Bishops on the brain

A newsletter message written for St. David's Episcopal Church, Kinnelon, NJ

Dear Friends,

"Bishops on the Brain"

Perhaps it sounds like a pretty serious malady, but this month, it seems that there has been an inordinate amount of talk about Bishops!  In addition to preparing for our own upcoming visitation with Bishop Beckwith on June 3rd, the diocese has been engaged in the historic task of electing a new Bishop to serve in the Diocese of Newark after Bishop Beckwith retires in September.

Throughout the month of May, delegates to the Diocesan Convention have been reading about and researching the candidates, meeting with the candidates in “walkabouts” (sort of like town hall meetings with them) and then, on Saturday, May 19th, the convention gathered at St. Peter’s Church in Morristown to decide which one would be called as our next Bishop.

The Rev. Carlye J. Hughes was elected on the first ballot to serve as the XI Bishop of Newark.  It is an historic election in a number of ways.  This election is only the second time in the history of the Episcopal Church that an African American woman has been called to serve as a Diocesan Bishop (meaning, “head bishop”), and only the fourth time in our history that an African American woman has been elected at all (two other African American women have served as Bishops Suffragan - meaning “helper bishops”).

You can read more about Bishop-elect Carlye, and her remarkable journey to the priesthood and, now, to the episcopate on the diocesan website.  But today, what I most want to talk about is a bit of what the ministry of bishops is all about.

We are called the Episcopal Church which comes from the Greek word episkopos, meaning overseer, and later, bishop.  So, we are a church that understands itself through the ministry of bishops.  And bishops lead many of the ministries of the church: they confirm and receive people into our communion of churches, the ordain priests and deacons to lead the church and to serve the world, they teach and preach, and, of course, they oversee the churches.

But one of the most important ministries of bishops is that they serve as embodied signs of the unity of the church.  Last month, we read the part of John’s Gospel wherein Jesus prayed to God for the church that was to come, “that they all may be one.”  While we’re still striving toward that goal, bishops are living symbols of our striving.  They remind us that we’re not just a part of our tiny silos of ministry, but that in our ministry we are a part of the wider church: the diocese, but also our denomination, our Anglican Communion, and Christianity, more broadly.

As we welcome Bishop Beckwith this month and as we prepare to welcome Bishop-elect Carlye, may you be reminded that we’re all a part of something bigger than ourselves - that the ministry of Christ extends around the world and throughout time through the humble workings of people like us.

In peace,