April 22, 2012

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory: How Not to Elect a Bishop

As I’m sure most readers who care about the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh know by now, Dorsey McConnell of Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, was elected eighth Bishop of Pittsburgh yesterday at Trinity Cathedral. I apologize if anyone was expecting either real-time commentary from me during the election or an immediate analysis once it was over. The former seemed unnecessary, since the diocese was posting vote totals on-line as soon as they became available, and the latter was impossible because I went out for a martini after the election instead.

It was, I think, the consensus view that the search process had run smoothly prior to this weekend. The nomination of Scott Quinn by petition was a bit of a hiccup, but the petition process seemed necessary to assuring fairness.

Going into the final two events of the selection process, the discussion on Friday and the election on Saturday, It was clear that the clergy were largely partial to Dorsey McConnell, with some significant favorite-son support for Scott Quinn. The strongest lay support seemed to be for Stan Runnels. There was significant sympathy for Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, but it was accompanied by a skepticism that Pittsburgh could elect a woman, particularly an avowed liberal who might serve for more than two decades.

I believe that what had appeared to be a well-designed, well-run process, ran off the rails Friday night and Saturday. I have already reported on the Friday gathering. (See “‘Discussing’ the Candidates.”) Before I try to support my thesis, let me report on the voting that took place yesterday.

The voting began with 42 eligible clergy and 86 lay deputies present. Since election required a simultaneous majority in both the clergy and lay orders, 22 clergy votes and 44 lay votes were required to elect a bishop. The balloting is tabulated below:

CLERGY Ballot 1 Ballot 2 Ballot 3 Ballot 4 Ballot 5 Ballot 6
McConnell 16 22 25 29 30 31
Runnels 9 12 14 13 11 10
Quinn 11 6 3
Ambler 2 0 0 0 0 0
Woodliff-Stanley 4 2 0

LAY Ballot 1 Ballot 2 Ballot 3 Ballot 4 Ballot 5 Ballot 6
McConnell 19 24 34 37 42 47
Runnels 33 45 46 48 43 35
Quinn 18 10 3
Ambler 4 0 0 0 0 1
Woodliff-Stanley 12 7 3

To understand what happened, you need knowledge of the candidates, of the diocese, and of the procedures that were used.

Woodliff-Stanley was clearly the most liberal candidate, and McConnell was generally considered the most conservative of the candidates put forward by the Nominating Committee. Quinn was seen as conservative, tolerant of diversity but tainted by prejudices, both positive and negative, for his actions and inactions in the diocese over the years. (I set out the arguments against an internal candidate, in general, and against Quinn, in particular, in “Pittsburghers Nominate Episcopal Candidate by Petition,” “Additional Thoughts on an Internal Candidate for Pittsburgh,” and “Musings on the Candidacy of the Rev. Canon Scott Quinn.”) Michael Ambler and Stan Runnels fell somewhere in the middle, with Runnels to the left of Ambler.

Southwestern Pennsylvania is a conservative region. Under now-deposed bishop Bob Duncan, conservative clergy greatly outnumbered liberal clergy, though a strong moderate-to-liberal combination of clergy and laypeople saved Pittsburgh from at least some of the troubles of San Joaquin, Fort Worth, and Quincy following diocesan schisms. Because opponents of the Duncan program came together months before a split was effected, a larger fraction of the diocese remained with The Episcopal Church, but, unlike the other dioceses experiencing similar trauma, Pittsburgh did not become substantially more liberal thereby. Nonetheless, lay Pittsburgh Episcopalians are, as a group, more progressive than their clergy, many of whom are retired, part-time priests whose prime working years were in a different sort of Episcopal Church.

I will have more to say about procedures presently.  I now want to look at the voting record.

The first ballot offered few surprises. Ambler’s poor showing was prefigured by his lack of apparent support the night before. The minimal support for Woodliff-Stanley was a bit of a surprise, but, as it turned out, those who said we could not elect a women may have been right.

