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INDIANAPOLIS, IN: HOD votes to allow next PB retain diocesan position

INDIANAPOLIS, IN: HOD votes to allow next PB retain diocesan position
Title 1, Canon 2, Sec. 3 (a) & (b) on the chopping block

By Mary Ann Mueller
Special Correspondent
July 7, 2012

In another stunning move the House of Deputies voted Saturday afternoon to totally scuttle Title 1, Canon 2, Sec. 3 (a) & (b) which requires a Presiding Bishop-elect to immediately resign as bishop ordinary of their current Episcopal diocese.

The last Presiding Bishop to hold the dual role was Henry St. George Tucker who was the VIII Virginia (1927-1943) and the IXX Presiding Bishop (1938-1946).

Diocese of Virginia records show that in October 1943, the LIV General Convention, held in Cleveland, changed the church's Constitution and Canons to reflect the belief that the church's chief pastor's duties had become so demanding that it required a fulltime presiding bishop to fulfill those increasing needs including the growing leadership role with the Executive Council.

Now 69 years later, The Episcopal Church is again poised to change the canon back to reflect the original standard practice, which harkens back to 1789 and William White, the first and fourth Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. During the time of his two terms as presiding bishop he was also the first Bishop of Pennsylvania.

Now that Resolution B013 has passed in the House of Deputies, it will go to the House of Bishops for the bishops' stamp of approval.

The Canon on the chopping block reads: (a) Upon the expiration of the term of office of the Presiding Bishop, the Bishop who is elected successor shall tender to the House of Bishops a resignation from the Bishop's previous jurisdiction to take effect upon the date of assuming the office of Presiding Bishop, or, upon good cause with the advice and consent of the Advisory Committee established under the Rules of Order of the House of Bishops, not later than six months thereafter. (b) Such resignation shall be acted upon immediately by the House of Bishops.

Resolution B013's rational is: now is the perfect time for The Episcopal Church's re-imagining of the Office of the Presiding Bishop as part of the on-going restructuring discussion of the church. Today The Episcopal Church more accurately reflects a 20th Century corporate organization than a missionary-minded ecclesial body.

"The time is right to reconsider the nature and shape of the Office of The Presiding Bishop for the 21st Century," states the Resolution B013's explanation.

It is the job of this current General Convention to elect a Joint Nominating Committee for presenting nominees to the next General Convention for election of the XXVII Presiding Bishop, who is to be elected at the 2015 General Convention in Salt Lake City.

Katharine Jefferts Schori broke through the stained glass ceiling to be elected the first female Presiding Bishop in the Anglican Communion on June 18, 2006. Her reign is up in 2015.

However, should Resolution B013 be passed by the House of Bishops, it does not automatically mean that the next Presiding Bishop would be forced to keep their position in their home diocese. The deleted canon would allow for more maneuverability in meeting the national church's changing needs.

"He/she could still resign her/his diocese and become a fulltime Presiding Bishop, if appropriate," Resolution's explain continues. "Rather, deleting Title 1, Canon 2, Sec. 3 (a) & (b) simply allows for more flexibility and imagination in the nature and shape of the Office of the Presiding Bishop as part of restructuring efforts of The Episcopal Church ..."

Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas proposed Resolution B013. Minnesota Bishop Brian Prior and Southwestern Virginia Bishop Neff Powell both endorsed the Resolution. Both Bishops Douglas and Prior are new to the General Convention House of Bishops, although Bishop Prior is very familiar with the working of the House of Deputies. Before he was elected bishop he was he HOD vice president.

While debating the change in canon, one House of Deputies' member voiced concern about the PB's ability to remain a diocesan bishop while running things from Manhattan Island in the middle of the Hudson River.

He noted that if the Bishop of Hawaii Robert Fitzpatrick was elected the next Presiding Bishop and kept his tropical Pacific islands diocese, his two official "island" offices would be six time zones away from each other.

In 2015, the new Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church will be elected from the membership of the House of Bishops.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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