Monday, November 19, 2018

The Latest Trend in the Episcopate

A Living Church observing the recent spate of episcopal elections in which the entire slate was composed of women has prompted an outburst of sarcasm at the Episcopal Cafe, utterly missing the point. Sarah Condon, meanwhile, basically nails the problem: "I grow nervous when people are overly excited about women in ministry. I am here to do the work of the gospel, not to be the church’s latest project. I am here to pastor people, not to be Jesus. And when I see a line of all-women candidates I begin to wonder if the collective church has decided that lady bishops are a good way to fix everything."

The original article is, as it turns out, inaccurate on one point. Four and a half years ago, Maryland had an election for a suffragan bishop in which there were four candidates, all of them women. At the time the novelty of a all-female slate didn't register on me so much as the details of the particular candidates, one of whom, it seemed to me, plainly preferable; instead, the diocese elected a woman who, it turned out, had a major drinking problem which was known to her previous diocese, and which led in the end first to the death of a passing bicyclist and second to her deposition and jailing.

And that's rather the point. Back towards the beginning of the decade there was a run of elections in liberal dioceses with a standard pattern of a bald white guy with a goatee, a patrician white woman, a lesbian, a black person of either gender (or better still, one of each), and one white guy with good hair. It looked diverse, and if you included that last guy (who was usually not elected) it might have had some real (that is theological) diversity, but I cannot say it produced great bishops. And then there were the others, such as Forrester's apparent self-appointment and the whole SC mess.

Four such elections in a few months looks like a fad, and while Susan Snook as a one-person slate is probably saving some trouble, the other three suggest an abandonment of apparent diversity in favor of a sort of episcopal affirmative action. As Condon observes, it does not suggest attention to those matters that really, greatly matter.

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