The second ballot made it clear that Ambler’s candidacy was going nowhere, and Woodliff-Stanley’s star likewise appeared to be setting. Unsurprisingly, Quinn’s support declined. Among the clergy, most of the changed votes went to McConnell. On the lay side, votes gravitated predominantly toward Runnels. On this and subsequent ballots, a candidate in each order had sufficient votes for election, though the candidates were different until ballot 6. No one could figure out why Ambler did not drop out of the race, since he received no votes at all. His failure to bow out gracefully became increasingly perplexing.

On the third ballot, whose results were announced after lunch, support for both Quinn and Woodliff-Stanley declined, causing both candidates to drop out before the fourth vote. The clergy vote did not change very much, but Runnels’ support among the clergy reached its apogee. McConnell’s vote total enjoyed its biggest bump among the laity on the third ballot, gaining most of those votes at the expense of Quinn. It was pretty obvious at this point—arguably, it was obvious after the first ballot—that the contest was between the clergy favorite, McConnell, and the lay favorite, Runnels.

On the fourth ballot, the contest was literally between McConnell and Runnels. The lay vote for Runnels reached its high point, 48, on this round, but Runnels actually lost a vote in the clergy balloting. One layperson left the convention before the fourth ballot, so only 43 lay votes were needed to elect a bishop.The clergy preference for McConnell was stronger (69%) than the lay preference for Runnels (56%), but it was clear that without an explicit compromise or one side’s giving in, a consensus candidate could not be selected. The history of clergy voting suggested that the clergy were not likely to throw in the towel. Besides, at this point, it was clear that clergy had been lobbying their colleagues in favor of McConnell.

I considered proposing (or getting someone else to propose) that we have a general discussion about the situation in which we found ourselves, but I did not do so. The next ballot made it clear that electing a reasonably liberal bishop—something I though that those of us who had worked so hard to save the diocese from disaster deserved—was a lost cause. Five lay deputies, presumably watching the clock and wanting to get the matter over with, switched their votes to McConnell. Now, the switching of a single lay vote would elect McConnell. (Only 41 clergy votes were cast on the fifth and sixth ballots.)

On ballot 6, McConnell picked up one redundant clergy vote. Runnels lost 8 votes. Five went to McConnell, assuring his victory; one, oddly, went to Ambler; and 2 simply vanished.

What happened? A liberal-conservative split clearly remains in the diocese, and it is, in part, a lay-clergy split. The laity, in any case, whether out of boredom, impatience, or naïveté, threw in the towel. Not only was I severely disappointed by this, but it made me think that the candidate we really needed was Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, who had the strongest skills and record of bringing divided communities together.

The sad reality is that Bishop Price, perhaps inadvertently, but surely with the complicity of others in charge of the search process, threw the laity under the bus. We were offered the poisoned Kool-Aid of Anglican niceness. Our bishop constantly asserted that an episcopal election is not a “political” process. We were implored to call the five priests standing for the election “nominees,” rather than “candidates.” We were told not to say anything “negative” about any of the “nominees.”

Of course an episcopal election is political! Any process by which a body of people selects a leader is, by definition, political. That the electors are Christians does not make it something other than political. The process can only be more or less successful in reflecting the will of the electoral body. If one believes in the democratic process—the election of bishops, perhaps more than any other element of our polity, distinguishes The Episcopal Church from most of its Anglican sisters—one should be interested in making that process as effective as possible. Among other things, electors should have as much information as possible and be able to exchange that information freely.

On March 27, 2012, I wrote this in my post “Episcopal Election Procedures for Pittsburgh”:
First, in response to the question “Do Clergy and Lay Deputies have a chance to discuss the merits of nominees with each other?” we find this sentence: “There will be NO such open discussion period at the special convention on Saturday.” I argued unsuccessfully against this policy, which encourages cliques to act in concert while preventing the body as a whole from doing so. The convention is a deliberative body, and preventing it from deliberating or allowing deliberation to be conducted only secretly in small groups hardly seems conducive to helping the Holy Spirit in our discernment. Among other things, such a policy gives more power to the clergy, who know one another well, making it easy for them to strategize, whereas lay deputies, who seldom meet, mostly do not know one another and would therefore have a more difficult time doing so.
Need I say that my worst fear was realized? Had it been allowed, I would have wanted to tell lay deputies to stay the course and to prevail upon the clergy to consider the will of their flocks, particularly since many of them would have to live with the decision made at the convention long after many of the clergy voters would be long dead.

