Dear Diocesan Family,
Nearly seven years ago, the Rt. Rev. Edwin "Ted" Gulick returned to his native Virginia to become the Assistant Bishop of this Diocese. During that time, he has brought his boundless energy to everything he has touched.
He has helped many congregations work through conflicts to become thriving ministries. He has been a leader in ecumenical relations on behalf of The Episcopal Church. He has devoted himself to supporting Shrine Mont to ensure that generations of young people have the kind of mountain-top experience that shaped his youth in the 1960s.
Now, Bishop Gulick has announced his plans to retire at the end of this year. Thankfully, he and his wife, Barbara, will continue to live on their Fauquier County farm, so their contributions to the life of the Diocese will continue.
It has been my honor to serve beside such a remarkable servant as Ted. I thank God for his friendship. I know the people of the Diocese share my profound gratitude for his inspiring ministry.
With Bishop Gulick's impending retirement comes the need to assess our capacity in diocesan ministry and leadership. After thoughtful consideration, it has become clear to me that we need to return to a third full-time bishop.
The Standing Committee has offered its consent and the Executive Board has unanimously endorsed my request for the Annual Convention to call for the election of a second Bishop Suffragan in 2018. A resolution from the Standing Committee will be submitted this week to that effect and will be considered by the Convention on November 4.
A number of factors have driven this course of action:
We have the need. In his "part-time" position, Assistant Bishop Gulick has consistently worked overtime. There is simply too much for our third bishop to manage on a part-time basis. A diocese of our size -- one of the largest in The Episcopal Church -- must equip itself for ministry in the way that other, similarly sized dioceses have found to be necessary.
We have the vision. I believe it is a more appropriate course to elect this bishop, rather than to appoint one. An elected bishop will have more of a mandate, reflecting the will of the people of our Diocese.
The ministries for which our second Bishop Suffragan will be responsible will be outlined before the search process begins, so that we can choose from a field of candidates who feel called to those ministries. This will ensure the best match for the needs of the Diocese.
This second Bishop Suffragan will live in Northern Virginia and will hold hours in our offices there, as Bishop Gulick has done.
We have the opportunity. When Bishop Gulick steps down from his position on December 31, the time will be ripe to make such a change. We will have to fill that vacancy one way or the other, so now is the time to move ahead.
History shows how well three full-time bishops can minister for the Diocese of Virginia, as they did in the 1990s, and we need that strength as we face the ever-changing challenges to faith communities in the 21st century.
We have the means. With the current realities of our diocesan budget, we can employ a second Bishop Suffragan with minimal impact on our present diocesan staff. Together with a more creatively structured staff, a third full-time bishop will improve our ability to serve the whole Diocese, both clergy and laity.
When the need, vision, opportunity and means converge, we must act on it with confidence. I ask that you keep this request and, if approved by the Annual Convention, the ensuing search for our second Bishop Suffragan in your prayers.
The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston
Bishop of Virginia