We began with Morning Prayer in the church. It was the Feast of John and Charles Wesley today, so we read the collect for the Wesleys and sang Charles’s “Love divine, all loves excelling” (#657). We also sang “Rise up, ye saints of God!” (#551) and “The Church’s one foundation” (#525). Lest anyone miss the point, the third verse of the latter, which includes the phrase “by schisms rent asunder,” was called to the group’s attention after the service.
The service incorporated four up-to-the-minute prayers:
A Prayer for the Discernment and Election of a BishopAfter Morning prayer, everyone returned to the parish hall for presentations by the chair of the Nominating Committee—sometimes referred to as the Nomination Committee (see above)—the Judge of Elections, the president of the Standing Committee, and the chair of the Transition Committee.
Almighty God, we, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, affirm now, as always before, that You are our Almighty Lord and Savior. We humbly confess that we all have engaged, in some manner, in practices that divided rather than preserved the unity of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. We are grateful that in Your mercy, You continue to sustain us and to keep us whole as we grapple with the consequences of our fractured state. We are grateful that in our vulnerable state, You called Bishop David Jones, Bishop Robert Johnson, and Bishop Ken Price to shepherd us. And we are deeply grateful that You have filled us with your Spirit of hope that the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will indeed emerge vibrant and united in Christ. We ask that You prepare our hearts, minds, and souls as we collectively entrust one another with the task of discerning Your call for the Eighth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
A Prayer for the Nomination Committee
Almighty and ever-living God, source of all wisdom and understanding, we thank you for all your blessings and particularly for the work of our Nomination Committee. Particularly we acknowledge with gratefulness the way they went about the task of choosing fit persons for us to consider for the next Bishop for this Diocese. We believe that in all things they sought first your honor and glory and then with wisdom, courage and grace prepared the slate now presented to us. Let us now prayerfully receive these names and seek God’s will for us as we embark upon the upcoming election. Amen.
A Prayer for the Transition Committee
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts: Give your grace to the members of the Transition Committee that, in their ministry of care to the Bishop, the Bishop Elect, and the people of this Diocese, they may faithfully serve before you to the glory of your Name and for the benefit of your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A Prayer for the Election of a Bishop
Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a bishop for this Diocese that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
|Lunchtime discussions at Leadership Day|
A few interesting facts emerged from these presentations (hardly any correspondence in the search process used paper; more people than is usual were considered as candidates; the committee did not know who nominated whom; there was no decision not to consider internal candidates). Both judge of elections Jon Delano and Standing Committee president George Werner announced that they would not publicly support a particular candidate.
The most notable presentation was by the chair of the Transition Committee, Nano Chalfant-Walker. Her committee is responsible for the upcoming walkabouts, and a major objective of the day was to collect possible questions to be asked of the episcopal candidates. At each of the four walkabout sessions, the five candidates will, in a plenary session, answer each of the same three—I think that is the right number—questions. I had assumed that there would be a general discussion of what the questions should be. Instead, people were given Post-It Notes on which they could write questions and post them on poster board with the labels “Administration,” “Call,” “Theology,” Pastoral Care,” “Diocesan Health,” “Formation,” “Mission,” and “Other.” (I don’t think I missed any topics, but I don’t guarantee it.) More about this later.
Chalfant-Walker explained that, as participants arrive for each walkabout, they will be assigned a breakout room and can submit one written question. They have some opportunity to talk to the candidates during a half-hour reception. After the plenary session, participants will retire to their assigned breakout rooms and, one-by-one, they will be visited by the candidates, who will answer as many questions as possible from queries submitted by those assigned to that particular room.
There was a sense among many participants that the format of the walkabouts was being too severely controlled. It does not provide opportunity to ask follow-up questions or questions specific to one candidate, prevents people from learning as much about the candidates as they would if all questions were answered in plenary session, has the potential to require the candidates to answer similar questions before different groups, and does not give the candidates the opportunity to react to one another. The committee seems to have an obsession with “fairness,” which is resulting in a process that is stultifying and dysfunctional.
On the positive side, a video recording is to be made of the first plenary session and posted on the Web. Since there is no interaction with the audience in this session, however, and the same scene is to be repeated at each walkabout session, could not the time be put to better use at the following walkabouts?
In any case, the Transition Committee now has the unenviable task of reducing the 90 or so questions that were posted to three. This is a transparently impossible task, since even taking one question from each of the committee’s own categories would yield too many questions.
It was telling, I thought, that the “Theology” board attracted the most questions. Both the candidates and the Nominating Committee seemed to have shied away from making or encouraging theological statements, and, for better or worse, people are anxious about figuring out in what theological box each candidate belongs. Certain questions were predictable—asking about same-sex blessings, for example. Some questions from the right were worrisome in their implicit hostility. One question asked if the candidate believed in the Trinity, and another asked which parts of the Nicene Creed the candidate did not believe [my emphasis]. Clearly, the next bishop is going to have to work at getting us to accept and trust one another.
|Questions for candidates (one of many topics)|
The event continued with reports from the Chancellor—property negotiations are ongoing—and the chair of a strategic planning task force—activities are also ongoing. This was followed by announcements and dismissal.
The day was surely worthwhile, but I fear the walkabout sessions may prove unsatisfying and inadequate to give deputies a good feel for the candidates. I hope I’m wrong.