Episco-Fact #103
August 23, 2018

Francisco-fact (info): What is going on with the Bishop of the Diocese and where is the Diocese headed?

Beginning May 23 with a letter announcing the cancelation of the search process for a second Suffragan Bishop, a number of communications have addressed this action. The Bishop, in his initial announcement concerning the termination of the search process and its causes, stated that a number of issues had been brought forward concerning difficulties of the Diocesan Staff and Leadership in functioning together. To address these concerns, the Diocese, in consultation with the Presiding Bishop's Office, engaged the Lombard-Mennonite Peace Center to consult with the staff and leadership to improve its functioning and to deal with internal conflict resolution. Secondly, the Bishop discussed his own reflection on retiring from his role as Diocesan at a more accelerated pace than his original plan.

On August 3, the Bishop announced that he would be resigning from his office effective at the end of the Diocesan Convention to be held November 2 and 3 in Richmond. Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, followed this announcement with a letter on August 8 confirming the information Bishop Johnston gave and commending him for his work as Diocesan for the past eleven years.

What happens at the end of the Convention on November 4? In a communication from Helen Spence, President of the Standing Committee, dated August 20, the Convention, per Canon 13 (page 125 of the 2015 Constitutions and Canons), will be presented with a Candidate for Bishop, Provisional to be voted on from among a number of candidates presented to the Diocese in consultation of the Presiding Bishop's office. The Bishop, Provisional will be empowered with the authority of a Diocesan for three years with the possibility of extension.

The letter from Helen Spence frames this process in the same terms as a parish without a Rector. A Bishop, Provisional is to act much like an Interim Rector and will carry on the duties of the Diocesan much as St. Francis' last interim carried out the duties of the Rector. This is an extraordinary circumstance brought about by the vacancy created by Bishop Johnston's resignation prior to the approval of a call for a Bishop Coadjutor, which would be the regular process for transitioning from one Diocesan Bishop to another.

This is an extraordinary time for the Diocese of Virginia. Such times call for great patience and grace because the uncertainty of this transition, a transition which will be ongoing for at least three years. Pray for Bishop Shannon, Bishop Susan, and Bishop Bob. Pray for the Standing Committee. Pray for each and every parish. Pray for the clergy and the laity. Pray for the Bishop, Provisional, and pray for the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.