April 20, 2012

“Discussing” the Candidates

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh held a session tonight to allow people to speak about the nominees to become Pittsburgh’s eighth bishop. The event was held downtown at Trinity Cathedral and lasted about two hours following an informal hour of muchies and conversation.

The ground rules allowed speakers only two minutes to speak, with an option to speak again after everyone who wanted one had had a turn. Only people with voice or voice and vote at a diocesan convention could speak. There was a good turnout, including a number of people who came simply to hear what was said.

The session, which is not a typical feature of bishop elections in The Episcopal Church, was designed to allow for general discussion, which is unlikely to be allowed at tomorrow’s election. (As I have said before, I think preventing a deliberative body from discussing the matter at hand is counterproductive, favoring back-room deals over more objective decision-making. No one asked for my opinion, however.)

The main program began with Dana Phillips, chair of the Nominating Committee, drawing names of nominees from a hat (a miter, actually). This was to determine the order in which names will appear on tomorrow’s ballots, as well as the order in which the candidates would be introduced at tonight’s meeting. Phillips then read, in the order just determined, brief sales pitches—I don’t know what else to call them—for each nominee. (The order determined by the drawing is McConnell, Ambler, Quinn, Runnels, and Woodliff-Stanley. I don’t know that the order really matters.)

At this point, people were recognized for two minutes to say whatever they wanted to say. Alas, the format did not produce discussion so much as a sequence of unrelated testimonials. Between these testimonials, 15 seconds were allowed for “silent reflection.” The time-keeping was rigorously enforced. As it turns out, two minutes was not really a comfortable length of time for many of the speakers, some of whom were cut off in the middle of what they had to say. On the other hand, some people had prepared speeches that were clearly too long.

Because it is already late and I have to get up early tomorrow to attend the convention, I will attempt to provide only a high-level summary of what was said. I believe the statistics I am about to cite are correct, but there is some room for interpretation and even outright error, so I will not stake my reputation on them.

Eleven laypeople spoke, as did ten clergy. Remarkably, no one spoke in favor of Michael Ambler. I would be shocked if he were to be elected tomorrow.

Three people, all of them clergy, spoke in favor of Scott Quinn. On the other hand, two people, one priest and one layperson, spoke in favor of what I will call not-Quinn. (Some others spoke in passing against any candidate from within the diocese.) I think Scott Quinn’s nomination has been very controversial, and I suspect that his election, which I do not anticipate, would be divisive.

Four people spoke in support of Dorsey McConnell. (I would also construe one of the not-Quinn remarks as a not-McConnell remark as well, but I may have misconstrued intent.) McConnell seemed to get points for thoughtfulness and forthrightness.

Four people spoke in favor of Ruth Woodliff-Stanley. Woodliff-Stanley earned points for administrative experience and skill in reconciliation.

Five people, all of them laypeople, curiously, spoke in favor of Stan Runnels. He was cited for his ideas, vision, and capabilities.

Three people addressed what I will call process, without naming a particular candidate. (A suggestion was made, for example, that our next bishop should be fun to work with.)

Overall, I think tonight’s session was more useful to handicappers than to deputies who have not yet made up their minds. Minds must be made up tomorrow, however. Stay tuned.


  1. Interesting, isn't it Lionel? If the laity had had their way, then Stanley Runnels would now be bishop-elect, but he couldn't get the clerical backing. Dorsey McConnell appears to have won largely because Pittsburgh's clergy wouldn't budge.

    It's an interesting inversion of what happened in 1923, when the clergy wanted an in-house candidate and the laity were having none of it. Just be grateful that it only took you six ballots. It took sixteen to elect Alexander Mann!

  2. Believe me, Jeremy, we're all glad it didn't go 16!

    Bruce Robison

  3. It is very troubling that the clergy and lay had different candidates. EXCEPT: 1) All four candidates produced by the nominating committee were excellent candidates, and the write-in was tolerable. 2) The majority of BOTH lay and clergy delegates disproportionately represented this diocese through small parishes. I'd be supporting the protest charge if I thought that the clergy alone had somehow had their way in this election, because (with the help of a certain seminary) it DID happen in the past. But not so this time. Time to toast ++ Doresy, with a good old-fashioned Te Deum. (Gibbons, Stanford or Vaughan Williams will do)


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