Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Eighth Bishop of Pittsburgh

I'm re-presenting here my article as published in the Lent-Eastertide number of the St. Andrew's Anchor . . . .

The Eighth Bishop of Pittsburgh

Following the events of division in 2008 our Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has been served by three bishops. The Rt. Rev. David Jones, Suffragan Bishop of Virginia, came alongside us almost immediately to meet immediate pastoral needs and to provide advice to our diocesan Standing Committee. The Rt. Rev. Robert H. Johnson, Retired Bishop of Western North Carolina, was then appointed Assistant Bishop and served more intensively to assist us with our diocesan reorganization. And most recently, of course, our good friend the Rt. Rev. Kenneth L. Price was in the Fall of 2009 elected our Provisional Bishop, to serve with the full authority of a diocesan bishop, but with a limited term of office.

On Saturday, April 21, 2012, a Special Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will be held to elect our eighth Bishop Diocesan--a bishop who will be settled with full ecclesiastical authority and canonical tenure. (The canons require diocesan bishops and all clergy to resign their tenured positions on or before their 72nd birthday.) Participating as voting members of this Special Convention from St. Andrew's will be the Rector, Deacon Chess, our associate priest the Rev. Philip Wainwright, and our three lay deputies: Bill Ghrist, Tom Moore, and Steve Stagnitta.

In mid-March our bishop-nominees will "Walkabout" in the diocese, with programs to provide all of us an opportunity to meet and hear from them. These are scheduled to take place from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20, at St. Brendan’s, Franklin Park; on Wednesday, March 21, at St. Peter’s, Brentwood; on Thursday, March 22, at Holy Cross, Homewood; and on Friday, March 23, at St. Michael’s of the Valley, Ligonier. An open discussion forum will also be held on Friday, April 20, the evening before the election. All interested members of the diocese are encouraged to participate in these events.

In the third chapter of the First Letter to Timothy the Apostle Paul tells Timothy that "the saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task." Paul then goes on to describe the necessary attributes of such a leader in the Christian community--to be one known well as a person of wholesome, modest, temperate, and hospitable personal character, with a stable family life, and known even beyond the Christian community as a person of manifest integrity.

In the first chapter of Acts we read of the selection of Matthias to fill the place abandoned by Judas in the circle of the Twelve Apostles. The remaining Apostles choose two "nominees" who have, they say "accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning with the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us." The person to be chosen, they say, "must become with us a witness to his resurrection."

Thoroughly convinced by personal experience and spiritual discernment of the qualifications and fitness of Justus and Matthias, the Apostles then leave the "election" in God's hands by casting lots--we might say, by flipping a coin. "Lord," they pray, "who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen . . . ."

While the rules and procedures for the election of our next bishop are somewhat more complicated than those in effect when the first Apostles cast lots in the selection of Matthias, we here in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh would agree with them that our purpose is not to "choose" the person who will be our next bishop, but rather that we would ask God to work through our rules and procedures and election to reveal to us the person he has already chosen for this ministry.

When our election is complete, and when that election has received the consent of those bishops and deputies assembled at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church this July in Indianapolis, we will move forward with the celebration of our bishop's new ministry and a service of Ordination and Consecration, led by the Presiding Bishop and now scheduled for Saturday, October 20, 2012.

At that service (see the Book of Common Prayer, pp. 511-523) the Presiding Bishop will remind us all that "a bishop in God's holy Church is called to be one with the apostles in proclaiming Christ's resurrection and interpreting the Gospel, and to testify to Christ's sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of kings."

The bishop, we will be reminded, is "called to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church; to celebrate and to provide for the administration of the sacraments of the New Covenant; to ordain priests and deacons and to join in ordaining bishops and to be in all things a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the entire flock of Christ."

The title "bishop" can also be translated as "superintendent" or "overseer," and to our new bishop God in his providential wisdom and we in collegial partnership and prayerful support will entrust a great responsibility for the stewardship of the life and ministry and mission of our small but precious corner of Christ's Church.

We give thanks for all those in our diocese and beyond who have participated with us in this process--and especially noting the good work of parishioners of St. Andrew's, including Mary Roehrich, who served on the Standing Committee as this process was initiated, Joan Morris and Phil Wainwright, who served on the Nominations Committee, and Dr. George Knight and Jill West, who have been key members of the Transition Committee.

And as we move along into this spring, we would join together in this prayer, which was composedby our Standing Committee last year as we began to develop the process we are sharing now in our wider diocese.

Almighty God, we the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, affirm now and as always before, that You are our Almighty Lord and Savior. We humbly confess that we all engaged in some manner, practices that divided rather than preserved the unity of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. We are grateful that in Your mercy, You intervened to sustain us and keep us whole as we grapple with the realities 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. Consequently, we are deeply grateful that You 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.

Click here to go to the diocesan "Bishop Search" page.

---Bruce Robison+


David Wilson+ said...

I have been musing who this mystery candidate from within the TEC-Pgh might be? Let me see: There are nine full-time rectors in Pittsburgh: Robison, Simons, Shoucair, Murph, Geiger, Geisler, Quinn, Lewis, Hays. So we can deduct four who have publicly declared no call to become the Bishop -- Jim Simons, Jim Shoucair, Bruce Robison and Harold Lewis. That leaves Lou Hays, Scott Quinn, Jay Geisler, Jeff Murph, and Bill Geiger. Hmmmm! I would say Jeff Murph, Lou Hays and Bill Geiger are not interested. So they are out. Jay Geisler and Scott Quinn are on Bp Prices's staff and already have a diocesan call of some kind. Which one is it? Methinks it is none other than Scott Quinn!

Whadda ya think about that!

Bruce Robison said...

We'll wait for the official announcement, of course. But will be glad to follow your always keen political insights, David, as the discernment and election process unfolds . . . .