Thursday, June 06, 2013

Thinking about the next bishop of Dallas

Bishop Stanton announced his retirement and resignation as the Ordinary of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, effect in May of 2014. He has served for a good long while (20 years) and reached retirement age, so it is reasonable to expect this move. But in the political climate of the Episcopal Church, it is a move fraught with worries and complications.

The comments at Stand Firm reflect these concerns, wondering if it will be possible to get a reasonably orthodox successor since episcopal elections must obtain majority consents from the other bishops and diocesan standing committees of ECUSA. This skews the election process to focus on the issue of who can get consents rather than simply who seems like a good fit for this ministry and who is the Holy Spirit leading us to elect.

One approach ("Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!") was that taken by South Carolina with Mark Lawrence, which was to elect the candidate you want (regardless of what others think) and if he doesn't get consents, just keep electing the same candidate over and over with the hope that more consents can be obtained with each go around. There's no reason why Dallas couldn't take this approach and basically wait indefinitely for the bishop they want. But I suspect is that there is neither the stomach nor the interest for a long, drawn-out confrontation like this right now.

My suspicion is that the political climate of ECUSA will affect the election in another way--they'll look for someone who's already a bishop. As I understand it, this does not by-pass the consent process, BUT it takes the teeth out of it because bishops and standing committees would be far less likely to oppose calling a bishop who already is one. If they did, it would mean either that they would be disavowing the consent they already gave for the same bishop previously, or it would be sticking their thumb in the eye of another province of the Anglican Communion (basically saying your bishops aren't good enough for us).

Needless to say, the Episcopal Church has had no reluctance to stick its thumb in the eye of other Anglican provinces in recent years, but in this case a bishop candidate would be far less likely to come from a place like Nigeria or West Indies (where there is no interest in maintaining good relations) than he would be to come from a place like England or Canada (where there is an interest in maintaining good relations).

Some dioceses tend to always elect their bishops from within (like Texas) and some dioceses tend to always elect their bishops from without (like Dallas and Fort Worth). I would not look for a translated see in this case because they would probably want someone who's fairly young and could serve more than a few years. The only moderately conservative bishop of another diocese I can think of who fills the bill would be Dan Martins of Springfield. But there are two problems: he just started in Springfield and he was consecrated by Schori.

Another option is to look at other suffragans, assistant bishops, bishops who retired early, or bishops who were consecrated overseas and then came back home (like Christopher Boyle from N. Malawi). Dallas' companion diocese is Honduras; I don't know if there might be some possibility there. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali would be a perfect choice except that he's probably a little too old.

Another option is to look within the diocese, where you have two good candidates who are also bishops: Paul Lambert (Suffragan of Dallas) and Tony Burton (Rector of Incarnation, Dallas). Lambert is now 63 and so he may be a little too old, but Burton is perfectly suited at 53 (and neither were consecrated by Schori).

Bishop Burton comes from the Diocese of Saskatchewan in the Anglican Church of Canada, where he was the youngest Anglican bishop in the world when he was consecrated at age 33. He served 15 years there as ordinary. Burton has been serving for the past 5 years at the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas. It has been a successful tenure at one of the largest parishes in the country. They exceeded their capital campaign goal in a campus expansion just days after launching the campaign. Are we looking at the next bishop of Dallas?


C. Wingate said...

Bishop Burton would be a wonderful choice.

Deborah Boschert said...

Your thoughts, now that the candidates have been announced?