Slate of 4 bishops announced for 28th presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church

Nominees are bishops Barker, Gutiérrez, Rowe and Wright

By David Paulsen
Posted Apr 2, 2024

From left, Nebraska Bishop J. Scott Barker, Pennsylvania Bishop Daniel G.P. Gutiérrez, Northwestern Pennsylvania Bishop Sean Rowe, who also serves as bishop provisional of the Diocese of Western New York, and Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright.

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church’s next presiding bishop will be chosen this June from a slate of four nominees, whose names were released April 2: Nebraska Bishop J. Scott Barker, Pennsylvania Bishop Daniel G.P. Gutiérrez, Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright and Northwestern Pennsylvania Bishop Sean Rowe, who also serves as bishop provisional of the Diocese of Western New York.

Those four bishops – and any additional candidates nominated by petition – will be presented for election at the 81st General Convention, which convenes June 23-28 in Louisville, Kentucky. The nominees’ names will be formally submitted June 25 during a joint session of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies. On June 26, the bishops will elect, and deputies will be asked to confirm, the church’s 28th presiding bishop, who will succeed Presiding Bishop Michael Curry beginning Nov. 1.

“We appreciate the many Episcopalians who prayerfully set us on our way to discerning this slate of nominees,” Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime said in a news release announcing the slate. Lattime and Steve Nishibayashi, a lay leader in the Diocese of Los Angeles, are co-chairs of the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop. The committee began its work in the fall of 2021.

The committee’s slate is marked by geographical and racial diversity, though it includes no women or LGBTQ+ nominees. The nominee bishops also draw on a range of experiences in seeking to become presiding bishop for the office’s next nine-year term.

  • Barker, 60, has led the Omaha-based Diocese of Nebraska since 2011. The diocese’s 53 worshipping communities span the full state, where Barker was born and raised. A graduate of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, Barker was ordained to the priesthood in 1992 and served for 10 years in Omaha and 10 more years in the Diocese of New York before returning to Nebraska as bishop.
  • Gutiérrez, 59, has led the Philadelphia-based Diocese of Pennsylvania since 2016. It is one of five dioceses in the state. A native of New Mexico, Gutiérrez earned a diocesan certificate in Anglican Studies through the Trinity School for Ministry and has a master’s degree in theological studies from St. Norbert College. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2008 in the Albuquerque-based Diocese of the Rio Grande and served there as canon to the ordinary, chief operating officer and chief of staff before he was elected bishop of Pennsylvania.
  • Rowe, 49, has led the Erie-based Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania since 2007, and he also serves as bishop provisional of the Diocese of Western New York through a partnership the dioceses established in 2019. He previously served as bishop provisional of the Diocese of Bethlehem from 2014 to 2018. Originally from western Pennsylvania, Rowe is a Virginia Theological Seminary graduate and was ordained to the priesthood in 2000 in Northwestern Pennsylvania, where he served in congregational ministry until his election as bishop. He currently serves as parliamentarian of the House of Bishops and Executive Council.
  • Wright, 60, has led the Diocese of Atlanta since 2012. The diocese, based in Georgia’s capital city, has 120 worshipping communities across the northern half of the state. A Navy veteran and graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary, Wright was ordained to the priesthood in 1999 in the Diocese of New York. At the time of his election as bishop, he had served the previous 10 years as rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta. Since 2020, he also has hosted the popular podcast “For People” on faith and life.

“We look forward to presenting these bishops to the convention for its consideration,” Nishibayashi said in the news release.

Under the petition process, any bishop or deputy to the 81st General Convention may petition to add a name to the committee’s slate after it is released. Those additional nominations must be made April 3-15 with the consent of the bishop being nominated by petition.

UPDATE: Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe was named as a nominee by petition on April 16. Full story here.

The nominees will not make themselves available for news interviews, consistent with past practice in presiding bishop elections, the nominating committee said in its news release. They are scheduled to address bishops and deputies in person June 21 at a two-hour session in Louisville that also will be livestreamed. In addition, the committee has released videos of each nominee “discussing a biblical image or metaphor that resonates with this moment in the life of the church and the role of the presiding bishop.”

View each nominee’s videos on the General Convention Office website.

General Convention, the triennial churchwide gathering, splits its authority between the House of Bishops and House of Deputies, and each house has a distinct role in the selection of a new presiding bishop. In Louisville, the House of Bishops will gather in a closed session June 26 at Christ Church Cathedral for the election and then ask the House of Deputies to vote to confirm the result.

The committee chose the nominees from a list of names submitted by 111 Episcopalians during a two-month window last year. Some names were submitted multiple times, and though bishops were invited to nominate themselves, none did.

Bishops named during the two-month window were asked to enter the discernment process. Those who agreed to be considered were asked to provide biographical information, references and responses to the committee’s questions. They also were interviewed on Zoom. From those candidates, the committee invited a smaller number of bishops to a March 18-23 retreat at the Lake Logan Conference Center in the Diocese of Western North Carolina, after which the committee finalized its slate of nominees.

The 28th presiding bishop is scheduled to take office on Nov. 1, and an installation is scheduled for Nov. 2 at Washington National Cathedral, the traditional seat of the presiding bishop. When the nominating committee released its presiding bishop profile in March 2023, it identified via survey 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 said, quoting 1 Peter.

A history and timeline of Episcopal Church presiding bishops

Curry was elected in 2015 as the church’s first Black presiding bishop. Before him, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, elected in 2006, was the church’s first female presiding bishop. Her predecessor, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, was the first to serve a nine-year term, after the church shortened the presiding bishop’s term from 12 years.

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 during the nine-year term, though historically nominees have been able to complete the full nine years.

“We felt the Holy Spirit’s presence during this process and are prayerfully thankful for the guidance we received,” the Rev. Maureen-Elizabeth Hagan, a deacon on the committee who chairs its nominations subcommittee, said in the April 2 news release.

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.


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