January 15, 2012

Pittsburgh Episcopal Candidates Announced

Candidates for the next Bishop of Pittsburgh were just announced on the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Web site. They are:
  1. The Rev. Canon Michael N. Ambler, Jr., Rector of Grace Episcopal Church, Bath, Maine
  2. The Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell, Rector of Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
  3. The Rev. R. Stanley Runnels, Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri
  4. The Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, Rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Denver, Colorado
The announcement was delayed until Sunday afternoon to give candidates the opportunity to inform their parishes of their candidacy. Details of the process that led up to today’s announcement were posted by the diocese yesterday.

I had no advance information about the names of the candidates, so I will refrain from saying anything about the slate for now.

Choosing Our Next BishopI was surprised to learn that the four announced candidates have already submitted written answers to questions asked by the Standing Committee. Although neither the questions nor the individual answers have been released, knowing the names of the other candidates might influence unfairly, in some way, answers submitted by any candidate nominated by petition.

There is, of course, an arcane process by which additional candidates can be nominated by petition. The procedure was devised  to give voice to those who might be dissatisfied with the names put forward by the Standing Committee and Nominating Committee, without encouraging additional nominations unduly. That procedure is described in the diocese’s post.

Oddly, I think, the Standing Committee chose not to post anything like a résumé for each candidate, something that will be done when the final slate is fixed. The logic of this seems to involve the nomination-by-petition process, though what that logic might be escapes me. The lack of biographical data will likely make the four officially selected candidates seem less impressive than they actually are, which might unduly encourage petition nominees.

I pray that electors will see at least one special candidate among the four and that no electors will find some of the candidates completely unacceptable. The convention to elect the next bishop—the first diocesan to follow the deposed Robert Duncan—is less than three months away.


  1. Interesting slate. I wonder what skills they sought? At least two candidates are or have spouses who are social workers. One might suggest a trend to find reconciliation orientations. Hope so.


  2. Thank you for this information.

    Candidates by petition would have an unfair advantage if they had access to the application materials of those nominated by the committee before they prepare their own materials. That is one reason that many nominating committees adopt the policy your diocese is using.

    I hope that you will enjoy meeting all nominees. You're not trying to pass final judgment on anyone; you're trying to discern the best fit for the Diocese of Pittsburgh right now.

    All of the nominees honor you by being willing to go through this grueling process with you.

    The diocese would be wise not to divide them into winners and losers. All are winners in that all are providing a measure of democracy and transparency missing from far too much of Christendom.

    -- Louie Crew

  3. From what I have read so far the slate looks to be excellent. It is good to know that such good candidates would have an interest in a (now) small Diocese with several challenges yet to be overcome.

    I am not a fan of the petition process but, OK, too late for that argument. Since we do have it, wouldn’t the purpose be to allow someone to be nominated who may have different qualities / experience / theological views as compared to the people put forth by the Committee? If so, why not release information about them so that such distinctions could be made? The names of those not put forward are not listed and, in my view, properly so. Should one of them be nominated through the petition process will their name go forward?

    Geoff Hurd

  4. Geoff,

    My understanding is that if someone receives the proper signatures on a petition and passes the background check, that person becomes a candidate, even if the same person was considered earlier and not selected.

  5. I would also think having résumés of the four candidates posted would be unfair to any candidate who was nominated by petition because people would have more time to learn about them and, once they decide which of the four the prefer, they may simply ignore any additional options. this way all candidates are on as near an equal footing as possible.

    - Michael Caligiuri

  6. Michael,

    Your working assumption seems to be that it is desirable to have candidates nominated by petition. My personal view is that the presence of petition candidates indicates a kind of vote of no confidence in the Nominating and Standing Committees and is evidence of a lack of trust in our diocese.

    A non-obvious problem with not releasing information is that people are already searching out information about the candidates, and some candidates will be at a disadvantage because they are relatively less well documented on the Web. Jamie, in a comment on Our Pittsburgh Diocese put it this way:

    I agree that I was surprised not to see even brief biographies of the candidates released along with the list. I believe that the SC is planing to release them all at the same time along with any petition candidates who are nominated, but of course I have been using Google to do my own research, as I am sure have many others.

    Unfortunately, the coverage of each candidate on their parish website and the broader internet is different and so it is impossible to obtain an equal understand [
    sic] of each. Two, I believe, have bios on their parish websites that I could find, and a third candidate has a video of his announcement to his parish about his nomination posted.

  7. Thanks for reposting my comment here Lionel. Sorry for the typo!

  8. Lionel,

    Actually, I have little experience with the election process so I'm undecided as to whether having a candidate chosen by petition is a good or bad thing. My only point was that once someone is chosen that way, they should be on equal footing with the other candidates. I'd also hope that lack of trust wouldn't be the only reason that someone could be made a candidate. It may be just a case of "We just think that so-and-so would make a great bishop," and not a knock on the other four. In any case, let's hope this will be a non-issue.

  9. Lional,

    On the Living Church blog I read this- "Daniel Muth writes:
    Since there's no possible way to consider "deposition" of Bishop Duncan canonically valid, how can the See be considered vacant?"
    I thought that Bishop Duncan had left the Episcopal Church. Does it depend on ones interpretation of "leaving?"

  10. swac,

    Duncan’s deposition was unquestionably valid, and, in any case, he now belongs to another church not associated with The Episcopal Church. In the end, the church indeed left him, but not in the way he often asserted.

    Duncan was deposed in September 2008. The diocese voted—improperly—to leave The Episcopal Church in October 2008.

    I would characterize The Living Church as editorially hostile to The Episcopal Church.

  11. Per SWAC and Lionel, just to note that Mr. Muth has been making his comments on Kendall Harmon's Titus19 blog, and not on any site associated with the Living Church magazine.

    Bruce Robison

  12. Correction—Muth has indeed been commenting on the site of The Living Church.

  13. Tonight, the diocese added brief bios of the candidates to their announcement of the candidate names. This is a welcome development.

  14. Thanks, Lionel. I hadn't seen that series of comments at TLC.



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