Rather than beginning the convention with a brief version of Morning Prayer and ending with a Holy Eucharist at the end of the day, business was conducted in the middle of a Eucharist service, something I have always found manipulative, a way to encourage Episcopalians to do exactly what we often say our church does not demand, namely, checking one’s brain at the door. Moreover, it took valuable time and made those watching the clock that much more eager to elect a bishop, whoever that might be.

The hope, of course, had been that the discussion Friday night would have somehow substituted for substantive consultation at the convention itself. In my aforementioned post, I had this to say about that meeting:
Second, I found this statement disturbing: “Bishop Price and the Standing Committee (which has final oversight over the election process) requests that discussion be positive with respect to nominees and never negative towards any of the five who have put themselves forward for consideration.” In private, I’m sure people won’t feel bound by this admonition, but it could become an issue in the public discussion on the day before the election.
Well, it did. I am aware of at least one instance in which a parishioner, in one of the breakout sessions, heard a disturbing statement from one of the candidates. Repeating the statement and expressing concern about it would have been legitimate, but this person was concerned about being accused of making a “negative” statement and kept quiet. (One speaker was told by the bishop that he was skating close to the edge of the “positive” ice.) Additionally, statements were limited to two minutes, which rattled some people, cut off several, and no doubt discouraged others from speaking. In any case, no real “discussion” was allowed to take place. The actual needs of the diocese, particularly those relating to reconciliation, were little discussed. The session may have been useful to bookmakers, but it was virtually a waste of time for everyone else.

How could the process have been better handled (or better handled in the future)? Primarily, we should drop the pretense that an election is not an election, with all that implies, and is instead some mysterious and holy piece of magic. We are deciding in whose hands to place substantial power, both over the diocese and the wider church. If we believe the decision is that of the Holy Spirit—something I doubt anyone really believes—then we should simply draw lots and be done with it. Otherwise, we should recognize that we have responsibility for an essentially political process and should do our best to design a good process.

More than anything else, I believe that laypeople involved in choosing a bishop need a way of consulting with one another effectively while the election is in progress. Perhaps clergy and lay electors should discuss the election and vote in different rooms, coming together briefly between ballots to talk in plenary session. In any case, I hope that the next time Pittsburgh has an episcopal election, procedures will look different from what was done this time around.

All that said, I am on record orally, if not in writing, as saying that I could live with any of the candidates proposed by the Nominating Committee. I am not recanting that declaration, and I hope that Bishop McConnell will make a fine and fair Bishop of Pittsburgh, perhaps eventually leading the diocese to be, as Ruth Woodliff-Stanley suggested we could be, on the cutting edge of The Episcopal Church.

Update, 4/24/2012: I perhaps gave the impression that Bishop Ken Price was responsible for all the election procedures used by Pittsburgh. He was not. Various other diocesan leaders share that responsibility, as does the consultant we engaged from outside the diocese.

Dioceses do not hold episcopal elections often, of course, and an outside consultant can help the diocese do the sort of things other dioceses have been doing. Both good and bad ideas can be propagated this way. The idea of conducting the election in the context of Holy Eucharist was, apparently, advocated by our consultant. Whether justified or not, I know that some deputies felt manipulated in that they could not sign the necessary forms for The Episcopal Church certifying the election until they had taken communion, suggesting a unity that they did not feel after the sixth ballot. I’m not sure that conducting the election in the context of a Eucharist is such a terrible idea, but, under Bob Duncan, conventions always ended with a Eucharist, and many people left before the service because they were so angered by what had happened during the convention.

Finally, I should correct an error. It was not the bishop, but the president of the Standing Committee who told a speaker on Friday night that she came close to violating the ground rules for the evening.


