- Nominations by the Nomination Committee and nominations by petition would occur concurrently;
- Nomination by petition would be easy, as few signatures were to be required;
- Which candidates were nominated by which process would be kept secret.
Members of the Standing Committee seemed quite content with their plan and were surprised at the criticism it received at pre-convention hearings. Nonetheless, to their credit, they met Thursday night to reconsider the episcopal search plan, in part, no doubt, to head off a nasty floor fight whose outcome could not be predicted. The result of Thursday’s consultation was a revised version of Resolution 2 that has just been sent to deputies via e-mail. (Apparently, policy decisions were made Thursday night, but it took some time to achieve final wording. According to the revised resolution itself, however, it was approved October 7, 2010.) As I am writing this, the revised resolution is not yet on the diocesan Web site. You can read it here.
In the new plan, each of the most distinctive features of the original proposal has been modified. Most notably, the parallel nominating processes by petition and by committee are gone, replaced by processes that run successively. The Nomination Committee will announce its contributions to the slate, after which nominations can be made by petition. Petitions will require more supporters, including lay, non-deputy supporters, and signatures will have to come from at least three, not just two, parishes. In particular, petitions will require four canonically resident clergy and six laypersons in good standing in the diocese, three of whom must be convention deputies. Three weeks will be allowed for the submission of petitions.
Something not completely obvious is that the Nomination Committee will, at the end of its deliberations, release only the names of nominees, probably along with their current positions. This represents an effort to maintain a level playing field. Detailed information about all nominees, however nominated, will be released together after background checks have been completed and all supporting information has been delivered to the Nomination Committee.
This last quirk is something of a mixed bag but probably does a good job of balancing competing objectives. Members of the diocese will have to do a little digging to figure out whether the slate coming out of the Nomination Committee is balanced (or, more likely, contains someone they think they could support enthusiastically). In the age of the Internet and unlimited long-distance, this is an easier task than formerly, but it does require special vigilance on the part of clergy and laypeople in the diocese.
The Standing Committee did not address—not in its revised Resolution 2, at any rate—what the Nomination Committee might do if it knows negative information about a candidate nominated by petition (and, possibly, rejected explicitly as a candidate by the committee). The committee members will, I hope, take some useful lessons from the last episcopal election and act for the greater good of the diocese, rather than standing on some arbitrary, predetermined ethical “principle.”
In the end, the convention cannot micromanage the episcopal search process. The Standing Committee and the committees it creates will surely face challenges that have not been anticipated, and the diocese must trust them to make reasonable decisions without undue constraints imposed at the beginning of the process. Thus, the convention should not be upset that all the details of the search process are not incorporated into the resolution proper. I’m sure the Standing Committee will be given grief if the search process is modified along the way without reasonable justification.
I suspect that at least some members of the Standing Committee feel that they worked hard to write Resolution 2 and believe they were unfairly criticized for their work. Some may even have entertained thoughts that the diocese has demonstrated that it is not yet ready to elect a new bishop. Actually, I believe that what has happened in the past two weeks is very encouraging. The Standing Committee, trying very hard to avoid the problems of the past and create a fair process, gave designing an episcopal election process its best shot. When the people of the diocese found the proposed process wanting—it matters not whether or not they were being a bit paranoid—the Standing Committee listened and tried honestly to respond to the perceived difficulties. If that doesn’t increase everyone’s confidence that we can all work together for a better Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, I don’t know what would.