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Electing a PB

The Episcopal Church is about to elect a new Presiding Bishop and Primate. To my mind we have a chance to assess anew the contribution this office may make to the unity and concord of our own church, as well as that of the wholeCommunion.

It is certainly true that for good or ill, the episcopate in general and primates in particular have been given or taken unto themselves aspectsof the ‘character’ of similar office-holders in the state. Thus the purple of a Roman patrician. Thus the 21st Century CEO in lounge suit.

As our church has become more and more politicized the office of PB has been seen more and more in terms of a secular politician-leader, who leads the government and the party in the ascendent. We ask ourselves whether candidate X is liberal or conservative, or even moderate. We ask ourselves which candidate will advance the laws and policies adopted by our legislative bodies. Will X represent the majority, or what is perceived to be a majority of American Anglicans?

We don’t seem to question whether any of these categories are determinative in assessing the qualities necessary in a Chief Pastor. Obviously a candidate who has no opinions, no passions, no vision would be a dreadful noodle. But on the other hand, a candidate who has no yearning to shepherd those with whom he or she may disagree, may dislike or to represent in prayer and pastoral care all the people of our church, would lack an essential element in primatial, and even episcopal character and vocation.There seems to be growing incidences of episcopal “failure”, diocesan crises, and other breakdowns in communion among us. I believe we need aPrimate who will use the office to be primus inter pares and elderbrother/sister to our bishops, who will use the right of visitation to reach out to all of us, and who will concentrate much more on these”spiritual” duties, than on any other aspect of the office as now defined. And we need to work to devolve from the PB those areas which may hinder the exercise of pastoral care and healing.

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