Tuesday, July 24, 2012

35 Ballots

What makes a good bishop? Is it natural leadership capability? The depth of one's own spiritual disciplines?  The ability to answer questions about the inclusion of LGBT persons in the church? How about issues of systemic change? Or the ability and willingness to listen to the voices of young people? 

At the Northeast Jurisdictional Conference, it took 35 ballots--a conference record--to determine what makes for a good bishop-elect. 35 ballots to decide what makes for a good leader, what qualities and attributes and foci are desirable in episcopal leadership.

I think this reflects a region that remains deeply divided about what we expect and desire in our leadership. About whether we value leadership in the arena of justice. About whether we are willing to work for racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in our episcopal leadership. And perhaps more importantly, whether we have the capability and willingness to nurture such diversity.

I won't comment here on what I see as the varying strengths and weaknesses of the three episcopal candidates elected. I will note that it is a hopeful sign that the Conference's adopted a Statement of Principles to the effect that LGBT persons should benefit from full civil AND ecclesiastical rights and that pastors who seek to extend these rights to LGBT persons should not be condemned. I pray that this decision--which was passed by a large margin of 61%--echoes in the College of Bishops. As one friend pointed out, however, this Statement of Principles was not necessarily echoed in our candidates for bishop.

I'm indicted in this post. There is nothing that I can point to as having done to nurture candidates or to encourage a certain set of values in the candidates that we had. A few questions here and there, that's all. A few notes on yellow lined paper. But in four years, these questions will follow me, and I hope they will follow others: What makes a good candidate? What do we value in a bishop? What sort of diversity do we desire to see on the Council of Bishops? How can we nurture leaders?

What do we hope for in our church?

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