Retreat for bishop applicants approaches

August 21, 2019
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An important inflection point in the search for the 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri is fast approaching. After months of prayerful and deliberative work, the Search/Nominating Committee is very close to inviting a handful of applicants to attend a 3½-day retreat in St. Louis starting on Sept. 16.

The 16 members of the Search/Nominating Committee will meet the applicants, whom they have vetted over the course of many weeks through a process of video interviews and document reviews governed by a carefully laid-out process designed to ensure fair and equal consideration to all.

“We looked at the traits that the people in the diocese said they were seeking in a bishop,” said committee chair Deborah Nelson Linck. “We developed those traits through the listening sessions. We evaluated each applicant against those traits. The people who had the most will be the group that remains.”

At the retreat, the applicants will meet and have further discussions with committee members, conduct a Eucharist, meet with other officers of the diocese and engage in some social events. By Sept. 21, the Search/Nominating Committee will narrow the applicants to a slate of candidates to be presented to the Standing Committee, which will ratify the slate and present it to the public, likely on Sept. 30.

Lay and clergy representatives will vote on those candidates at the second day of the diocesan convention on Nov. 23. Linck said the committee cannot discuss the makeup or number of applicants—or the number of candidates who will ultimately be on the slate.

“We are excited about the applicants we got,” she said. “There's a diverse group of people we've been able to attract.”

Before and during the vote

Meanwhile, the other important component in the search process—the bishop’s transition committee—has made progress as well. The 13-member committee has drafted the process and procedure for the vote that will occur on Nov. 23. A detailed document spells out the details of how the electronic voting will occur, but essentially, the gist is this: Convention organizers will conduct multiple ballots until one of the candidates receives a majority of the votes in the same round of balloting from both orders represented at convention—lay and clergy.

Even before that vote happens, however, members of the diocese will have the chance to meet the candidates during a series of meet-and-greet sessions—referred to in previous searches as “walkabouts.” The candidates will visit four parishes during a busy week where they will speak about their vision for the diocese and answer some questions.

The start times at each location will be confirmed, but they are tentatively set for 6 p.m. The bishop candidate meetings are scheduled for:

  • Nov. 4 at Christ Church, Cape Girardeau
  • Nov. 5 at Trinity, Central West End
  • Nov. 6 at Calvary, Columbia
  • Nov. 7 at St. Timothy’s, Creve Coeur

Finally, diocesan members can expect soon to see more information about contributing to a farewell gift for Bishop George Wayne Smith, who has expressed a desire to have a contribution made on his behalf to Deaconess Anne House, a home for members of the Episcopal Service Corps working to improve the quality of life for St. Louis residents—especially the poor, the sick, and the marginalized.

Who is who?

As a reminder, three key organizations within the diocese are participating in the process to name the 11th bishop—who assumes the post on April 25, 2020—and celebrate the ministry of the outgoing 10th bishop.

  • Standing Committee. The governing body of the diocese and the ecclesiastical authority for the diocese in the absence of a bishop. Standing Committee vets and names members of the two committees that do the hands-on work of the search and transition.

  • Search/Nominating Committee. Sixteen members appointed by Standing Committee to develop a profile of the diocese, interview and vet applicants and present a slate to the Standing Committee, which places the slate before convention for a vote. This committee’s work ends with the introduction of the slate.

  • Transition Committee. Thirteen members tasked with the work required once the slate is named. This includes planning the bishop candidate meetings, the election, the April 2020 consecration ceremony, celebrations of ministry and a wide variety of related tasks in between.

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