Blog|The Rev. Canon Anna E. Rossi
In the first of a series on the election of the ninth bishop of the Diocese, I reflected on the interdependence of the Body of Christ, and of the orders of ministry (lay persons, deacons, priests, and bishops). In this second part, I want to underscore that each of us has a role and responsibility to play in the governance of the church. Moving from the theological to the practical, what follows is a bird’s eye view of making a bishop in our church.
In some Christian traditions — notably in the Roman Catholic Church — bishops are appointed. By contrast, in the Episcopal Church, we elect bishops. This distinction follows from an Episcopal/Anglican understanding of authority, which echoes democratic structures. On the one hand, the Bishop is the Ecclesiastical Authority. Diocesan governance provides that “in addition to being the Ecclesiastical Authority, the Bishop is the Chief Pastor …” (Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of California, 2018, Article IV) And on the other hand, that authority is exercised with others: “The authority of the Diocese is vested in and exercised by its Bishop (and Bishop Coadjutor, if there is one), its Conventions, Annual and Special, and its Standing Committee, acting under and in subordination to The Episcopal Church, its Constitution and Canons and its General Convention.” (Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of California, 2018, Article III)
In The Episcopal Church, the Standing Committee plays a prominent role in the governance of the diocese. The Church provides for a Standing Committee in each diocese, and its broad remit. “When there is a Bishop in charge of the Diocese, the Standing Committee shall be the Bishop’s Council of Advice. If there be no Bishop or Bishop Coadjutor or Suffragan Bishop canonically authorized to act, the Standing Committee shall be the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese for all purposes declared by the General Convention.” (The Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, 2019, Article IV) Other purposes of the Standing Committee are determined by the Diocese. (In our case, the President of the Standing Committee is an ex officio member of Grace Cathedral’s Board of Trustees.)
This model of governance was exemplified when Bishop Marc publicly announced his retirement on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, July 22, 2022. That announcement followed several months of working with the Standing Committee to anticipate the requirements and form of an election for his successor. The Standing Committee in turn helped to form the Search and Transition Committee of the Diocese (Learn more at DioCalBishopSearch.org.
We will soon see some of the fruits of the Search and Transition Committee’s work. An initial slate of candidates will be announced on Friday, September 22. Consisting of those who applied by May 31, 2023, candidates will have undergone a substantial review of their applications, supporting material, and references, as well as multiple interviews and a retreat, before being put forward. On September 22, the committee will also open a process for candidates by petition through Friday, October 27, the eve of the Diocesan Convention, when the final slate will be announced. From November 2 through 6, the people of the Diocese are encouraged to attend one of the Meet and Greets with the final slate.
When the diocese convenes on Saturday, December 2, we’ll elect a Bishop Coadjutor, who will serve alongside Bishop Marc in a few months’ transition. The “we” includes a majority of the clergy entitled to vote, and not less than two-thirds of all the parishes and missions, including the cathedral, represented by at least one delegate. Cathedral delegates are elected at the Annual Meeting of the Congregation. So, if you voted at Annual Meeting in January 2023, you have contributed to the election of the next bishop.
In the December electing convention, the clergy and lay delegates vote separately, and the candidate must win a majority of both to be elected. (Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of California, 2018, Article XII) The election result then proceeds to the whole Episcopal Church, where it must be certified by a majority of the Bishops with jurisdiction, and the Standing Committees of those dioceses. (The Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, 2019, Article II, Sec. 3.) And then follows an ordination and consecration — an update unto itself.
I see in the intricacy of this governance process the extraordinary care that our forebears took to ensure that the Spirit moving through each of us could give rise to a Chief Pastor, the principal steward of the mysteries we celebrate in the same Spirit.
Almighty God, giver of every good gift, by your grace you have called us into one fellowship of faith: Look graciously on the people of the Diocese of California during this time of transition. May we be guided in heart and mind by your Holy Spirit to seek and welcome a faithful pastor who will care for your people and equip us to perform the work of the Church. Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us do. Save us from all false choices, that in your light we may see light, and on your path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
All good things,
The Rev. Canon Anna E. Rossi
Director of Interfaith Engagement