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Thoughts on Electing a New Bishop

Updated: May 31, 2019

This Saturday morning, at Saint Vincent's Cathedral, a special electing convention of the Diocese of Fort Worth will meet to elect a Bishop-Coadjutor for the Diocese. This bishop-elect will be "on deck," as it were, for when Bishop Iker retires at the end of December.

“Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way;” (1 Timothy 3:2–4 RSV)

As we head into this weekend’s electing convention, I want to share my thoughts with you on what I’ve been looking for in our next bishop. These thoughts are mine alone and I don't mean them as criticism of any of the candidates. Since, as is proper in these things, I won’t share with you my candidate of choice, and since, more or less, none of us, including the candidates, live up to these hopes completely at all times, this is what I’ll be praying for - that the Holy Spirit would equip the man who has been called to this office!

A Man of Prayer

“The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” (James 5:16 RSV)

The truth is, we face manifold difficulties and challenges in our diocesan life, with many parishes in decline and others merely maintaining themselves, even while others thrive. My hope is that we will enter a time when we can renew and restore and grow across our entire Diocese. I’m praying that our next bishop will have the capacity to lead this renewal in mission and ministry, but that is actually secondary to the main thing: he must be a man of deep prayer, a man who draws his strength from the grace of Jesus. If our next bishop accomplishes great things, but does not pray, it will be all for nothing, because the mission we’re on is not our mission, but God’s mission to love and save lost humanity. Only a man of prayer can be about that mission.

Because of this, I want a bishop who benefits from a team of intercessors who gather around him. I want to a bishop who keeps the Daily Office and prays for those committed to his charge. I want a bishop who will call me on the phone just to pray for me. I want a bishop who would sooner die than stop praying.

A Shepherd Who Will Lead His People to the Vision of God

“Jesus said to him, 'Feed my sheep.'" (John 21:17 RSV)

Bishops are shepherds. They not only lead the clergy of a diocese by feeding them and guarding them against false teaching, but through this ministry, guard, defend, and flourish the whole people of God. I have received the great benefit of having a true shepherd in the bishops I have served, and I want, especially for our younger clergy and those who will be ordained in coming years, to have that benefit as well.

The bishop must diligently teach and preach, caring for the souls of those he humbly serves through ministries of hospitality and wise counsel. He does all of this, not to be well-liked, or because he is ambitious, but because he wants the people to meet God, not only in Heaven, but now!

A Catechist Who Takes Instruction Seriously

“Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1 Cor. 14:19)

Bishops have often been called the chief catechists of a diocese. I don’t say this merely because, as the people of this parish know, I’m obsessed with catechesis, but because it’s the plain truth: faithful and robust catechesis builds up the Church and makes her effective in mission and ministry. What we need in this day is not a soft-core and spiritually vapid version of Christian believing, but the real deal: apostolic, prayerful, and morally fruitful. If the bishop doesn’t take the lead in this, and expect it of his clergy, it simply won’t happen. I want to know that our next bishop has poured his life into forming Christians, converting the lost, and strengthening the discipleship of those in his pews. I am simply not interested in a candidate who prepares confirmands over the period of two Saturdays, or who constantly has an eye toward the bare minimum of instruction. I want a bishop who will take the time to examine our confirmands. I want a bishop who will have the courage to expect a very high catechetical standard in every congregation in the diocese. If only the Lord could rely on our parishes to make disciples, who knows what blessing could come!

A Man Who Is Firmly Catholic in His Convictions and Practices

"Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3)

I want a bishop who knows and defends the catholic faith of the undivided church against all manner of error, innovation, and contempt, especially among his fellow bishops, with whom he is tasked with guarding the faith and discipline of the Church. He must not only know what is apostolic and what is catholic, he must humbly believe himself to be bound by it. I want a bishop who avoids, with every fiber of his being, the manifold pitfalls of liberal protestantism with its incessant pandering to the culture and hermeneutic of finding whatever specious biblical evidence there is for whatever innovation he wants to introduce. I want a bishop whose instincts are formed by continual reading in the tradition of the Church and whose habits and virtues are formed, not by pragmatism, but by faithfulness to what he has received.

Furthermore, he must center his life upon the study of Holy Scripture, the Holy Eucharist, and regular confession and spiritual direction. He must take in the wisdom of the saints to aid him in the ministry he holds and he must exemplify obedience to Jesus and His catholic Church.

Now, there are a good many other things that I could name. But, I name these so that you can know where my heart is as I enter this crucial weekend.

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