  1. Somehow the process is unfair because your guy didn't win? Really? You act is if a discussion of the candidates would have changed the results - I don't know, but with such a small voting group it would b easy enough to write or email them or even set up an open forum for discussion.

    I've been disappointed with the results of several episcopal elections, but I don't consider it my right to insist on MY candidate. My experience has been that God works with all kinds of people, including those we start off not liking much. I pray it may be so for the "liberals" (whatever you believe that term means) in Pittsburgh.

    Tom Fitzhugh

  2. Thank you for writing this. I agree that Episcopal elections are stifled by a desire for it not to be an election. The delicate shudder at the thought that an election could be political in nature inhibits a level of honesty that could assist in discernment, as well as preventing the Church from exhibiting what a healthy and holy political process might look like. Just because it's nice and polite doesn't make it healthy or holy.

  3. Good morning Lionel, and as always it's good to hear your reflections. I would only say that I didn't think the format and "political" environment of our election this weekend differed much from what I've experienced in other episcopal elections. They're all a little different, but I thought it was reassuring to see that things were pretty typical and familiar.

    As you point out, the nature of our electorate is a bit peculiar. We only really have a dozen or so parish clergy in full-time, settled ministry. Likewise, our lay deputies are often representing clusters of Episcopalians more resembling a house-group than a traditional parish. As I mentioned to you on Saturday, the fact that any two of these groups, perhaps with a dozen or so members each, would have more lay deputies than parishes with ASA of 150 or so is also peculiar. We are, well, just plain peculiar.

    My belief going into this weekend was that our carefully-designed nomination and petition processes had given us five nominees who would bring to us strengths and weaknesses, blessings and regrets, were they to be elected.

    I thought it was spiritually significant that the reading for the morning office on Saturday was the story in Exodus where God's people in the wilderness were engaged in battle with the Amalekites. Moses stands on a bluff overlooking the scene. When he raises his arms, the Israelites prevail. When his arms lower, the tide turns toward the Amalekites. As the battle wears on, Moses tires and things don't look good. But then Aaron and Hur join Moses. They find him a large stone to lean on, so he can continue to stand, and they each take one of his arms and hold them up. And the Amalekites are routed. The moral of the story: it takes a village.

    Dorsey McConnell is a priest of deep spiritual maturity, emotional health, wisdom, and integrity. A great guy with a love of the Church and, as they say in Massachusetts, a wicked sense of humor.

    But how he "does" as a bishop here will mostly have to do with how "we" do as a diocese.

    It will be a lot of good work. For us to do together.


    Bruce Robison

  4. Bruce,

    My hope is that Dorsey McConnell will be a fine bishop for Pittsburgh.

    As for the process, I’m sure it was mostly typical for our church. That, however, doesn’t make the process a good one. When discussing our procedures with Bishop Price, the response to one proposal or another was usually “this is the way other dioceses do it.” Tradition is fine, but, every now and then, the use of a little reason might be helpful.

  5. Lionel,
    I am aware of your desire to make the diocesan in P'burgh more answerable to the laity. And it is as it should be. At the same time I am also aware that it is the clergy who have the most interaction with the bishop.

    Our whole careers depend not on our personal ability or grace; it depends upon our bishop's ability to recognize our ability to recognize our calls. I personally have been attacked by bishops who were incapable of tolerating difference and it has cost me bitterly. I am not surprised at the unwillingness of the clergy to bend to the needs of the laity because it may have been that they recognized that in their choice they knew that their choice would treat them appropriately. This isn't clerical conspiracy, it is the need for someone who can understand the unique role that clerics play in the Episcopal 'Troika'. Peoples' careers and livelihoods are at stake.

    Yes, elections can be a pain in the tush, but after 2 years at NACC, I would not choose the CofE system!

  6. Point of clarification for those who might need it: NACC in the last post is No Anglican Covenant Coalition.

  7. The first two bishops of Pittsburgh were actually elected by the clergy, with the laity only ratifying that choice.

    Bishop Whitehead recognized this as an anomaly at his first diocesan convention in 1882, but because of his forty-year episcopate it was not until 1923 that the laity got to vote alongside their clerical brethren.

    I always liked Whitehead's verdict on his own election, penned a year before his death:

    "Only two men in the Diocese, I was told, had ever seen me - one a clergyman and one a layman - neither of whom voted for me - men of sense and fine discernment."

  8. I am troubled by the handling of the election, and I am equally troubled by Bruce Robison's and Muthah's remarks.

    There is no excuse for the unwillingness of Bishop Price to allow more open discussion and exchange of information. The shut down of potential critical remarks smacks of a Duncan tactic. The most informed electorate is much more likely to produce the best result. When it became evident that the laity and clergy were in different camps, why wouldn't the voters be allowed to openly express their views in a discussion, and try to decide how the other voters had reached their conclusions?

    Robison joins Price to say that this is the way it is done, and that is somehow reassuring. Every time the Politburo elected a new Party Chairman, their same internal processes were always followed. In view of the history of this Diocese, is it really re-assuring to know that the election took a familiar form? What Robison really wants is for everyone to just meekly accept the clergy's candidate and move on. "Nothing to see here."

    I am really offended by Robison's remarks to the effect that the laity votes should not be given as much weight as the clergy votes. He argues that the laity votes are not fully representative and do not meet the Supreme Court's standard of "one man, one vote". If that part of the process is flawed, then Robison needed to speak up much, much sooner. Some of those "unrepresentative" deputies SAVED this diocese, while Robison himself was dithering over his desire to be all things to all people.

    Muthah's comments are even more unsettling and disappointing. Her argument is that it is desirable and understandable for the clergy to vote for the candidate who they perceive to best protect their careers and income. The clergy's ability to interact with the Bishop is treated as the determining factor in the election. Apparently then there is no point to the efforts of the laity to learn each candidate's views on a number of hot button issues.

    Lionel is absolutely correct that the laity who stayed with the Episcopal Church are more progressive than the existing clergy roster. Duncan had a long time to steer congregations to accept his right wing loyalists. Yet, aided and abetted by Bishop Price, it is those former Duncan lieutenants who stood firm and determined this election without discussion. The clergy clearly were disregarding the views of the laity. Between the prominent role grabbed by Price and the clergy and the discrediting of the views of the laity, I wonder why we don't just ask the Presiding Bishop to appoint whoever she wants. The effect would be the same.

    I hope that McConnell is as good at mediation and healing as he is perceived to be a strong supporter of the existing clergy. I hope that he is not as conservative as the clergy seem to perceive and desire. This diocese cannot survive one more election of the wrong Bishop. If the wrong choice has been made, then the progressive laity will simply slip away.

  9. While I agree with Lionel's conclusions about how things should have been done, I think some of the analysis of the election both in the post and in comments is flawed. First, I don't think Bishop Price 'threw the laity under the bus'; I think he shares the 'fake it till you make it' approach that is so popular in so many circles today--if we keep pretending we're good, sooner or later we will be. If we only allow ourselves to speak positively, sooner or later we will actually be positive. I believe this to be incorrect, but it is the dominant view of our culture, not a particular failing of Bishop Price.

    I also think it incorrect to blame Price for 'unwillingness... to allow more open discussion'. That he took it on himself to disallow it is correct, but the convention was quite free to challenge the chair's ruling and overturn it. Bishop Price was confident that wouldn't be attempted, and his confidence was justified, and so he was able to do what he thought it right to do. The convention itself, with twice as many lay members as clergy, has to accept responsibility for the flaws in the process if there is ever to be change.

    Having said that, I can say that I wholeheartedly agree with Lionel about how the convention should have been conducted. We were all, clergy and lay alike treated as though we were likely to run amok any second--I was told to be calm and peaceful so many times I was in danger of falling asleep. Fifteen second gaps enforced between every single comment Friday night to prevent us doing anything impulsive! I felt like a juvenile delinquent, and I must admit I was tempted to behave like one just to get us all out of our somnolence.

