The Standing Committee has become aware of comments and conversations taking place in the diocese which reflect anxiety that the upcoming Episcopal election for bishop will not be a fair one. They are presently centered on concerns that workshops planned to prepare delegates to vote at the convention will be occasions to promote a particular candidate and could somehow lead to a contested or invalid election.
We believe that there may be several programs planned at the parish level to prepare for the election. We are aware of two that are specifically for spiritual formation and training of lay and clergy delegates. One is at St. Andrew’s in State College on March 7, and is part of their normal practice of requiring spiritual formation of any staff or laity upon their appointment to lay leadership roles. Because of interest from other clergy, they are making the program available to all delegates. The second at St. John’s in Lancaster on February 28 has similarly been opened to neighboring parishes.
The programs are focused on the people electing the next bishop and on the diocese, and not on the candidates. The purpose of the program is to provide the delegates with resources on how to discern and how to develop self-awareness in decision making. It will use Bible study, the ordination rite in the Book of Common Prayer, the profile, and discussion of choosing a leader from the book, The Rule of St. Benedict: Spirituality for the 21st Century. There is to be no discussion or comparison of the candidates, no evaluation of how each candidate fits the criteria developed from the diocesan profile, no discussion around attributes needed in our next bishop, and no discussion of how the delegates might vote.
The rectors of both churches have asked Charlotte Weaver-Gelzer to lead their programs, based on her expertise leading such programs as a church consultant. Since the Search Committee, of which she was chair, has been decommissioned and there is to be no discussion of the candidates, we believe her past position should not influence the sessions.
These programs are not necessary, but seem desirable in the minds of a number of people. If there are delegates who would like to participate in such a program and who do not have access to a similar one in their own parish or convocation, they should contact either St. Andrew’s, State College or St. John’s, Lancaster for more information.
Meanwhile, the Transition Committee invites us to a Day of Prayerful Discernment and Conversation on March 8, after the Walk Abouts and before the election. Pray for our candidates –The Rev. Canon David Pfaff, The Rev. Canon Audrey Scanlan, and The Rev. Dr. Douglas Sparks – giving thanks for their willingness to walk with us through this time of discernment and asking that they may have safe travels. Give them and their spouses a warm welcome. And pray that the weather is cooperative for the Walk Abouts!
Sam Ward, President