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PB Nominees Address Church’s Future

Self-care, church structure, reconciliation, and the role of the next Presiding Bishop topped the discussion points in the Presiding Bishop Candidates Forum on June 21.

Nominees for the next Presiding Bishop are Nebraska Bishop J. Scott Barker; Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe; Pennsylvania Bishop Daniel Gutiérrez; Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York Bishop Sean Rowe; and Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright.

The two-hour presentation, which began with a short video from each of the candidates, was coordinated by members of the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop. The forum was conducted before the 81st General Convention’s first legislative day in Louisville, Kentucky.

Questions, picked by the candidates at random from a fishbowl, were grouped into key areas: diversity, inclusion, and equity; leadership and administration; reconciliation; spiritual and self-care; and care of creation. Each candidate answered three questions.

Spiritual care and self-care

Believing “mental health is critical,” Rowe said, “In the pandemic, mental health came to the fore.”

Rowe believes the church needs to provide resources for mental health. “It is critical to ministry, and we need to provide resources.”

Rowe calls for working together. “It can’t all be something that the PB does.”

Addressing clergy burnout and stress, Duncan-Probe called herself “a recovering workaholic.”

She believes personal interests and activities are important. “We have to encourage our clergy to be human,” she said.

Wright shared his spiritual and self-care personal practices: rising early, prayer, walks along the river with his wife, music, and putting family first. “All of that helps me to stay centered,” he said.

“I pray through the day,” Barker said. “I understand Christian ministry to be about sacrifice. If we’re going to be the most faithful disciple we can be, sometimes it’s going to hurt. But God will be there with you.”

Barker recommends “Pray, love, nurture your friendships, collaborate, do it in community. Be the church.”


Wright said reconciliation “has been something we in the Diocese of Atlanta have taken seriously. We have to realize that we have to have the conversation.”

Calling reconciliation “complicated,” Wright said, “Number one is learning to tell the truth. It all starts if we find the courage to say it.”

Wright learned  “Jesus’ strategy for conflict resolution is the best. We start with the Eucharist. We start at the table.”

Through this practice, “we found progress.”

“Jesus called people, not programs,” Wright said.

Barker believes that through reconciliation, “we need to honor the diversity of beliefs in the church.”

In the Diocese of Nebraska, “We are a place of every theological and political nuance. I have learned much about love and reconciliation.”

Barker said, “Our shared devotion to Jesus and to the Episcopal Church can help us. Unity in Jesus — we can do that.”

Concerning reconciliation with those marginalized in the past, “We have a lot of work to do,” Gutiérrez said. “We have a lot of listening to do.”

“Spanish, Latinos, Indigenous communities — we need to step in and listen,” Gutiérrez added. “We’re not ministries. We’re the church. We need to do things differently.”

Gutiérrez added, “It’s reaching out. It’s inviting in. Let’s stop playing the church. Let’s be the church.”

Leadership and administration

“We’re trying to have relationship by resolution,” Duncan-Probe said, addressing the administrative structure of the church. “When our relationships are broken, we need to fix it with relationships.”

She added, “Together we are the church. It’s God’s church. God has called us together to do this work. We need to stop being so entangled with the things that stop us. We need to address the systemic changes that are needed.”

Rowe believes the church is not financially strapped. “We have enough money,” he said. “There’s enough money to do what we need to do.”

He believes finances should go “to help ministry on the ground.”

Rowe stressed, “We need to get serious about our priorities. We can’t do everything, but we can do some things. We have the resources. The question is, do we have the will to do the work?”

Concerning long-term vision for leadership and administration, Barker said, “We stand in an extraordinary moment. I have no idea what will happen, and I don’t think anyone in the room knows. We don’t know what God plans.”

But, Barker said, “We need to become the church that God is calling us to be.”

Diversity, inclusion, and equity

Duncan-Probe believes the PB needs to ensure that leadership on all levels reflects diversity. “This is about representation. It has to do with empowerment, inclusion,” she said.

The starting point is “learning to listen. There is a lot we think we understand, and we don’t. We need to learn to listen and use different ears and eyes. We need to invite others to leadership. We need to welcome new styles of leadership. The Holy Spirit is calling us in new ways. We may need to do things in a different way.”

On diversity, Gutiérrez said, “We have to break out of our comfort shells.”

Gutiérrez spoke about action taken in his diocese. “We put a stop to companion relationship. We didn’t want to do poverty tourism. You can’t just go build a house, pat yourself on the back, and have no relationship.”

Gutiérrez said, “We want to learn from them. Jesus taught us about presence.”

The Presiding Bishop election will be on June 26 by the House of Bishops. The House of Deputies must consent to the election.


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