    But we're in the minority, Lionel. The majority of our fellow deputies think that we're both either slightly dotty or slightly dangerous, and that's what we have to change if we want things done in a more rational manner.

  10. Per the comment above, I would just say that it isn't at all my intention to diminish the "weight" of the laity in convention in contrast to that of the clergy. I think instead that there is, we might say, simply something a little odd about both the clergy and lay orders.

    If on the lay side there is something disproportionate in reference to the number of deputies representing very small gatherings, especially in our "newly reorganizing" congregations, the clergy order as well is distorted by the number of retired and bivocational clergy.

    In a "typical" situation the majority of clergy would be rectors, assistants, vicars, priests-in-charge. Folks engaged full time in settled ministry in congregations, with responsibility for budgets, day-to-day ministries, and the ongoing pastoral life of the diocese. My guess, again, is that of the 43 clergy voting on Saturday, fewer than a dozen fit this general description. I love our retired clergy and hope to be one myself someday. But I do believe their perspectives and interests are shaped by different concerns than are those of their settled active-ministry colleagues.

    My point would be that the whole business--the WHOLE business-should be taken with a grain of salt--and perhaps a sense of spaciousness, and generosity. Even a sense of humor.

    We have come a long way. But we're simply, still, very much a work in progress. Which is probably why the anxiety about things running off the rails led to that sense of over-control.

    (Though I would point out that the only comment that actually drew any rebuke from the chair on Friday evening was one that started to take off with some negative and I also think inappropriate language about the Seventh Bishop of Pittsburgh. There were a number of comments, in reasonable tone, about "why I'm not voting for the local, petition nominee," and these didn't draw any comment from the chair.)

    In any event: we're adolescent. We want the transitional process to be behind us and to be fully launched--but the reality is that we still have quite a bit of growing to do.

    It wasn't a perfect process. But the imperfections in the end, I believe, were less problems with rules and leadership and more simply a reflection of who we are and where we are at this point in the reorganizational trajectory.

    And my guess is that by the time we're ready to do this again, probably in a decade or so, things will be--we will be--much more settled and mature. This is just a step along the way.

  11. Bruce,

    Thanks for your comments, which are well-taken. In fact, a conversation we had at Saturday’s convention was a big influence on what I had to say in my essay.

    Permit me to make a few points, in no particular order.

    First, I think that many of my concerns are relevant to dioceses other than our own. I hope the church will talk about these. In particular, any election process that relies on one group or another simply capitulating so the process can end is suspect.

    There has been talk in Pittsburgh about disenfranchising retired clergy. Whatever the wisdom of that in general, the fact that so many “retired” clergy in Pittsburgh are actually working makes such a move problematic. (An analogous situation at General Convention is the question of whether retired bishops should vote. This issue is less urgent, since it is difficult—expensive—for retired bishops to attend.)

    Very small churches get disproportionate representation at our diocesan convention. (A parish of 25 members gets the same number of lay deputies as one of 199.) This is clearly anomalous, and it is something I am working to change on the Committee on Constitution and Canons.

    Yes, our diocese is a work in progress. We don’t get to elect bishops often, however, so, when we do, we should work especially hard to make the process as fair and effective as possible. We cannot simply repair our mistakes at the next convention.

  12. Thanks, Lionel.

    I do agree with you that electoral processes should trend toward openness and transparency.

    I don't actually believe though that a pause for debate and further testimonial remarks at the microphone would have or even should have made any difference on Saturday--and there certainly was plenty of conversation going on in the coffee room between ballots for those who were seeking further insight. I think we had all listened to each other pretty well. And if there was a bit of a controlled environment in our public meetings, I think the conversations elsewhere moved quite freely.

    But I do understand always that especially in a process that inevitably will disappoint some there should be a clear sense of openness all along the way.

    And I certainly don't want to suggest in my comments above that our retired and bivocational clergy aren't doing yeoman's service in the life of our diocese right now. We couldn't manage without them, and I don't for a minute want to minimize the importance of their voice and vote in guiding our common life. I would be very strongly opposed to any effort to limit their participation--as I also very strongly support "demographically appropriate" lay representation from even our smallest reorganizing congregations. We've got to keep everybody at the table.

