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PB Nominees Embody 5 Visions of Ministry

Meet the Presiding Bishop Nominees

When the Rev. Tom Sramek Jr. wrote in TLC about four nominees for Presiding Bishop in 2015, he interviewed all of them. This year the nominating committee has ruled out interviews. As a result, Sramek — rector of All Saints’ Church in Hillsboro, Oregon — has gathered this information from online research. The House of Bishops will elect the Episcopal Church’s 28th presiding bishop on June 26 at Christ Church Cathedral in Louisville.

The Rt. Rev. J. Scott Barker
Sacrifice and Delight

Scott Barker, 60, was ordained in 1992, before any of the other candidates. He was a part of a young clergy gathering called Gathering the NeXt Generation at Virginia Seminary in 1998 and remains part of a clergy colleague group that began around that time. His life and ministry have been focused on ecumenical work and ministries of reconciliation.

One of his earliest endeavors after becoming Bishop of Nebraska in 2011 was helping to found the Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha, Nebraska, a collaboration between Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

Barker has a passion for building bridges between people: “I’ve always felt that if human beings and followers of Jesus could really do those things that we promise when the bishop comes to visit and renews those baptismal vows, we would build a church that was irresistibly attractive to others, and certainly that would make a major difference in the world.”

In his more than a decade as Bishop of Nebraska, he has focused on finding the joy in servant ministry, especially amid difficult decisions and circumstances. Taking up our crosses, he says, starts with finding the joy in Jesus’ cross. He anticipates that it would be even more of a challenge to find the joys amid the sometimes difficult decisions he would face as Presiding Bishop.

The Rt. Rev Dede Duncan-Probe
Formed in Faith and Witness

As the 11th Bishop of Central New York, DeDe Duncan-Probe, 61, has focused on education and formation. Before entering ordained ministry, she had a career in education and business, along with teaching in public and private schools and for three years as adjunct faculty at Virginia Theological Seminary. In 2023, she launched Speaking of Faith, a podcast for people to consider their faith and grow in confidence to speak about it.

Duncan-Probe (pronounced prō-bē) has been deeply involved in the wider Episcopal Church. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry appointed her in 2018 to plan the House of Bishops’ “service of lament and repentance” at General Convention for sexual abuse, exploitation, and harassment. She has also served as co-chair of General Convention’s Task Force on Communion Across Difference, and as chair of the Committee for Safety, Wellness, and Mental Health.

In reflecting on the place of the church today, she has focused on the account of the Samaritan woman at the well and the alabaster jar she carried: “In the face of meeting the Messiah, she leaves it behind. What is our alabaster jar? What is it as a church we need to leave behind? Something that no longer serves our message and our prophetic witness. In this time of meeting Jesus, we are invited to a deep and profound relationship of incarnation.”

“When God calls us together in ministry, God calls us as a team, as a community, as a people of faith,” she said in a recent sermon.

The Rt. Rev. Daniel G.P. Gutiérrez
A Place of Belonging for Misfits

Ordained as Bishop of Pennsylvania in 2016, Daniel Gutiérrez, 59, considers himself a “black sheep” and “not your typical bishop.” He had extensive government experience before his ordained ministry, including as chief of staff to the mayor of Albuquerque and the city’s director of economic development. His time as Bishop of Pennsylvania has been marked by taking risks, aligning structures with community needs, and seeing “things once thought impossible … now being lived out” in the diocese. He is an atypical bishop in one of the Episcopal Church’s founding dioceses.

He has led a diocesan policy of not closing parishes but of enabling them to expand their presence into community service. “There were 133 when I got here; now there’s 136,” he told TLC in 2022.

Gutiérrez’s vision for the wider Episcopal Church is an expansion of his vision for his diocese. He envisions the church as a place of misfits. “Let’s endeavor to create a place, not of welcome (because welcome denotes ownership and power), but belonging. That means if you’re not at the table, a seat is painfully empty. If you’re not a part of the conversation, it is incomplete. Let’s create a church where it is our family, a place of pure belonging, where you belong. … We need more misfits, outsiders, artists, visionaries, doubters, wanderers, comics, mistics, rebels, dreamers, lovers, and disciples — people who are different.”

He is also connected globally, including serving as president of the Compass Rose Society, which supports the work of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion. His diocese has a relationship with the Diocese of Jerusalem and new ministries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, South Asia, and Wales.

The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe
The Adaptive Challenges of Mission

Sean Rowe, 49, has humble beginnings. He grew up in Western Pennsylvania and began his ministry in a little town in Northwestern Pennsylvania before becoming the church’s youngest bishop in 2007 at 32. He is the youngest of the five candidates, but has the longest tenure as a bishop.

While serving as Bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania, he also served as Bishop Provisional of Bethlehem and now as Bishop Provisional of Western New York, overseeing new collaborations between dioceses. His focus for the bulk of his episcopate has been adapting structures to better serve God’s mission. In one interview he proposed a new question: “What’s best for God’s mission in the world?” instead of “How do we keep what we have?”

Much of his time leading two dioceses has involved studying and applying what he has learned about management, leadership, structure, and governance — in short, aligning the structures with God’s mission. Some of that involves letting go of hopes and dreams.

“We had hoped our children would find faith in the church in the way that we found it when we were young. We wanted the recipe of Sunday school, church camp, and family devotions that had shaped us to shape them, too.

“But just as Jesus opened the eyes of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we are invited to move past our own hopes and dreams to the hopes and dreams that God has for us.”

The Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright
God Is the Potter

Robert C. Wright, 60, has been Bishop of Atlanta since 2012 and is the first African American elected to that office. He is a nationally known preacher and speaker, as well as a podcaster. He has been very involved in the Episcopal Church’s racial reconciliation process, and the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing is one of the diocese’s ministries. Wright is a lecturer at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, and serves on the board of Habitat for Humanity International and the University of the South’s board of trustees.

Wright believes God is refashioning the Episcopal Church into a church of the future, one that looks very different from the past: “God is right now extending an invitation for us to be remade, as individuals and as a church, into malleable clay, which is more than historic bricks could ever be — remade by God on the wheel of time with the example of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

In a recent episode of his podcast, For People, Wright reflected on what we do as a church. “We hope what we’re doing in the average congregation on Sunday morning is that we are throwing off chains, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in song, in sacrament, in fellowship, in worship, in our prayer life. We’re throwing it off. We’re throwing off all those things … throwing off the things that encumber us and running toward Jesus.”

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