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. We hear the profile will be posted in mid-October and the nominating period will open. Tell us what that means.
A.The Nominating Committee spent the spring and summer hearing the wishes of the diocese through a survey and through extensive listening sessions.We received nearly 950 completed surveys, and we held over 15 listening sessions around the diocese attended by over 400 people. We researched the history of the diocese. We gathered information to describe our diocese — its organization, our regions, our parishes, our ministries, what it’s like to live and work in this part of Florida — and talk about where we are now as a faith community: our goals, our challenges. A profile — a booklet introducing our diocese to potential candidates — will be released in mid-October.
That profile — with lots of facts and figures, and lots of pictures to tell our story — will be publicized throughout the wider church so that interested candidates can learn about us and discern whether they feel a call to become our next bishop. We’ll be calling and writing and advertising and reaching out to people all around the church to make our search known far and wide.
You — the people of this diocese — have a role to play here too. Who do you know who would make a good bishop? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your friends and contacts around the church, tell them about our search, e-mail them a copy of the profile. The more people we have “shaking the trees,” as we say, the better likelihood that we will end up with an excellent pool of candidates.
Q. What are the rules of the road about who is eligible?
A. A candidate must be at least 30 years old and have been ordained deacon and priest. Bishops must retire within 90 days of their 72nd birthday. Beyond that we are governed by the canon on nondiscrimination:
Title III, Canon 1, Section 2 (Page 99 of the 2018 Canons of The Episcopal Church)
No person shall be denied access to the discernment process or to any process for the employment, licensing, calling, or deployment for any ministry, lay or ordained, in this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, immigration status, national origin, sex, marital or family status (including pregnancy or child care plans), sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities, or age, except as otherwise provided in these Canons. No right to licensing, ordination, call, deployment, or election is hereby established.
Q. Can anybody nominate a candidate?
A.Yes. You don’t have to live in this diocese; in fact, typically nominations come from all over the wider church. Lay, clergy, old, young — anyone can submit a nomination.
Q. Or candidates can nominate themselves, right?
A.That’s right. Probably a little more than half the nominations received by an electing diocese are self-nominations; the rest are nominations from someone else.
Q. I know somebody who’d make a great bishop. Can I give you their name?
A. First, wait and read the profile. Think and pray about what we say we’re looking for and see whether your candidate is a good match. Then reach out to that person and see if he or she is interested. (Believe it or not, some priests don’t want to be bishops — even ours.) If they feel a call here, then you can nominate them, or they can nominate themselves.
Q. Where will we find the profile and the nominating paperwork?
A. They’ll be posted at www.floridabishopsearch.org. That’s also our one-stop shop for information about the search process, the timeline, Q&As like this one, and more as time goes by.
Q. Do candidates have to live in this diocese?
A. No. Typically the candidate pool is a mix of people from within the diocese and outside the diocese.
Q. Must the candidate be a lifelong Episcopalian?
A. No. You’d be surprised at how many priests — and therefore bishops — started out in another denomination and eventually — happily! — discovered the Episcopal Church. Listening to those faith stories of why they became Episcopalians is often a very enlightening part of our interview process.
Q. How old do you have to be to become a bishop?
A. A candidate must be at least 30 years old.
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. Once you get someone’s application, what will you do?
A. This is the “paper stage” of the nominating process. The candidate will fill in an application form, provide a resume, answer some short essay questions, and provide some other information about themselves. We’ll read and study all that paperwork for each candidate. Then we’ll do our first screening to begin the difficult process of discerning who should move forward.
In the second phase, we’ll do Zoom interviews with a smaller group of candidates. Then we’ll invite an even smaller group to attend an in-person retreat in February. All along the way we will be doing background and reference checks, talking to their bishops, and thoroughly vetting all the candidates. We’ll also be hearing about their experience, the gifts they would bring as our next bishop, their vision for this diocese, their theology, and their understanding of what it means to be an Episcopalian at this time and in this place. We like to say that it is a combination of vocation and location: the recognition of a call to the office of bishop, and to be a bishop in a specific place.
And we’ll be praying our way through all this. We welcome your prayers and support.
Eventually — next March — we’ll present a slate of three to five candidates to the Standing Committee for their approval, and they’ll announce that slate to the diocese.
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. Do candidates ever withdraw during the process?
A. Yes. Sometimes they discern that they do not feel a call to the episcopate, or to this diocese, or they conclude it is not the right time to make a move.
Q. As the search process moves on, can you give us a status report on whether someone is still under consideration?
A. No. We never comment on whether someone is, or was, a candidate or where they are in the process. (We are all practicing saying, “No comment” in case someone tries to worm some information out of us. Please don’t ask.)
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. 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.