A grand sinecure?

In our provincial caucus last night, I was nominated as one of two candidates in the clerical order from our province for the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop. For those of you who want a little unpacking of that…

In the Episcopal Church there are nine provinces, each of which encompasses several dioceses. At General Convention, there is one time set aside for each province to convene a meeting of its deputies. Each province nominates two lay people and two clergy (priests or deacons) for an election. The whole House of Deputies will vote, choosing one person in each order from each province. So I’m running against another priest from New England, and one of us will fill the slot for this grand-sounding committee. When we’re all done, there will be one lay person and one priest/deacon from each province. The House of Bishops will supply one of their number from each province as well.

If elected, my term would commence at the end of this General Convention and continue until the end of the next General Convention three years hence. Since our Presiding Bishop’s term is not near its end, this committee is not likely to meet. We would only need to work if there were, for some reason, a vacancy in the office of Presiding Bishop. In that case, we would be responsible for nominating candidates from among the bishops for election as Presiding Bishop.

So you can see that in some triennia, this committee is a big deal, for these people are entrusted with the responsibility of creating a slate of nominees for the most important office in the Episcopal Church. But in other triennia, it is a sinecure. (If that’s a new word for you, go look it up.) My hope is that, if elected, we will not meet. If we were to meet, that would mean that something had happened to cause the death, removal, or resignation of our Presiding Bishop, and I want her to serve every day of her term.

It was humbling to see my name on the front page of a handout to the entire House of Deputies, with a short bio and a photo. I have no idea if I’ll be elected or not. If elected, I will be honored. If I am not elected, I’m grateful to have experienced a little more of the Episcopal Church in this new way.

People running for other offices such as Executive Council and Church Pension Trustees have conducted elaborate campaigns. There have been buttons, brochures, emails, blogs, and more. While I toyed with running a full-out campaign, including a blimp, I am not doing that. Instead, I’ll simply say this: if you know deputies at General Convention, and if you think I’d be a good choice for this committee, contact them. Likewise, if you think I’d be a lousy choice, you can let them know that too.

For your reference, I have reproduced my short bio here. Below that, for real geeks, is the canon that describes the committee’s work.

I serve as rector of Christ Church in Lincoln, RI.  I am catholic in my approach to sacraments, evangelical in preaching, and liberal on social issues. In the Diocese of Rhode Island, I serve as Vice President of Diocesan Council, and in churchwide leadership, I serve as the Province I representative to the Board of Governors of Episcopal Life. I have served as diocesan Communications Officer and as an official photographer at the Lambeth Conference. Prior to ordination, I worked in information technology, and I bring this experience to the Church in my desire for the Church to engage the world in many arenas, especially social media. My prayer is that this Committee is not called to work, but if so called, I will serve to the best of my ability, trusting in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Here’s the canon:

CANON 2: Of the Presiding Bishop
Sec. 1 (a) At each General Convention the House of Deputies shall  elect one Clerical and one Lay Deputy from each Province as members of the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop. A Deputy from a particular Province may be nominated only by another Deputy from the same Province, but the election of each member of the Committee shall be by the entire membership of the House of Deputies, with a majority of those voting necessary for election. Prior to the election, the Clerical and Lay Deputies from each Province shall hold a caucus, at which two Clerical Deputies and two Lay Deputies as nominees shall be selected by the caucus, and these shall be the only nominees upon which the House of Deputies shall vote in electing the members of the Joint Nominating Committee. The President of the House of Deputies, after consultation with
representatives of youth, shall appoint two persons, age 16-21, as members of the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop.

If I am elected, I intend to mention this at parties, especially with non-church people. It would be interested to see which word or words in the committee’s title catches people’s interest. That could be a kind of personality test. Think about it:

  • Joint: carpentry? smoking?
  • Nominating Committee: boooorrrring?
  • for the Election: politics, ewwww.
  • of a Presiding Bishop: sounds very, very fancy. Important, even. Or hopelessly churchy.

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3 Responses

  1. Marge Mathewson says:

    I will definitely recommend you to the Arizona delegation. You have the kind of warped sense of humor that is needed on all these committees, commissions and boards. Don’t you want to retire early and come to AZ?

  2. Come on, Scott! At least you could have Facebook pieces of flair …

    Clearly you need a campaign manager the next time your run for something. I’ll manage your campaign for President of the IHOP, providing I can get some strawberry waffles as a kickback.

  3. Sandy Chapman says:

    Fascinating!it’s like the federal crop set-aside;something for nothing. A nice honor,nonetheless.