The following is a letter from the Standing Committee in advance of Saturday’s Special Convention to elect the 14th Bishop Diocesan. Bishop Susan Goff encourages you read the information the Committee has shared.
June 2, 2022
Dear Diocesan Family,
With just a few days until we gather in community on Saturday to discern and elect our next Bishop Diocesan, your Standing Committee has heard voices from around the Diocese expressing concern and confusion around the Bishop Search Process and Petition Process. In a desire to provide greater clarity and transparency, we wish to provide a summary of the overall process and the Standing Committee’s responsibilities.
The Standing Committee of our Diocese holds authority and responsibility over the entire Bishop Search and Election Process. That authority was given to the Standing Committee by Resolution R-3 adopted by the delegates at the 226th Convention held in November of 2020. There are a few high-level steps in the process worth noting:
- Standing Committee Initiates the Process – The Standing Committee met with Bishop Todd Ousley’s Office of Pastoral Development of The Episcopal Church in early 2021 to gain understanding of the entire process and to receive references for Search Consultants. We interviewed several consultants referred to us, from both inside and outside The Episcopal Church, and hired The Rev. Dr. Ann Hallisey. We worked with her to design the search process for the Diocese of Virginia so that we would be in agreement with canonical standards and best practices across The Episcopal Church.
- Search Committee Conducts its Work – The Standing Committee appointed the most diverse Search Committee ever assembled in the Diocese and charged them with bringing forth “as diverse a slate as possible of 3-5 highly qualified candidates.” The Search Committee functioned autonomously in collaboration with the Search Consultant, providing the Standing Committee with regular updates on generalities but not on specifics nor on individual applicants. The Search Committee administered a survey, conducted listening sessions, and reflected your hopes and dreams for our next Bishop in the Diocesan Profile. As part of their screening and evaluative process, they reviewed all submitted materials, conducted interviews, conducted background checks and reference checks, and led a discernment retreat. Their work concluded upon presenting a slate of candidates to the Standing Committee for review and approval. The Standing Committee joyfully announced the slate to the Diocese in March.
- Transition Committee Conducts its Work – The Standing Committee also appointed the Transition Committee who is responsible for shepherding the slate of nominees through the election process, including the Bishop Meet and Greets, the Special Election Convention and the consecration of our next Bishop.
- Standing Committee Conducts the Petition Process – In concert with the slate announcement, the Standing Committee launched the Petition Process. The Episcopal Church uses the Petition Process to replace the former custom of nominations from the floor of the convention. The Petition Process is designed to provide continuity with the evaluative efforts of the Search Committee and to create parity among all slated candidates, irrespective of how they came to be slated. To this end, we worked with the Search Consultant to design our Petition Process and requirements for application that were consistent with processes used by other dioceses. We determined the requirements for a successful petition application – establishing the minimum number of signatures needed (clergy and lay), also for congregational and regional representation. These were basic requirements for petition submission to ensure diocesan-wide representation. Petition applicants were also required to provide the same information as the slated nominees such as the application form, cover letter, Office of Transition Ministry (OTM) profile, and answers to essay questions. To ensure parity with the Search Committee’s work, we also required an interview, background checks, and reference checks of all petition applicants. We met with Bishop Ousley during the petition process and shared our decision with him after the process was completed, which he accepted.
All decisions made were done so by consensus, which is our standard practice. In our announcement to the Diocese of our decision not to advance any petition applicants to the slate, we chose to specify that the decision was made by a “majority” of the Standing Committee in the desire to be transparent that we struggled with the decision. Each member of the Standing Committee has been fully engaged in faithful and rigorous discernment throughout this entire process. Two of our Standing Committee clergy recently resigned: The Rev. Anne Turner for personal reasons and The Rev. Dr. Dorothy White, whose resignation is effective June 30th, and who is accepting a call outside of Virginia. We are grateful for their dedication representing the people of the Diocese and wish them Godspeed in their journeys.
Each member of the Standing Committee has taken our commitment to the Diocese seriously and has been fully engaged in faithful and rigorous discernment and prayer. We recognize our responsibility for the entire search process, and in particular the Petition Process, and it is our honor to serve the Diocese in this way.
The Standing Committee fully supports and is excited by this excellent slate of highly qualified nominees. The Holy Spirit has truly been alive and active in the Diocese of Virginia throughout all of our work, struggle, and confusion with the Bishop Search Process. This has been challenging and difficult work for the Diocese – work that has reflected both our great desire and our woundedness – and we are grateful for your continued prayers. We thank you for your engaged involvement and concern, for we understand that they reflect your love of this Diocese.
The Standing Committee