    My point isn't that our policies are out of whack. They will probably serve us well enough in the future. My point is just that we are just a pretty odd duck of a diocese right now.

    On the topic of Saturday's election, I went back out of curiosity to see what the results would have been if we weren't voting "by orders."

    We began with 128 deputies, clergy and lay, which would have required a simple majority of 65 for election. Had that rule been in place, in the "head to head" between Dorsey McConnell and Stan Runnells, Bishop-elect McConnell would have been elected with 66 on the fourth ballot. I don't know if that really means anything, except that I think a narrative that views this election principally as a "clergy v. laity" contest is too narrow. Both nominees had significant support in the whole convention and in both orders, which I think is a testimony to the solid work of the Nominations Committee in presenting nominees who could gain broad support. Moreover, the fact that on the first ballot Scott Quinn was second in the clergy order and a solid third in the lay order is testimony to the wisdom of the petition process in bringing forward a nominee with broad support.

    In the end I think we all did a pretty good job, messy as it was along the way. And I know we have a very fine Bishop-elect, a person of great integrity, breadth, and maturity. It's going to be bumpy, but we're moving forward.

    Bruce Robison

  13. From an election standpoint, I believe that the crucial ballot was the third, when Dorsey received an extra 10 lay votes and Stan only received one. In particular, this points to the fact that Dorsey did not just receive lay votes from Scott but also (likely) from Ruth, or a few people who moved from Stan. From that point onwards, I think we moved towards a fairly inevitable outcome.

    I was very happy with the list of nominees proposed by the Nominating Committee and although Stan was my first choice, Dorsey was a very close second. I believe that we have the right bishop with which to move forward in our diocese.

  14. I have just added an update at the end of my post, largely to clarify a few points. Readers of the post as originally written may want to read what I have just written.

  15. My own sense is that you almost can't have a Property Committee meeting anymore without someone suggesting that it take place "in the context of a Eucharist." I'm sure the desire is for us all to be reminded who the Lord of the Church is, but I agree that the structure is somewhat peculiar. To me one of the most heartbreaking parts of Conventions through the middle 2000's was the departure of those who wouldn't stay to share Communion with the rest of the gathering--I guess as a form of protest. Other friends played with the same symbolism at the daily Eucharists of General Convention. Coming for the opening and through the sermon, sometimes, but departing at the Peace, to symbolize "broken communion." Again, heartbreaking. Rough stuff in the Christian family.

    While I understand that the format may have brought up old memories, I certainly pray that the disappointment of not having a first-choice nominee win the election was not a sufficient catalyst in this hour for the same feelings of estrangement.


  16. Bruce's point about debate in plenary session not likely to lead to a different result than conversation in the parish hall is probably correct, but I still don't think it justifies the failure to provide for such debate. Convention, like Congress, Parliament and the like, is a body, not a coalition of groups that can meet in the corner of the room, and deliberation as a single body is an essential part of its life (not just philosophically, but according to our constitution, Article V Section 2). Informal conversations are an important part of the life of the body, but it just isn't good practice for us not to do our final thinking on any subject out loud in each other's presence.

    And while it is true that other diocesan leaders and our consultant played their part in suggesting the process we used, Convention and Convention alone has the final responsibility, and Convention approved this process without a dissenting voice being raised, even if there were some sotto voce criticisms in one place or another.

    All of us, clergy and lay, have to be willing to challenge the diocesan leadership in public when we think they're making a mistake. It's not disloyal, or impolite, or bad form. It's taking our full part in the immense privilege we've been given, briefly, of being part of a centuries-old deliberative assembly devoted to the most serious work life has to offer.

  17. I was away on Friday and Saturday so I appreciate Lionel’s reporting on the events of the Convention. The only other sources of information are the press releases and the un-objective and/or misinformed reporting of the local press. I am glad to know what was actually happening.

