Frequently Asked Questions About the Process
Q. What does a bishop do?
A. Glad you asked! Please turn to Page 512 in the Book of Common Prayer, "The Ordination of a Bishop." Here you'll find the promises that a bishop makes at ordination, and the examination -- the questions the bishop-elect must answer before ordination. Among other things, the bishop is to share in the leadership of the church, provide for the administration of the sacraments, ordain priests and deacons, and be "a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the entire flock of Christ." He or she is also called to "boldly proclaim and interpret the Gospel of Christ, enlightening the minds and stirring up the conscience of your people." The bishop is expected to take a role in the wider Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
The Canons of the Episcopal Church spell out more duties: visit every congregation at least once every three years, write occasional pastoral letters, and make an annual report to the diocese.
In addition, the bishop is pastor to the pastors -- the clergy of the diocese. She or he confirms and receives new members, administers the business affairs of the diocese, takes a leadership role in the wider community, and offers vision and strategy for accomplishing diocesan goals. (Oh, and blesses solar panels, attends roast-beef dinners, hangs out with youth and young adults, meets with congregational leaders in good times and bad, and gets up early on Sunday mornings to drive through tropical storms in order to get to visitations on time.)
Q. How old do you have to be to become a bishop?
A. A candidate must be at least 30 years old.
Q. How old are most bishops when they are elected?
A. The average age of a bishop at election is 55. Currently the youngest members of the House of Bishops are Deon Johnson of Missouri and Craig Loya of Minnesota, who are 42 years old. Bishop Sean Rowe of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York was 32 years old in May 2007 when he was elected bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania on the first ballot. For almost 12 years, he was the youngest bishop in the church.
Q. How long do bishops typically serve?
A. The average length of an episcopate is 8.9 years.
Q. When does a bishop have to retire?
A. A bishop must retire no more than 90 days after his or her 72nd birthday. The average age at retirement is 66 years of age.
Q. Why is Bishop Howard retiring?
Bishop Howard has led the Diocese of Florida since 2004 and will reach the church’s mandatory retirement age of 72 in 2023.
Q. Can someone who is already serving as a bishop in another diocese be a candidate here?
A. Yes. But they must have served in their current diocese for no less than five years before they are able to seek election in another diocese.
Q. Can someone be a candidate here who was a candidate in another diocese?
Q. I know someone who'd make a great bishop. How do I submit a name?
A. Hold that thought. When our profile comes out in October we will post nomination forms. You will be able to nominate someone; or candidates can nominate themselves. It's a good idea to read the profile first and see if your prospective candidate possesses the gifts and graces we are seeking, and to ask that person to study the profile and see whether he or she feels a call to be the bishop here.
Q. Will we know the names of people the Nominating Committee is considering?
A. No. We operate under strict confidentiality and can never confirm or deny that anyone is, or was, under consideration. We do this as a courtesy to our candidates, whose congregations usually do not know that their priest is exploring a call. We also do this to avoid pressure on the Nominating Committee to give special consideration to a candidate -- or to eliminate someone from consideration.
Q. How many candidates will be on the slate?
A. The Standing Committee has charged the Nominating Committee to present a slate of no fewer than three, no more than five candidates. That is pretty standard in bishop elections. It gives the diocese a real choice, but not so many candidates that it's overwhelming.
Q. Where can I get more information about the search process?
A. Right here at this website. This is your one-stop shop for regular updates about the search process. We have posted our timeline, bios and photos of the Nominating Committee, and our prayer. We will add material as the search progresses.