Washington Committee Challenges Bishop Election Process

David Virtue DVirtue236 at AOL.COM
Fri Oct 5 01:11:44 EDT 2001


Washington Committee Challenges Bishop Election Process

By Robert Stowe England

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A newly-formed Committee for a Fair Election of Our
Next Bishop has sent a letter to over 600 clergy and laity in the
Episcopal Diocese of Washington asking that they participate in an
effort to nominate by petition a slate of candidates for the eighth
bishop of Washington.

The letter from the committee asks potential delegates to the Electing
Convention in January whether or not they would support one of two
types of candidates, whether they would sign a petition and whether
they are delegates to the convention.

The letter's authors say that are "concerned that the slate of
candidates that will emerge [from the Search Committee] on November 15
may not offer a real choice because it may not represent the broad
range of views within the diocese." They expect no moderates or
orthodox candidates on the slate.

They expect that a slate of candidates will support continued
controversial politicies embraced by former Bishop Ronald Haines and
current Acting Bishop Jane Dixon. These include efforts to require the
forced acceptance of women's ordination, as well as the embrace of
homosexual practice as morally upright, including the ordination of
non-celibate homosexuals.

Under guidelines set up by the strongly revisionist Standing Committee
of the diocese, nominations by petition can be made between November 15
and 30, provided they have the signatures of 25 clergy canonically
resident in the diocese and 75 laity in good standing. This barrier is
so high, the letter states, that it requires an extraordinary effort to
line up the required number of supporters by a coordinated campaign.

The authors cite two developments that cause their concern. First, in
June the Search Committee changed the profile of the diocese to say
that a bishop must be someone who is "firmly committed to the full
inclusion of women and gay and lesbian people in the life of the
church." This was a change from a previous statement that said the
bishop should support the broad diversity within the diocese.

This rewrite of the profile, the letter states, suggests that the
Search Committee will come forth only with candidates who presently
support the diocese's controversial policies on women's ordination and
homosexuality.

The letter also cites the fact that the Standing Committee has changed
the required number of signatures for the nomination by petition from
six to 100. Earlier in the year, the diocese reported that three clergy
and three laity from two different regions would be required to
nominate by petition. In September the Washington Diocese newspaper
reported that the requirement is now 25 clergy and 75 laity.

The new requirement is much higher than previous requirements for
nominations by petition. In 1992, for example, nominations by petition
for suffragan bishop were required to have 15 clergy and 50 laity.

The letter is signed by William Donnelly and Barbary Fogarty. Both were
selected to be delegates to the last diocesan convention. Donnelly, who
is from St. Patrick's in D.C., was pressured into resigning as delegate
because of his support for a resolution promoting dialogue and unity
within the Anglican Community on issues of sexuality and forced
acceptance of women's ordination. Donnelly left his parish and is
currently looking for a new parish home.

Fogarty was a delegate from Christ Church, Kensington, who resigned
from her parish after the convention, including her rector, Fr. Hague,
voted against the unity and diaologue resolution.

The post card accompanying the mailing asks if the recipient supports a
bishop who "will seek to be pastoral in supporting the full range of
theological perspectives within the diocese without favor towards one
or the other, from Anglo-Catholics to Evangelicals, as well as the
broad church and those on the forefront of social change." The Search
Committee's own survey of the diocese earlier this year suggested that
there was broad support for such a candidate.

The post card also asks if the recipient would like to see the next
bishop be someone who "will seek to return Jesus Christ to the center
of our worship and common life and refocus the diocese on its mission
to proclaim the Gospel."

Candidates are invited to return their post cards to Post Mail Box 238,
3220 N Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20007 or to send an emaill to
Bishopelection at aol.com.

END

TEXT OF LETTER:

Committee for a Fair Election of Our Next Bishop

Postal Mail Box 238, 3220 N Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20007 Email:
Bishopelection at aol.com

 October 1, 2001

Dear Clergy and Lay Leaders of the Diocese of Washington:

We write to you in the spirit of prayer to Our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ for his guidance as we take the critical steps toward selecting
our eighth bishop.

