I’m the first to admit it. I’m just a little bit intimidated by bishops.
It’s all that beautiful, colorful clergy attire: albs, chasibles and copes, topped off with a red, white or gold mitre, said to be the most recognizable part of a bishop’s dress, not to mention the big ring and the pectoral cross.
Who doesn’t feel the heart skip a beat when Bishop Michael Curry of the N.C. Episcopal Diocese or Bishop William H. Willimon of the United Methodist Church come down the aisle at Duke Chapel in one of those long processions, accompanied by the booming voices of the congregation, the choir and the great organ. It’s awesome!
So, maybe I am too quick to attribute power to these elected leaders not relegated to them by their church polity.
In this column last week, I was drawing a comparison between how a Presbyterian church with no bishops goes about conducting its search for a new pastor with how a church with bishops goes about the same process.
I lumped all those churches with bishops, including the Episcopal Church, and made a sweeping statement about bishops (not a good idea) that read: “...bishops (are) elected officials who take a leading role in finding a new pastor (rector), and can actually appoint one to a congregation.”
You might make a case for this statement as not quite wrong, but on the other hand, as not quite right, either. So thanks to some loyal Episcopal readers, and especially to David Smith, a retired Duke professor, for help in clearing the muddy waters about the “Episcopal way.”
While it is true that a United Methodist bishop has authority to appoint a clergy person to a particular church, an Episcopal bishop plays more of an advisory role in this process, according to Smith, who was a member of the search committee that brought Father Jonah Kendall to St. Philip’s Episcopal Church only a few years ago.
The first thing that happens when a parish rector resigns is for the church to receive help from the bishop’s office to find an intern rector to serve a term from one to two years while the parish appoints a search committee and engages in a self-study.
This search committee goes right to work to find and sort through potential candidates.
After a list is compiled, members of the search committee usually visit those on the list in their home setting to hear them preach and to talk with their parishioners.
At some point in the ongoing search, the leading candidates will begin to emerge and be invited to come to the church that’s searching and meet with the committee.
After these meetings, the search committee may recommend one to three candidates for consideration by the Vestry, the governing board of the church.
The final step is for the Vestry to “make the call” or select the candidate.
At this point, the bishop steps into the picture. The candidate has to meet with and be approved by the bishop, so, technically the bishop has the final say.
“But it is not correct to say that the bishop appoints our rectors,” Smith said. “In this process, we identify more with Presbyterians than with Methodists.”
He added, however, that in special situations, Episcopal bishops can and do appoint a rector to a congregation.
“That’s true for mission churches, a case in point being Iglesia El Buen Pastor on Liberty Street. But that’s not how it works for parishes such as St. Philip’s,” he said.
Lee appointed leader
The Rev. Dr. Rhonda M. Lee, associate rector at St. Philip’s Episcopal, 403 E. Main St., for the past three years, has been appointed by Bishop Michael Curry as Regional Canon of the diocesan leadership team in the Charlotte and Sandhills convocations, beginning Sept. 15.
A native of Montreal, Lee grew up in a multicultural environment both at home and in the community. As vicar of St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church on West Main Street in Durham, she provided pastoral leadership for that congregation in ways that helped it effectively minister with the homeless population in its midst.
In her current role as associate rector of St. Philip’s, she leads the Christian formation and pastoral care programs.
In addition to serving as a regional canon working with clergy, lay leaders and congregations, she takes to her new work both personal experience and expertise in multicultural, cross-cultural and ethnically diverse ministry. She is fluent in Spanish, French and Italian.
As Regional Canon, the Rev. Lee will help lead the ongoing discernment of where and how God is calling the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina to become a church reflective of the people of the state in all their God-given variety and diversity.
Kehillah Synagogue in Chapel Hill has announced a three-part lecture series titled “Varying Perspectives on Israel,” beginning Wednesday, Sept. 10, when John Judis will discuss his recent book “Genesis.”
“Genesis” is a historical account of Israel's founding and the role played by American Zionists in successfully lobbying then U.S. President Harry Truman to support the creation of the new Jewish state.
Peter Beinart, the author of his own controversial book on this same subject, wrote, “You don't have to agree with all of Judis's conclusions to be powerfully impressed by the extent of his research, the quality of his insight and his deep empathy for both Jews and Palestinians in the tortured land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.”
Judis, the author of six books, is a distinguished national journalist and a senior editor at The New Republic. He has written for such publications as GQ, Foreign Affairs, the New York Times and the Washington Post, among others.
The lectures will continue on Thursday, Nov. 13, when Jeff Spinner-Halev speaks on “Conversations with Israelis During the War in Gaza”; and on Thursday, Dec. 11, when Josh Block's topic will be “Israel in the Mind of America.”
All the lectures begin at 7:30 p.m. at Kehillah, Synagogue located at 1200 Mason Farm Road in Chapel Hill.
The series is co-sponsored by Beth El Synagogue and Judea Reform Congregation in Durham, and Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill.
Contact Flo Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 910-361-4135.