Dear Friends,

Tomorrow clergy and lay delegates will gather online via Zoom webinar to elect the 13th Bishop of Chicago. The convention begins at 9:30 am with Morning Prayer and is expected to end by 3:30 pm. All Saints’ Choir and liturgical leaders will be featured during morning worship, so you may want to start your Saturday early and join the convention right when it begins.

For those who are interested, the whole of the electing convention will be streamed on YouTube. Results of each ballot will be posted on the diocese’s Facebook and Twitter pages. By the end of the day tomorrow, we will know the person God has called to lead the diocese in the years ahead.
Although the Diocese of Chicago has sent out regular updates about this election for a while now, some who receive this weekly newsletter – especially recent arrivals to the Episcopal Church – may be wondering “why is this such a big deal?” 

The short answer comes from the name of our denomination. We are The Episcopal Church – a church that organizes its life around bishops. Our name comes from the Greek word, Episkopos – that is,a person who is charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly.”

In some parts of the worldwide Anglican Communion, bishops are appointed, but we Americans take a more democratic approach and elect ours. Andrew Rutledge and Courtney Reid will cast ballots in tomorrow’s election in the clergy order. Lynn Bowers, Josh Ferchau, and Polly Tangora will vote in the lay order. To be elected, a nominee must win the majority of votes in each order.

The four nominees are:

  • The Rev. Canon Paula E. Clark, Canon to the Ordinary and Chief of Staff, in the Diocese of Washington DC
  • The Rev. Edwin Daniel Johnson, Rector of St Mary’s Episcopal Church, Boston
  • The Rev. Dr. Fulton L. Porter III, Rector of St Thomas Episcopal Church, Chicago
  • The Rev. Winnie Varghese, Priest for Ministry and Program Coordination, Trinity Church Wall Street, New York City

One of these four priests will lead the Diocese of Chicago, and share in the leadership of the church throughout this province of the Anglican Communion and the world. She or he will ordain priests and deacons, join in ordaining other bishops, and preside at services where people are confirmed and received. It’s a significant responsibility – one that deserves the prayerful support of all the people the bishop serves.

Most important is what a bishop is called to do. As it says in the ordination service, “A bishop in God’s holy Church is called to be one with the apostles in proclaiming Christ’s resurrection. . .”

Many years ago, David Joslin, who served as the bishop of Central New York, wrote a little pamphlet for Forward Movement Publications (the people who bring us “Forward Day by Day” bible reading helps), called “An Apostle in our Midst.” He wanted people to understand the role and ministry of a bishop and the link between every Episcopal bishop and the Apostles. I wish I could find the pamphlet, but I suspect it was a casualty of the library housecleaning I did after I ended my tenure as rector of St. Luke’s in Granville.

The gist of Bishop Joslin’s piece was that bishops were not only linked to the apostles through the long chain of the laying on of hand at ordination, the chain referred to as “Apostolic Succession,” but are also linked to the apostles by their being sent by Jesus Christ to bring the gospel of God’s love to the world. Tomorrow, one person will be called to this special ministry within the Body of Christ.

Shortly after one of the nominees is elected, we will share the information through our usual social media outlets. And, of course, we’ll announce the results of the election at our Sunday 9:00 am service. We’ll pray for the new bishop-elect, share in beautiful Advent carols and hymns, and remember that we are indeed the people of God. We hope you will join us!

Stephen Applegate