    Further, in fairness, Lionel expressed his concerns about the process prior to the outcome. I have a healthy respect for Bishop Price and the good work he has done here. But I, too, don’t agree with the limitations on the discussion he advocated regardless on the potential effect on the outcome. To suggest that this somehow interferes with the guidance of the Holy Spirit presumes one knows precisely how the Holy Spirit operates.

    In Pittsburgh, after 30 years of misguided leadership there is a very clear understanding of the consequences of selecting the wrong person to be Bishop so please accept that there is more than the usual amount of scrutiny of the candidates and the process in this election.

    Thanks to the work of the Nominating and Transition Committees we could have hardly gone wrong. I believe that Dorsey McConnell is both qualified and well prepared to be the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Again, thanks to the transparency of the process he, and we, know that: 1) It took six ballots to elect him, 2) He received just over the minimum number of votes required to be elected, 3) The voting history shows a significant difference between the preference of the laity and the clergy. Not much “political capital” to exploit – Mr. McConnell will have to make his mark by his own talents.

    Geoff Hurd

  18. Before commenting further, I should make it clear that I'm very happy with the result of the election, and believe we would have elected the same person even if the election had proceeded along the lines Lionel suggests; but mistakes were made and it's important to recognise them.

    As I've chewed over this article and the comments further, it seems to me that the worst feature of this election was the insistence from the chair that nothing 'negative' be said about any candidate. There are two bad things about this: first, it was bad policy, and second, it was bad practice, the policy not being adopted by constitutional means.

    It was bad policy, because if only good things can be said in the discussion about who would be a good bishop, it's obvious that a complete dud could be elected. The most unsuitable person that one can imagine presumably has some good points, but if no one is allowed to point out the unsuitability, the person could be elected on those good points. All factors should be investigated, thought about and discussed by those making the decision. Imagine how a business would be handicapped if it wasn't allowed to discriminate against an applicant for a job because his five previous employers gave a bad reference and would not rehire. It makes no sense not to consider a person's weaknesses as well as his strengths when considering him for a new work.

    It was bad practice, because it was not part of the rules for the election that were adopted after discussion by the convention. It was just a bright idea that someone in leadership had and kept repeating. And it sounds good, until you stop to think about the possible results, so no one wanted to point out those possible results. I believe the motives behind the suggestion were good; I think it was an attempt to prevent us offending each other rather than offending any candidate. But the results could have been far worse than offending each other.

    Fortunately, the results were good, although there will be people who wonder if they could have been better if we had followed traditional procedure.

    I urged the chair of the Nominating Committee to write up her reflections on the process and how it could have been improved (or not), and put them in the diocesan archives, to be used as a starting point next time. I think a printout of this post and its comments should be added to that.

  19. And just to chime in, I entirely agree with both of you, Lionel and Phil, on this topic.

    Certainly there were plenty of "concerns" raised over the preceding month about individual nominees that might have been raised in a respectful way. Each of the nominees had some great strengths, and each of them gave some cause for at least some of us "not to want to vote for him or her." Reasons why this or that nominee *shouldn't* be our choice.

    There was at least some of this indirectly aimed at Canon Quinn's status as nominee by those who wanted to talk about "why we shouldn't have someone from the inside." Phil's comments on Friday evening in favor of Scott to some extent responded to these concerns, of course, and that exchange was the nearest thing we had to a public debate "for and against" a particular nominee. Certainly those kinds of conversations took place both before and during the Convention about all the nominees, but in smaller and more informal settings.

    I was glad that the original vision of the Convention sitting quiet in the Church in between ballots was tempered with the option of conversational space in the Dining Room.

    I am very pleased with Dorsey McConnell's election, and I don't think a more robust discussion on Friday evening or even a time for remarks "after lunch" and before the second round of balloting began would have made any difference in the final result.

    It would perhaps though have made a difference in tone for some as folks departed.

    Certainly in all the conversations and presentations we would have had confidence that folks would conduct themselves as Christian people and in respectful and appropriate ways, even while airing differences of opinion.

    So, good notes for the folder.

    Bruce Robison


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