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Four Candidates Nominated to be Next Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

Four Candidates Nominated to be Next Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church
All four candidates have approved rites for same sex blessings in their dioceses

By David W. Virtue DD
May 4, 2015

The Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has announced the nominees for the 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in a report posted by the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB).

The four nominees are:

The Rt. Rev. Thomas Breidenthal, 64, Diocese of Southern Ohio
The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, 62, Diocese of North Carolina
The Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas, 56, Diocese of Connecticut
The Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith, 61, Diocese of Southwest Florida

All four are liberal in faith and morals, with each bishop having declared that they have or will allow rites for same sex blessings in their respective dioceses with one bishop, Dabney Smith, having said he would never allow a Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry seminary priest in his diocese. However, it turned out that the Rev Joseph F. Maiocco III, a Trinity graduate, ended up at St. John's Naples.

In April 2010 Bishop Smith swooped in into St. Dunstan's Anglican Church in Largo, Florida; locked the doors and evicted the clergy and parishioners of that parish.

"In typical Episcopal fashion they suddenly ended it all and preemptively struck us. While we had been preparing for the possibility it still came as a shock," said the Rev. Ed Sellers, the 68-year old evangelical catholic priest. "They promised to give us a key so we could worship in the sanctuary but they reneged on that promise. We've been effectively locked out and removed the 'Anglican Church' signs."

On same sex issues, Smith has not formally approved such blessings, but he has not forbidden them either. According to sources, there are several parishes in the diocese that will jump at the chance to do it. On the other hand, he won't mandate their use either, yet.

Church of the Redeemer-Sarasota, the largest in the diocese, already issued a long statement indicating..."it ain't happening here".

In another alienating move, in 2010 Smith took more than $30,000 "conscience money", that was set aside by Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics in the Diocese of Southwest Florida and earmarked for the Dominican Republic, and sent it to National Church headquarters in New York City, violating a long held agreement with orthodox Episcopalians in the diocese going back to Bishop John Lipscomb.

If he should win, none of the few remaining orthodox dioceses would be able to trust him.

Bishop Thomas Breidenthal of Southern Ohio said he would begin allowing blessings on gay marriages beginning after Easter 2010.

In November, Breidenthal carefully explained his case for lifting the ban, including a reference to a pair of denomination-wide votes at the General Convention in July 2009 in Anaheim, Calif., in which delegates approved allowing the election of openly gay bishops and the creation of liturgies that would lead to the blessing of same-sex unions.

Acknowledging that conservatives in the church and some clergy oppose such blessings, the bishop said in his speech that no minister would be forced to perform such blessings.

In other orthodox breaking acts, Breidenthal was one of thirteen bishops of the Episcopal Church who joined an amici curiae brief filed with the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in support of a lesbian couple's bid to be married.

"Eliminating discrimination in civil marriage will not impinge upon religious doctrine or practice," the brief says. "All religions would remain free -- as they are today with nineteen states and the District of Columbia permitting same-sex couples to marry -- to define religious marriage any way they choose."

Breidenthal was one of 88 bishops who voted to depose Bishop Robert Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The "action" of these 88 bishops so impacted the global church that it called into question the future of the Communion. It also expressed a total lack of respect for The Episcopal Church's canons raising serious questions to the majority of global bishops such as how they can possibly pursue their office as a bishop in a proper humble and Christ-like way.

Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut, and the youngest of the four candidates, found himself at loggerheads with Fr. Ron Gauss and Bishop Seabury parish and won the parish in a court battle. For his sins, he inherited the whirlwind of an empty church. Despite long talks a deal could not be cut, so the bishop got the building.

He, too, has approved rites for same sex blessings in his diocese.

As early as 2004, Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina authorized same-sex blessings. The spiritual leader of nearly 50,000 Episcopalians in North Carolina has given his formal OK to churches in his diocese to bless such unions.

In a letter to his clergy, Curry wrote, "the blessing of the committed life-long unions of persons of the same gender is one way our community can live the Gospel through faithful and loving pastoral care and spiritual support for each other."

Curry's July 1, 2004, letter to clergy stirred much more debate. The Rev. David Pittman of St. Peter's Episcopal Church said he would fulfill two requests for same-sex ceremonies.

Other churches said they would have no part of such unions despite Curry opening the door.

Episcopalians angry over Curry's strong stance made their feelings known. Diocesan spokesperson Culp said financial donations were down 15 percent since last August (2004), when Robinson was confirmed amid national front-page headlines. At a later forum attended by 300 at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, George Young of St. Margaret's Episcopal in Charlotte held up a check and told Curry: "You will never see this."

Curry's July 1 letter spelled out guidelines for a principle he espoused a day after voting with the majority to confirm Robinson and stated that congregations can decide for themselves whether they want to bless same-sex unions, but they must first consult with the bishop.

Curry has been relatively moderate with those who disagree with him. Being black he may well be the denomination's choice for next Presiding Bishop.

On Saturday, June 27, 2015, members of the House of Bishops with seat, voice, and vote will convene in St. Mark's Cathedral in Salt Lake City. Once an election has taken place, current Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will send a deputation to the House of Deputies for confirmation of the election.

The Rev. Gay Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, will refer the name to the House of Deputies legislative committee on the Confirmation of the Presiding Bishop without announcing the name to the full House. The legislative committee will make a recommendation to the House of Deputies whether to confirm the election or not confirm, and the House of Deputies will immediately vote on the recommendation. President Jennings will then appoint a delegation from the House of Deputies to notify the House of Bishops of the action taken.

The Presiding Bishop serves for a nine-year term. The Presiding Bishop is Primate, Chief Pastor of the Church, Chair of the Executive Council, and President of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

The 78th General Convention meets June 25 -- July 3, in Salt Lake City, Utah.


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