We, the undersigned, are two former delegates to the diocesan
convention. We represent a group of clergy and laity who want to do
what we can to help assure there is a fair and competitive election for
our next diocesan bishop in January.

The best way to assure a fair election, we feel, is to make sure that
there are candidates who are nominated who represent the broad spectrum
of theological perspectives, as well as the range of views on what role
a bishop should play in our common life. Since the rules allow for the
process of nomination by petition, we hope we will be able to take
advantage of that process to put forth one or more candidates for
bishop by petition.

You can help by telling us what sort of bishop you think we should
have. We have attached a post card for that purpose. Please fill it out
and return it. No postage is necessary. We will use this information in
our efforts to locate appropriate nominees and inform you of our
progress in November.

Why This is Necessary

No doubt you are wondering why we feel we must nominate candidates by
petition when anyone can submit a nomination to the Search Committee.

The reason, we regret to say, is that we are concerned that the slate
of candidates that will emerge on November 1 may not offer a real
choice because it may not represent the broad range of views within the
diocese. While we hope there will be a diverse list of nominees, we are
sufficiently concerned that feel we must be prepared in case this is
not the case.

Our concern derives from two actions taken by diocesan authorities
regarding the election. First, we are concerned that the profile
developed by the Search Committee may yield only candidates that
support a narrow range of views on key issues within the diocese and
omit the perspectives of many others.

Page 2

The original profile said the new bishop should be prepared to
represent the enormous diversity within the diocese. This profile was
prepared and released and found wide support. However, in the final
version the profile was changed to add a phrase requiring a new bishop
to support the "full inclusion of women and gay and Lesbian people."
This was done without sufficient public review. The new phrase suggests
that some people, such as traditionalists and minorities, for example,
may not be fully included.

Over the past decade, the efforts of our bishops to require people and
parishes to accept women's ordination -- which is officially a matter
of individual conscience -- has resulted in the persecution of people
for their beliefs and has created unwelcome conflict and controversy.
Also, the diocese's embrace of homosexual practice has put the diocese
at odds with Christian morality and doctrine. To call for the "full
inclusion" of these views suggests no candidate can emerge from the
Search Committee who does not support the ordination of non-celibate
homosexuals, church sanction of same-sex "marriages," and further
campaigns to compel acceptance of women's ordination.

A second concern is a change in the election rules in the middle of the
election process. Early this year the diocese announced that
nominations by petition would require three clergy and three laity
representing at least two different regions.

In September the diocese raised the bar. Now, instead of six names
needed on the petition, the diocese requires one hundred people - 25
clergy and 75 laity. This barrier may effectively prevent any
nominations by petition without a considerable effort, which is one of
the reasons it was necessary to write this letter.

While we still hope the Search Committee will come forth with a slate
of candidates who represent a choice among the broad range of views of
the diocese - and they have assured us they will - we feel it is
prudent to be prepared for a fairly uniform slate of candidates.

We think that the next Bishop of Washington will need the support of
the whole diocese - and not just the dominant faction - if the next
bishop is to fulfill the apostolic, pastoral and administrative roles
that will be required.

Unless there is a fair choice, there can be no fair election and a new
bishop will take on his or her duties under a cloud. Furthermore,
without clear choices, it cannot be claimed that the new bishop
actually represents the diocese and has the support of its people.

You can help by completing the post card and returning it to us today
or sending us a response by email at Bishopelection at aol.com. Your
assistance is greatly appreciated.

 William T. Donnelly and Barbara Fogarty Co-Chairs Committee for a Fair
Election of Our Next Bishop

TEXT OF POST CARD The eighth Bishop of Washington should be someone who
. . . [Check one or both]

____ Will seek to be pastoral in supporting the full range of
theological perspectives within the diocese without favor towards one
or the other, from Anglo-Catholics to Evangelicals, as well as the
broad church and those on the forefront of social change.

____ Will seek to return Jesus Christ to the center of our worship and
common life and refocus the diocese on its mission to proclaim the
Gospel.

Are you willing to sign a petition for a nominee you support? ____Yes
____No

Are you a delegate to the January 24-26, 2002 Electing Convention?
____Yes ____No

Name (Please Print):
______________________________________________________

Parish: ________________________

Email address: ___________________________




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