Greetings St. Liz,
The Woods family is very excited to begin our time with you this coming week. It has been a long hot summer for us as I am sure it has been the same for you.
I am writing this after standing outside with our oldest daughter, Harper, as we watched a nice little summer rainstorm pour down upon us. It was just long enough that it knocked the heat out of the air and left a cool breeze in its wake. It was cool enough that we actually felt like spending more than ten minutes outside after the storm passed. ...Read More
A Resolution at Diocesan Council + the Different Kinds of Bishopsby The Rev. Daniel P Strandlund on February 19, 2020
In simplest terms, this resolution would allow Bishop Reed to get some ongoing, regular help from a second bishop, and it would allow this to happen quickly and efficiently. The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas needs two bishops. We cover sixty counties and about 69,000 square miles of territory. Furthermore, we have eighty-seven distinct worshipping communities of various kinds, and that each should receive an annual episcopal visit (i.e. a visit from the bishop) is to be desired. Given all the other responsibilities bishops have in addition to confirmation visits and the like, two bishops is a good idea for us.
Now, there are a few ways a diocese can have multiple bishops, and this brings us into the technical ‘Episcopal speak.’ There are five kinds of bishops our diocese has had in recent memory: Diocesan, Coadjutor, Suffragan, Assisting, and Assistant. The first three are elected; the last two are appointed. In what remains here, I’m going to highlight the practical distinctions amongst these roles.
The first is the Diocesan Bishop. This is what Bishop Reed is for us. The Diocesan Bishop is the top of the diocesan pyramid, so to speak. Diocesan bishops are elected by a Diocesan Council—including lay and clergy delegates—and once elected have far-reaching authority. A priest may be elected to become a Diocesan Bishop, or a diocese may elect someone who is already a bishop (a Suffragan or Assistant from another diocese, for example).
The second kind of elected bishop is a Bishop Coadjutor. When someone is elected Bishop Coadjutor, he or she is elected to work alongside the current Diocesan Bishop until he or she retires, at which point—and this is the key—the Coadjutor becomes the Diocesan. (Thus, one is usually a Bishop Coadjutor for only a year or two, and sometimes even less.) Bishop Reed, for example was elected as Coadjutor before the Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge retired. A priest may be elected to become a Bishop Coadjutor, or a diocese may elect someone who is already a bishop. Bishop Reed, for example, was our Bishop Suffragan at the time of his election as Coadjutor.
The third kind of elected bishop is a Bishop Suffragan. This is what Bishop Brooke-Davidson was for us. The Bishop Suffragan is elected by a Diocesan Council, but once elected does not exercise quite the same level of authority as the Diocesan Bishop, though he or she will likely have numerous areas of oversight in a diocese and outranks all diocesan clergy but the Diocesan. A key distinction here is that, because a Bishop Suffragan is elected by the diocese, his or her tenure as Bishop Suffragan is not tied to that of the Diocesan Bishop. So if the Diocesan Bishop retires, the Bishop Suffragan continues as a Suffragan: he or she does not have to step down, and neither does he or she automatically become the Diocesan. A priest may be elected to become a Bishop Suffragan, or a diocese may elect someone who is already a bishop elsewhere.
This brings us to bishops who are not elected, but appointed by the Diocesan (or acting ecclesiastical authority). The first of these is an Assisting Bishop. An Assisting Bishop is appointed to help with confirmations and the like in a mostly ‘as-needed’ basis and is already a consecrated bishop. The Diocesan Bishop does not appoint a priest, who is then consecrated, to fill this role. As noted in the link above, when Bishop Reed sends Bishop Folts (retired of our diocese) to do a confirmation, Bishop Folts serves in this role. Assisting Bishops are usually retired.
The final kind of bishop, and the one which is relevant for Council this year, is an Assistant Bishop. An Assistant Bishop is appointed but usually serves in a more regular and fulltime capacity than an Assisting Bishop would. An Assistant Bishop is already a bishop at the time of his or her appointment; the Diocesan does not appoint a priest, who is then consecrated, to fill this role. Because an Assistant Bishop is appointed and not elected by the whole diocese, an Assistant Bishop’s tenure is tied to the tenure of the bishop who appointed him or her. So: if the Diocesan Bishop retires or steps down for some reason, any Assistant Bishops the Diocesan appointed must also step down. Bishop Brooke-Davidson now serves as an Assistant Bishop role in the Diocese of Virginia.
The resolution at Council this weekend would allow Bishop Reed to appoint an Assistant Bishop to serve for a period not to exceed three years. If Bishop Reed were to retire or step down for any reason before that three years expired, the Assistant Bishop would also have to step down. If the resolution passes, Bishop Reed could appoint a retired bishop in our area, or a bishop from another diocese, to serve as our Assistant Bishop. The key is that no priests in our diocese will become bishops by virtue of this resolution, should it pass. Bishop Reed would appoint someone who is already a bishop.
The downside of this resolution is that the diocese as a whole does not get a say in who the Assistant Bishop is. The upside, however, is stronger: this saves us from having another election, which would be taxing on time, energy, and finances. A bishop election tends to take over the diocese while it is going on. We’ve had two elections (Bp Reed’s and Bp Brooke-Davidson’s) in recent years, and waiting a while before holding another seems to me to be wise. Let’s just try being Church for a while.
One final thing to note is that the Standing Committee is fully supportive of Bishop Reed’s appointing an Assistant Bishop. The Standing Committee is sort of like our Bishop’s Committee, but for the whole diocese. Again, I think this resolution is a good move for us as a diocese right now, and I have encouraged our delegates to vote in support.