By Matt Townsend
General Convention’s Structure Committee passed a resolution July 7 that, if ratified, would remove the requirement that a presiding bishop-elect resign from a diocesan role. Proposed by the Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas, Bishop of Connecticut, Resolution B013 won approval during the committee’s morning session.
The Rev. Canon Craig Loya, deputy from Kansas, said he considered B013 one of the most exciting resolutions discussed by the committee. “Regardless of how one feels about the proper role for presiding bishop, the reason I really like it is because it captures a spirit with which it will be most constructive for the church to approach the whole issue of restructuring,” he said.
Loya said the resolution would create space for the church to discern this issue rather than committing the church to a single position.
Some committee members opposed the resolution, including the Rev. Canon Mary June Nestler. “I’d like to say that I don’t favor the resolution at all,” the Utah deputy said. “As a church historian, I’m very, very mindful that this is something in our past. … I’m very mindful that we are unusual in the world.”
Nestler said, however, she finds the distinct role of the presiding bishop in the Episcopal Church to be beneficial, especially in recent years.
The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, Bishop of Texas, said he feared the resolution could favor presiding bishop candidates in large, well-funded dioceses. “However, I think we should pass it,” he said. “It gives us the ability to make that decision. By doing this, we enable ourselves to be open to other possibilities in a way that we’re not now.”
Doyle said he sees real dangers in the resolution and that it may not work. “But there is excitement about the possibility of thinking differently.”
The Rt. Rev. Michael Smith, Bishop of North Dakota, said he does not have concerns about the resolution. “I have no problems asking for experiments. Some things will work, some will not. We will not know until we try it.”
In addition to passing B013, the committee discussed the amalgamation of more than a dozen resolutions that call for a study of restructuring. A subcommittee was formed to draft one omnibus resolution. The Rev. Wendy Abrahamson, member of that subcommittee, said she sees a strong desire to understand what kind of change the church wants.
“What we want to do is provide a framework through which the entire church can let things bubble up to the surface,” she said. Abrahamson explained that the resolution may seek to establish a group of Episcopalians with “critical distance” to explore and address these issues.