Our particular branch of Christianity is called The Episcopal Church because we are a church with bishops. The word Episcopal comes from the Greek episkopos, which means “overseer,” and the Latin episcopus, which means “bishop.” To say that we are a church with bishops is also to say we are a hierarchical church. Bishops have oversight in their diocese. They serve as chief pastors to both clergy and laity there, and they have responsibility for the doctrine, discipline and worship within their dioceses.
In short, they are the boss(es). At our ordinations, Bob, Susan and I, like all priests and deacons, vowed to respect and be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of our bishop. By extension, the churches we serve do the same. So, it is a blessing that we have some say in who embodies this office. Bishops in the Episcopal Church are elected. When there is an opening, a diocese will create a diocesan profile and form a search committee (similar to what happens when a parish searches for a new priest, but on a larger scale). That committee does the hard work of finalizing a slate of candidates, and clergy and lay delegates come together at a special convention to vote for their new leader.
We are in the midst of that process now. Bishop Dietsche has announced his retirement, and five faithful and dedicated priests have been named as possibilities for our next bishop. This week they all participated in a whirlwind tour of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, visiting various regions and ministries in the diocese. On Wednesday, Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen was included on their itinerary. As you can see in the picture above, not only did they tour our amazing church and soup kitchen, they also jumped right in to volunteer—packing pantry bags, breaking down boxes, talking to guests and volunteers.
It was a wonderful day, and a real honor to be counted among the representative ministries of our diocese. I left our time together confident that we will be in good hands with any of the candidates. Mother Susan, Deacon Bob, our delegate John Sandercock and I will go to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to cast our ballots on Saturday, December 3. Please pray for us as we discern our votes. More importantly, please pray for—from left to right in the picture above—the Revs. Jemonde Taylor, Stephanie Johnson, Matt Heyd, Steven Paulikas and Matthew Mead; that they may know sustenance and courage through this process, and in gratitude for their self-offering to Christ’s church.