[Episcopal News Service] The committee tasked with producing a slate of candidates for The Episcopal Church’s next presiding bishop issued a call for nominations on May 15 based on what it identified as the central challenges facing the church in the coming decade: the need to foster evangelism, discipleship and formation while responding to a changing world filled with environmental crises, violence, war, inequality and division.
The committee, established under Episcopal Church canons as the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop, emphasized in its introductory letter that the newly released profile for qualified candidates was developed with input from across the church. More than 6,000 people completed the committee’s survey, sharing their hopes and concerns about the future of the church and the world. The committee then interviewed dozens of church leaders, including current and past presiding bishops.
“This profile articulates from our perspective where we believe The Episcopal Church stands today and to where Christ now calls us,” the committee said, calling this a “decisive moment” for the church. “The church faces challenges and opportunities that are unlike anything we have encountered in recent times.”
For the next two months, anyone can use the committee’s nomination form to submit names of bishops for the committee to consider. The 20-member committee is chaired by Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime and Steven Nishibayashi, a lay leader in the Diocese of Los Angeles.
Presiding bishops are elected to nine-year terms by the House of Bishops with the consent of the House of Deputies at General Convention. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, elected in 2015, is now in the eighth year of his term. His successor will be elected in June 2024 at the 81st General Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, and installed as the church’s 28th presiding bishop on Nov. 1, 2024.
In the newly released presiding bishop profile, the nominating committee identified several qualities needed in “a presiding bishop for our time.” Among the most important characteristics are strong leadership, a love of communicating and faithfulness.
Curry, formerly the bishop of North Carolina, is well known for his rousing sermons, and his successor must be “someone who loves to preach” and “who longs to bring a word to The Episcopal Church and to the world,” the committee said. Nominees for presiding bishop should have demonstrated diocesan leadership that is “strategic, articulate, collaborative, committed and gracious” while also “building up the body of Christ.”
The committee also cited faithfulness as a quality frequently identified by survey respondents and interviewees as essential in a presiding bishop. “The next presiding bishop should be one who is deeply grounded in their faith and hope in Christ and steadfastly committed to the living tradition of The Episcopal Church. They should be fully authentic and a person of palpable integrity, always ready to offer ‘an accounting for the hope that is in [them]’” the committee says, quoting 1 Peter.
The presiding bishop has a range of responsibilities, as outlined by The Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons. Those include presiding over the House of Bishops, chairing Executive Council, visiting every Episcopal diocese, participating in the ordination and consecration of bishops, receiving and responding to disciplinary complaints against bishops, making appointments to the church’s interim bodies, and “developing policies and strategies for the church and speaking for the church on the policies, strategies and programs of General Convention.”
There are few canonical requirements for presiding bishop candidates. They must be members of the House of Bishops and cannot yet have reached the church’s mandatory retirement age of 72. Nothing prohibits the election of a presiding bishop who would turn 72 in the middle of the nine-year term, though historically nominees have been able to complete the full nine years.
The deadline for submitting nominations is July 15. The committee will contact nominated bishops to confirm their interest in discerning a call to presiding bishop. Those who wish to proceed must submit application materials by Aug. 15.
The nominating committee is canonically required to choose at least three candidates for its slate, which it will announce in spring 2024. Additional nominees may be added through a petition process.
All nominations will be officially presented for consideration at the June 2024 General Convention during a joint session of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops. The next day, the House of Bishops will elect one of those candidates “by a vote of a majority of all bishops, excluding retired bishops not present, except that whenever two-thirds of the House of Bishops are present a majority vote shall suffice,” according to The Episcopal Church Constitution.
A report of that vote will be forwarded to the House of Deputies, which must vote to confirm or reject the House of Bishop’s choice.
“The next presiding bishop will build upon the foundation created by those who came before them and will lead our church in the next stretch of our journey to become the church that Jesus entrusted us to build,” the committee said in a news release announcing the profile and call for nominations. “As your servants in this process, we now invite the entire church to join us in this work in a particular way, by suggesting individuals who might be called to be our next presiding bishop, and to the work that lies before our church.”
– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.