Skip to comments.Seattle: A new bishop for a troubled diocese
Posted on 02/06/2007 6:28:51 PM PST by sionnsar
A pair of popular Seattle-area clergy, along with three priests serving urban parishes in Texas, Ohio and Maryland, have been nominated as finalists to become the new Episcopal Bishop of Olympia.
The Rt. Rev. Nedi Rivera, Bishop Suffragan of Olympia, is the best known name on the list, along with the Rev. Jeff Lee, successful rector (pastor) of the large St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Medina since 2000.
The other nominees are Rev. Richard Burnett, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio; the Rev. Dr. Gregory Rickel, rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas; and the Rev. Angela Shepherd, rector of St. Phillips Episcopal Church in Annapolis, Maryland.
Additional candidates can be nominated by petition until Feb. 26th.
The candidates for bishop will stage a "walkabout" in late April and early May. The Diocese of Olympia includes all Episcopal parishes in Western Washington, from Vancouver, Wash. north to Blaine.
The bishop will be elected at a May 12 convention in St. Mark's Cathedral: Priests and elected lay delegates from parishes will vote in the election.
The Diocese of Olympia has seen its troubles in recent years. More than 30 parishes have failed to meet their diocesan assessments. A pair of conservative congregations left the Episcopal Church after the installation in 2003 of a non-celibate gay man, V. Gene Robinson, as Bishop of New Hampshire. The diocese has stagnated in membership over the last 30 years, even as more than 1.5 million people have moved into Western Washington.
Outgoing Bishop Vincent Warner has raised eyebrows on several occasions. The bishop announced his divorce at the 2002 diocesan convention. Warner later delivered sermons criticizing his flock for the lack of compassion shown to his ex-wife, who became a Methodist. He broke into song, in an apparent attempt to channel Johnny Cash, at last year's Christmas Eve services at St. Mark's Cathedral.
A diocesan search committee has worked since early last year to come up with the list of finalists to replace the retiring Warner.
The panel has walked a fine line, from getting geographical and gender diversity in its nominees to resisting intrusion from the outgoing regime.
The list of finalists includes three white men, and two minority women. Rivera is the first Hispanic woman bishop in the Episcopal Church. Shepherd is African-American.
None of the finalists is gay or lesbian. Two of the nominees - Rivera and Shepherd - have been divorced.
In its General Convention last year, the Episcopal Church voted a moratorium on the election of bishops "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on the communion."
Despite the resolution, the liberal Diocese of Newark recently included a priest who is gay on its finalist list for bishop. He was not elected. The Diocese of Olympia adopted a resolution, at its convention last fall, saying that no person should be excluded from "discernment' - consideration for ecclesiastical office - because of his or her sexual preference.
In picking a successor to Bishop Warner, the local diocese may be in for a barn burner of an election. All five nominees come from the progressive wing of the church, but have different backgrounds and qualifications.
Bishop Rivera has served as a kind of second in command since 2005. She has been tasked with developing a ministry to minorities in Western Washington. Lee is an accomplished musician, twice a General Convention deputy, and has held several diocesan and national leadership positions in the church.
Rickel is pastor to a Texas congregation that bills itself "an inclusive, multicultural community," has taught at the University of Arkansas, and served on the board of trustees of the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest. Burnett has served as rector of a large downtown church, General Convention delegate, and member of the standing committee of the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Shepherd is a two-time General Convention delegate, and pastor of a church that received the Bishop's Award for Outsanding Congregation.
The winner of the May 12 election will be installed in a Sept. 15th ceremony at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.
The ceremony will not be without controversy. Elsewhere in the country, Episcopal dioceses have borrowed larger churches from other denominations - and even gymnasiums - for installation services.
The Olympia Diocese has paid a reported $45,000 to rent the Meydenbauer Center. Rivera was installed as bishop suffragan in a 2005 Meydenbauer service that went on for three hours, and seemed to feature the worst in modern church music.
I'm also familiar with St. Thomas, Medina, not far from Bill Gates' house. My first visit in '83 left me feeling "lots of money but stone cold dead" (and, I will note, this diocese was the final cause for my leaving ECUSA -- there are several of us on this ping list). A Presbyterian co-worker says his nearby church has been receiving a steady influx of folks from St. Thomas, so all cannot be well there.
If they are going to the PCUSA, it sounds like even the liberals are starting to jump off the sinking ship.
I confess I am not aware of my co-worker's affiliation, but I do not think it is with a liberal Presbyterian group. I guess I should ask...
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