The Deacon and the Candidates for Bishop–Making Waves

When Sacraments Wholesale was launched, my intention for this space was to have an honest encounter between 21st century faith and politics. I have often published my sermons here, even though most of them were not very good. But I have rarely turned this space over completely to issues of faith and practice, and so I have attained a goodly number of non-Episcopalian readers, many of whom are not religious at all.

However, at the risk of losing the readers that regularly join me from outside the Episcopal Church or from outside the circle of faith entirely, I am going to focus primarily on a matter internal to the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina for the next three weeks. That is because of two important truths: any faith worthy of the name must eventually engage the world, and the EDUSC will shortly choose a new Bishop. As a Deacon it is my job to speak the truth to those in power, be they in the Church , the State House or the White House.

Yesterday, at the 87th convention of the Diocese, the candidates for Bishop were announced, and two minute videos were presented from each candidate. I want to honor the hard work of those volunteers who spent untold hours reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates and winnowing them down to the final five. But something has clearly gone wrong.

All of the candidates are white males, and this in a denomination led by a woman, and which prides itself on inclusivity and diversity. The delegates will not even get to a chance to support a candidate who might be an icon of racial or gender reconciliation. And the integrity of a process where the co-chair of the Search Committee is married to the chair of the Diocesan Executive Council is surely suspect. Then there is the design of the Diocesan survey and the interpretation of its results in the Diocesan profile. Finally, there is the question of the short time frame for anyone to offer a “petition candidate” who is essentially a nominee from the floor, since any petition must be completed within a week. Both the DEC and the Search Committee want us to choose from their candidates, and not make waves.

However, Deacons must make waves. It’s our job. So my intention is to examine each of the candidates, through their responses to the Search Committee’s questions. I am not trying to tell any delegate how to vote or to imply that any of the candidates is unfit for the job. Instead, I want to review their responses through the lens of justice and see how well their responses line up with the gospel that is supposed to be good news to the poor, healing for the brokenhearted, deliverance to the captives, and liberation for the bruised.

I am aware that I am engaged in a dangerous endeavor. Some people may be offended. I could start off a new Episcopacy being labeled as a subversive, which is not likely to be pleasant. But I am going to take the risk. My vows demand nothing less.

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