 1850, has an estimated 24,000 members. Divisions of the Diocese of California created the dioceses of Northern California (1875), Los Angeles (1895), San Joaquin (1910), and El Camino Real (1980). A division of the Diocese of Los Angeles created the Diocese of San Diego (1970).

The diocese will accept nominees until May 31. It expects to announce nominees on September 22, and will announce any nominees by petition on October 27. The election is scheduled for December 2.


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