Why aren’t more people blogging about this process of becoming a bishop?*
*note, it’s the process of becoming a bishop,
but, say 400 nominees may start it
while only one finishes it. Savvy?
Well, there are a couple of reasons. It’s a longish, somewhat convoluted process which I’ll sketch out in a future post, and the names of the nominees are released only part way through it, and people who are in the process tend to not advertise that fact until those names are released. The privacy serves two purposes.
The first and perhaps primary purpose is to honor the delicate situation the nominee is in. They already have a job, you see. And like many people who don’t want their current employer to know that they’re looking around, priests also keep it somewhat mum – which is to say, they tell who they choose to tell, and they aren’t outted by the very process itself. Now, the flipside to this primary purpose is less personal and more professional. Any priest worth their salt is in the middle of any number of projects and most of those projects will involve volunteer involvement. Guess what will kill morale with volunteers faster than anything else? To know that the leader isn’t 100% completely committed (meaning present) to the process. Now, the priest who is actually elected to become the bishop, out of that imaginary pool of 400 isn’t going to just leave their congregation in the lurch. There are ways and means for people to pick up the slack and life will go on (after a very large party, because that’s how we roll), but the gut reaction is still really valid. So, the names are released when the search committee has whittled 400 down to, like, 4, and typically a priest will announce it to their congregation the Sunday before that.
Why am I different? Why am I scaring my volunteers and killing my projects? I don’t have a congregation, that’s why.
If you’ve been following along, you know I’m not a parish priest. I have projects – writing (fiction and non), social media consulting, digital mission, congregational development, evangelism, collegiality stuff, diocesan committees, etc. I have a few parishes that I adore and that I spend many Sundays with, but I am to them a Supply Priest and ‘that nice young woman who preaches so well’.
The projects that I do have I could potentially finish (if the unlikely occurs and I were to be elected), or at least I could finish all but two of those projects. The remaining ones would be nearly done, and I’m not the lead on those, so that would be okay. The key is to not start any more projects, which is less fun than it looks…
So there you have it – the first and primary reason no one in the Episcopal Church would ever blog in real time about their long or short journey toward the episcopate (trans: being a bishop) doesn’t apply to me.
The secondary reason privacy is kept is to keep the diocese in question from forming factions early on. Now I’ll grant you that the diocese will gather and actually elect their new bishop, and so they who have a vote must come down for and against at some point, but it is really unhelpful for that to happen when there are 400 potentials instead of 4. This is, after all, not politics.
So here’s how I’m mitigating that: I’m naming no names. Now, I have no doubt that an actual Episcopalian could do a brief Google search with a few choice words and narrow down the possibilities really quickly, but I’m not writing this blog post for Episcopalians, nor am I writing it for the diocese in question. I’m writing it for the rest of all y’all. (And if the Episcopalians happen to read it – hi there! Please feel free not to mention your educated guesses in the comments. Spoilers are not allowed.)
EDIT: Upon further reflection, there is another reason why we’ve not had priests blogging about the road to becoming, or getting booted from the process of becoming a bishop. Age. (Ack! Age is always such a delicate topic, isn’t it?) So, much like being President of the United States, you have to be 30 [Edit: I mistakenly said 35 earlier, but I was wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s 30, I just looked it up] to be bishop. Which, this year is just about the end of Generation X. But here’s the part the church doesn’t want to own up to: age bias. In the church, anything under 50 is considered young. Some go out on a limb and say a person is grown up and ready for serious responsibility by the age of 45. Meanwhile, yours truly is very nearly 35. (July 24th, in case you’re curious.) And because I’ve taken my vitamins and avoided having sun poisoning more than twice, I pass for 25 to everyone except 25 year olds. (Point of fact: the 1st graders I volunteer with every week think I’m ancient. I think, in this case, the opinion of twenty 6 year olds should count for something, don’t you?)
All that to say: there are darn few members of Generation X in the House of Bishops. Like, I could count them on one hand. And the propensity to blog just for the hell of it and not because your job/parish/diocese requires it of you decreases sharply as we rise above that age line of 50, at least, this is true in the Episcopal Church.
What is the process of getting a bishop in the Episcopal Church? I’ll give you two hints: 1) We don’t have a Pope who would simply just select one and say, “Here you are. Here’s your new bishop.” 2) The Episcopal Church was founded by the same guys who founded the this country – what process do you think they would use? “A bicameral joint session with a majority vote?” you say? You’ll find out!