The Path and Process for Discerning and Electing a New Bishop

At a diocesan Synod meeting on October 21, 2017, the Diocese of Rupert’s Land decided to elect a coadjutor bishop prior to the retirement of the current diocesan bishop, Donald Phillips. A coadjutor bishop, once elected and ordained, serves in episcopal ministry, subordinate to and alongside the current diocesan bishop. However, once the diocesan bishop retires, the coadjutor bishop automatically becomes the new diocesan bishop without any further process needed. To celebrate that transition, the new bishop will be installed at a service at St. John’s Cathedral.
Most of the ministry and mission of our diocese falls under our own jurisdiction. However, the election of a bishop is governed by the Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert’s Land (made up of 10 dioceses in central, western, and northern Canada). Hence, on November 16, 2017, the Executive Council of the Province received and approved a request from our diocesan synod to move forward with the election of a coadjutor bishop. As outlined in Provincial Constitution and Canons, the first step is to determine the date for the Electoral Synod and to establish the Diocesan Search Committee.
The Search Committee consists of six members appointed by our Diocesan Council (three clergy and three lay members) along with three members – a lay person, a cleric, and a bishop – appointed by the Metropolitan of the Province (Greg Kerr-Wilson) from a panel elected at the last Provincial Synod. For the election of a coadjutor bishop, the Search Committee also includes the current diocesan bishop. However, in this case, Bishop Don has received permission to step back from this role and will instead act as a resource and consultant to the Search Committee. The Committee members from our diocese are Archdeacon James Dugan, The Rev. Helen Kennedy, Canon David Widdicombe, Mrs. Heather Birtles, Mr. Ted Henderson and Mr. Gary Russell. The appointed members from the Province are Bishop Rob Hardwick (Qu’Appelle), The Rev. Dr. Scott Sharman (Edmonton), and Ms. Karen Larsen (Calgary). The first meeting for this Search Committee will take place in mid-January, 2018.
In consultation with the Metropolitan and our Diocesan Council Bishop Don has called the electoral Synod for Saturday, June 16, 2018 at St. John’s Cathedral. This synod is chaired by the Metropolitan.
The election of a new bishop is first and foremost an act of discernment. All of the processes, discussions, and prayers are aimed at helping the members of our Rupert’s Land Diocesan Synod discern whom they believe God is calling to this new ministry. The first step for the Search Committee is to arrange opportunities for members of our diocese to have input into the preparation of a diocesan profile. This written piece describes the current nature of our diocese and its mission and ministry, as well as its needs, concerns, hopes, and aspirations around what it believes God is calling our diocese to become in the future. As a result, the profile will outline some of the gifts, skills, and qualities we believe are necessary for the new bishop to possess in order to lead and support the present and future ministry of our Church. When complete, this profile is available publicly, mid-to-late April, 2018.
Once the profile is complete, members of the Search Committee will begin receiving names for consideration to be nominated for the election. While only members of our Diocesan Synod, bishops of the Province of Rupert’s Land, and members of the Search Committee are able to propose names for nomination, others are able to suggest names to the above persons. Any priest in good standing in any Church of the Anglican Communion, or in any other Church in Full Communion with the Anglican Church of Canada, is eligible for consideration. Therefore, rostered pastors (or bishops) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada are also eligible.
The Search Committee will request a variety of material from those who have agreed to be nominated for the election. This might include a CV, responses to questions, a personal video clip, etc., with a deadline of about a month before Synod. The Committee arranges the received materials into a standardized format (so each of the candidates can be easily compared), then distributes this material in a Convening Circular to the members of our Diocesan Synod. The timeline for these steps is governed by the Provincial Constitution and Canons.
On June 16, 2018 (God-willing), the Synod will convene for the purpose of electing the coadjutor bishop. The Metropolitan is Chair of this Synod, which begins with a celebration of Holy Eucharist. Following some procedural resolutions, the Chair of the Search Committee will put forward for nomination those to be nominated for election. While there is no provision for nominations from the floor, late nominations may be received up to 72 hours before the Synod convenes. Balloting continues until one candidate receives a simple majority of both the lay and the clergy vote. That candidate is then asked to consent to his/her election and becomes the bishop-elect.
Because the bishop-elect will need to wrap up their present ministry, they will likely join our diocesan staff in early Fall – providing a 1–2 month overlap with Bishop Don before he retires. The intent is to have the new bishop’s consecration at the beginning of our regular diocesan Synod in October, 2018.


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