September 14, 2021
Dear colleagues and friends in Christ,
Almost two years ago, following the 203rd Convention of the Diocese of Ohio in November of 2019, I invited the Standing Committee into a focused conversation about the future of episcopal (the Bishop’s) ministry in our diocese. This was precipitated not by any vocational decisions on my part, rather out of a conviction that every Standing Committee carries the responsibility of understanding the ministry of a bishop in their particular diocesan context. They have canonical obligations that presuppose their familiarity with the bishop’s ministry, the contextual challenges and opportunities that form it, and the canons that define and direct it.
The Rev. Chris McCann, then Standing Committee President, and I invited the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, Bishop for the Presiding Bishop’s Office of Pastoral Development (that which provides, among other things, resources and guidance to dioceses and bishops regarding episcopal ministry), to join the Committee on February 1st of 2020, for a retreat at Bellwether Farm. The purpose of this time together was to learn about the roles and responsibilities of various types of bishops and the range of ways in which they are carried out. Over the following 18 months, we set aside time at each monthly meeting of the Standing Committee to explore fully the areas of responsibility identified at that retreat, with specific attention to how they have been and are currently accommodated in our diocese by the Bishops and the Bishop’s Staff.
In June of this year, Bishop Ousley returned to Bellwether for another meeting with us, to review the work of the previous year and a half and look toward the future. This time, the conversation was led in large part by my own belief that, after more than 40 years of ordained ministry and nearly 18 deeply fulfilling and happy years since coming to serve with you in the Diocese of Ohio, it is time to begin a process of episcopal transition. To that end, the Committee and I have worked through the summer in preparation to begin such a process, the goal of which being the election of a Bishop Coadjutor at the 206th Diocesan Convention, a year from this November. (A Bishop Coadjutor serves jointly with the Bishop Diocesan for a limited period of time, allowing the Bishop-elect and the system some flexibility in getting settled and effecting the transfer of responsibilities.) That bishop and I would serve together for an undetermined period before I would resign sometime in 2023. By then, I will be well into my 20th year serving with you.
Later this week, Bishop Ousley will once again join the Standing Committee and me, along with Ms. Anne Schmidt, a Transition Consultant trained by the Office of Pastoral Development and contracted by the Standing Committee, to continue the work we have been doing over the last two years, focusing now on the election of the 12th Bishop of Ohio. The Committee, as directed by Canon I.3.1 of the Diocesan Constitution and Canons, will “establish a process for the nomination and election of such Bishop.” Following that meeting, you will hear from Standing Committee President Rich Preston about the chronological and structural details of that process.
While the search for and election of a bishop is important, it must not distract us from the central work of the body of Christ, which is to heal this broken world and “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” On that front, we have much to do in this conflicted and challenging time. I have every confidence that the Standing Committee will provide an expedient and effective pathway to accomplish this additional task – one that will utilize the best of known practices and much of what we have learned through this continuing pandemic. Its success will depend both on our participation when requested and, far more, on our undistracted attention to the hopes and needs of the world beyond our own structures, both physical and ecclesiastical.
Please know that it continues to be a singular joy to serve with you.
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio