jQuery Slider

You are here

Episcopal House of Bishops to see numerous changes in membership

Episcopal House of Bishops to see numerous changes in membership
Women slated to become bishop in at least four dioceses

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
October 23, 2018

The Episcopal House of Bishops is facing a huge shift in membership over the next two years, as nearly 21 dioceses -- a fifth of the domestic church -- are in the throes of seeking new bishops.

The longest sitting Episcopal diocesan ordinary is Bishop Wendell Gibbs (X Michigan), who has been in the Wolverine State since 2000. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was also consecrated at the turn of the century as the XI Bishop of North Carolina and then he became the XXVII Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in 2015. Bishop Carlye Hughes (XI Newark) is the newest sitting bishop who was enthroned on Sept. 22, 2018. She is also the 27th woman bishop in The Episcopal Church. The next bishop to be enthroned is Bishop-elect Michael Hunn, who is slated to be consecrated the X Bishop of the Rio Grande in November.

Only two domestic diocesan bishops were elected in 2005. Bishop Jeffrey Steenson (VIII Rio Grande) left The Episcopal Church in 2007 to become Roman Catholic and became a mitered monsignor and the founding ordinary of the Anglican ordinariate in the United States.

Bishop James Mathes (IV San Diego) retired in 2017, causing former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to step in as transitional bishop until a new San Diego bishop can be elected. The former presiding bishop was first elected the III Bishop of Nevada in 2001. She served there five years before becoming the XXVI Presiding Bishop in 2006.

Bishop Catherine Waynick, too, is pinch-hitting as the first provisional bishop in Eastern Michigan. She was consecrated the X Bishop of Indianapolis in 1997 and retired 20 years later.

Bishop Gladstone Adams came out of retirement to step up to the plate as the second provisional bishop in The Episcopal Church IN South Carolina (TECinSC) in 2017. Initially, he was the X Bishop of Central New York, a position he held from 2001-2016.

Bishop Mark Van Koevering was born in Michigan but ordained an Anglican priest in Wales and eventually became the III Bishop of Niassa in Mozambique in 2003. In 2015, he returned to the United States as assistant bishop in West Virginia, then became the second bishop provisional in Lexington earlier this year (2018).

Sitting Bishop Scott Mayer (V Northwest Texas) also stepped in as the fourth provisional bishop of TEC Fort Worth in 2015. Bishop Mayer has been at the helm in Northwest Texas since 2009.

Bishop Michael Milliken (V Western Kansas) is also overseeing twin dioceses. Since 2011, he has been the sitting bishop of Western Kansas, then in 2017, he became the transitional bishop in the neighboring Diocese of Kansas. In December, he is to retire as a bishop ordinary when Bishop-elect Mark Cowell is consecrated the VI Bishop of Western Kansas.

Bishop Sean Rowe (VIII Northwestern Pennsylvania) was first consecrated bishop in 2007 at the tender age of 32. In 2014, he became the provisional bishop of Bethlehem until September 12, 2018 when Kevin Nichols became the VII Bishop of Bethlehem. However, in April 2019, Bishop Rowe is slated to become the first provisional bishop for Western New York upon the retirement of Bishop William Franklin (XI Western New York).

There are a host of Episcopal bishops-ordinary who are planning a change in their status in the House of Bishops from active to retired, including the current longest-sitting diocesan bishop Wendell Gibbs (X Michigan). Other bishops who have either announced their retirements or have already stepped away from their dioceses include: Barry Beisner (VII Northern California); Robert O'Neill (X Colorado); Mary Gray-Reeves (III El Camino Real); Stephen Lane (IX Maine); Franklin Brookhart (IX Montana); John Tarrant (X South Dakota); George Smith (X Missouri); Don E. Johnson (III West Tennessee); Brian Prior (IX Minnesota); Kirk Smith (V Arizona); Michael Smith (XI North Dakota); Thomas Ely (X Vermont); Shannon Johnston (XIII Virginia); Dean Wolfe (IX Kansas); James Mathes (IV San Diego) and Pierre Whalon, the American bishop in Europe.

Initially, Dan Edwards (IV Nevada) was also seeking to retire and called for a new bishop. However, in mid-October the Nevada Standing Committee cancelled the search due to a "limited applicant pool."

"Our bishop search process this year was challenging in several respects. One is that there were an unprecedented number of bishop searches in process, resulting in a limited applicant pool," the Standing Committee wrote. "We have, after much soul searching, unanimously concluded that it is in the best interest of the Diocese to postpone the election of our 11th Bishop until next year following another search under more propitious circumstances."

Earlier this year the Diocese of Virginia was also looking for a second bishop suffragan, but that search was also called off due to internal conflicts within the diocese and Bishop Johnston. The eventual outcome of the clashes with the bishop resulted in Bishop Johnston announcing his early retirement and the Diocese of Virginia is now seeking a provisional bishop to take his place. Bishop Susan E. Goff is currently Virginia's bishop suffragan. She is also licensed as a visiting bishop in a companion diocese in Liverpool, England.

So, too, is the Diocese of Texas, which is looking for a suffragan bishop for retiring suffragan Bishop Dena Harrison, a post she has held since 2006. Maryland also may be looking for a suffragan bishop after Bishop Chilton Knudsen retires in December. The former VIII Bishop of Maine (1998-2008) stepped in as Maryland's assisting bishop in 2015 after former suffragan bishop Heather Cook was defrocked following a fatal hit and run accident in late 2014 which sent her to prison.

There are a couple of anomalies where American Episcopal bishops serve on foreign soil. Bishop Pierre Whalon, who hails from Rhode Island, is the IV Bishop of the American Churches in Europe; and Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick (V Hawaii) is the episcopal visitor in Micronesia and has had episcopal oversite responsibilities since 2009.

Bishops who retired in 2017 include: Todd Ousley (III Eastern Michigan); James Waggoner (XIII Spokane); Catherine Waynick (X Indianapolis); Jon Bruno (VI Los Angeles); George Young (IV East Tennessee); Wayne Wright (X Delaware); as well as Dean Wolfe in Kansas and James Mathes in San Diego. Bishop Anne Hodges Copple served as North Carolina's bishop pro tempore from the time Michael Curry was elevated to Presiding Bishop in 2015 until 2017, when Samuel Rodman (XII North Carolina) was enthroned. She still remains North Carolina's suffragan bishop.

So far, in 2018, Mark Beckwith (X Newark) and Bruce Caldwell (I Provisional Lexington) have turned in their retirement paperwork. Michael Vono (IX Rio Grande) and Michael Milliken (V Western Kansas) are also slated to retire this year when their dioceses' new bishops-elects are enthroned before January rolls around.

There is also a concerted effort to see more women become bishops-ordinary. Three dioceses -- Kansas, West Tennessee and Colorado -- have only women priests being offered as candidates for bishop. Also, in the Diocese of San Diego, only one person has been nominated as bishop -- a female canon who is considered "eminently qualified" to become bishop. Currently, the former Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori is holding down the fort in San Diego as transitional bishop after Bishop Mathes retired in 2017.


Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Letter to the Churches, text and commentary
Prayer Book Alliance
Trinity School for Ministry

Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee

Drink Coffee

Do Good

Sustainable Ministry

Coffee, Community, Social Justice


Go To Top