Q. What is the ministry of a bishop?
A. The ministry of a bishop is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as apostle, chief priest, and pastor of a diocese; to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the whole Church; to proclaim the Word of God; to act in Christ’s name for the reconciliation of the world and the building up of the Church; and to ordain others to continue Christ’s ministry.
--Q&A from The Book of Common Prayer (in "An Outline of the Faith, commonly called the Catechism")
When someone is baptized or we all renew our baptismal covenant, the first action we take is to recite the Apostles' Creed, the ancient summary of apostolic faith and teaching. We follow that with the promise to continue in that apostolic teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers.
From the earliest times, the order of ministry that has continued and guarded that faith has been the episcopate.
Bishops have modeled that ministry in their own proclamation of the Gospel and in administration of the Sacraments throughout their dioceses.
In their regular teaching and preaching, and in the baptizing and presiding at the Eucharist, they seek to encourage and support the apostolic ministry of all the baptized to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, to serve Christ in all persons, to strive for justice and peace, and to respect the dignity of every human being.
Bishop as link
From the beginning, the bishops' apostolic ministry has been extended by the priests and deacons of the diocese.
A major responsibility of bishops is to ordain sufficient numbers of priests and deacons to work beside the bishops in strengthening the work of the laity in their various congregations.
The discernment of ministries — both lay and ordained — is vital to a healthy and spirit-filled Church. The bishop has the unique opportunity to be the link between those congregations, and to encourage the discovery of spiritual gifts both within individual congregations, as well as mutual ministries among them.
The chief pastor
As the chief priest and pastor of the entire diocese, the bishop also is responsible for overseeing these apostolic ministries, so they remain faithful, united and disciplined.
Bishops regularly do so by being the chief presider in the congregations of their dioceses as they make their circuit of parish visitations.
They also do so when their dioceses gather for their annual conventions and on other occasions, as well as at regular meetings with the clergy of the dioceses.
Governance and oversight
Bishops share the ministry of oversight with the laity and the clergy through the various forms of governance in our Church.
The fundamental purpose of that governance at every level of the Church—congregational, diocesan, provincial, national and even international—is to assist the mission of the Church to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
The bishops are in a unique position to do so as they represent their dioceses in the councils of the province, the Episcopal Church and of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Each level of our Church has gifts of ministry to enrich the whole Church. One way that is demonstrated is that bishops participate in the ordination of other bishops.
The reconciliation of the world
Finally, bishops have the responsibility both individually and collectively to act in concert with others in our civic communities for the reconciliation of the world in the name of Christ.
The world naturally looks to our bishops to provide such leadership as our communities strive to live in peace with justice, respecting the dignity of every human being.