The process of electing a bishop in the Northeastern Jurisdiction is finished! Thanks be to God!
Now that I can be a bit more forthright, I will tell you that I walked into yesterday’s first ballot with my “exit” speech already prepared. Since our two retiring bishops in the jurisdiction are both women, there was a strong sense leading up to this conference that, for the sake of inclusiveness in the college of bishops, we needed to elect a capable, articulate, visionary, and female episcopal leader.
Given the fact that the pewboy is precisely that—a boy—I never really anticipated being much of a factor when the balloting began. Receiving the annual conference’s endorsement as its episcopal candidate was the honor of a lifetime for me, but I never expected to receive anything more than our delegation’s support once the balloting began. I figured that I would gracefully withdraw my name from the process after the third or fourth ballot. (As an introvert, after all, I never like to overstay my welcome.)
You can imagine my shock—nay, my utter amazement—when the leading vote-getter on the first two ballots was none other than Baron von Pewboy! “Yikes,” I thought to myself, “What in the world does this mean?!”
It was a personal and profound affirmation that I never expected to receive. I’m still attempting to make some kind of sense of it.
By the third ballot, things began to shift. Those who sensed (wisely, I believe) the urgency of electing a capable woman to the episcopacy began to focus their voting on two strong female candidates. By the fourth, fifth, and sixth, ballots, I was a distant third in the voting. The discernment of the conference was clear. Early this morning, (Thursday) I finally gave my brief “exit” speech before the conference. It went something like this:
To have been endorsed as an episcopal candidate by the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference is an honor that I will never forget.
To have been given the opportunity to spend time with the other twelve episcopal candidates—all of whom are remarkably gifted and have probably forgotten more about ministry than I will ever know—is a privilege that I will never forget.
And to have experienced this time of discernment with all of you as a jurisdictional conference is a life-altering blessing that I will never forget.
It brings great joy and excitement to my heart to be able to return to the portion of the Kingdom that God has established in western Pennsylvania. And yet, as excited as I am about being able to return home, please know that I hold in my heart the journey that I have experienced here. For that journey, I simply say…thank you. From the depths of my soul, thank you.
It is with a profound sense of gratitude that I withdraw my name from the ballot.
In the midst of this process, to God be the glory.
A few ballots later, Rev. Dr. Peggy A. Johnson (from the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference) was elected to the episcopacy. I have come to know, respect, and love Bishop-elect Johnson over the last several days. We have prayed together, waited together, and listened together. She is a beautifully and abundantly gifted woman who is passionately committed to Jesus Christ and equally committed to the ministry of his church. Our jurisdiction will be strengthened and blessed by her leadership, of that I am convinced. Please be in prayer for Bishop-elect Johnson and her family as they prepare for a new and important season of transition.
So, with that, I am finished with this process. But what an experience it has been! The words of affirmation and encouragement that I have received along the way (both from the Western Pennsylvania delegation and from people I have never even met) have been overwhelming. I have been moved to tears more than once. Bishop Bickerton and Sally and Bishop Bashore and Carolyn (all of whom have been very visible and active here at Jurisdictional Conference) have ministered to me tenderly over the last several days. They could not have been more supportive or affirming.
Also, the “blog care” that I have received from all of you has touched my heart in ways that I can’t even describe. Your gracious words of love, prayer, and support have been a constant source of blessing. I am deeply grateful for your friendship.
You’ll get a kick out of this. As a post-episcopal-process celebration, Joel Garrett and I are going to see the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight” tonight. (It’s playing at the IMAX theater right next to the hotel here in Harrisburg.) I also have tickets to see the film a second time at the Homestead Waterfront with a certain lass of Mediterranean hue. (Tara, by the way, traveled back home today.)
In a few days, Tara and I will be traveling to the Canadian Rockies (Lake Louise, in particular) for a time of sabbath, rest, and play. I had no idea how desperately I would need it. Quite frankly, I am exhausted—but in a strangely good kind of way.
Because of our vacation, I will be away from the blog for a while. I look forward to catching up with you soon.
Until then, grace and peace. Thanks a million for caring about this humble pilgrim and his experiences with the episcopal process!