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Churches in Europe to elect next Bishop in Charge

Posted on: December 14, 2000 5:58 PM
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The Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, has agreed to the request by the Convocation of American Churches in Europe to permit them to elect the next Bishop in Charge of the Episcopal Churches in Europe. For the first time ever, this decision enables the Convocation not only to vote for its next Bishop in Charge, but also to have a greatly expanded list of potential candidates for bishop. Historically, this position has been filled by an appointed part-time bishop, usually retired after serving in another diocese, with the responsibility of providing pastoral oversight to the American congregations in Europe. An exception to this was the appointment of the Rt. Rev. Edmond L. Browning as full-time bishop from 1970 to 1973.

With the arrival of the current Bishop in Charge, the Rt. Rev. Jeffery W. Rowthorn, in January 1994, the position was increased to a full-time appointment with greatly expanded responsibilities. The bishop's current portfolio includes building a closer working relationship with the other three Anglican jurisdictions in continental Europe - the Church of England; the Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church; and the Lusitanian Church of Portugal; forging closer ties with the Old Catholic and Porvoo Lutheran Churches of Scandinavia and the Baltic; and broadening the mission of the Episcopal Church in Europe, in addition to his primary responsibility of providing oversight and pastoral care to the existing congregations.

Meeting in their Annual Convention in Nice, France from 19-22 October, the delegates of the Convocation churches passed a resolution requesting the Presiding Bishop to call for the election of the next Bishop Suffragan. The resolution was presented because of the Convocation's unique standing in the church. Though not legally recognized as a diocese, it functions in many of the same ways as a diocese does within the United States, with its eight churches, five mission congregations and four other-language ministries. One of the main differences is that the geographical area encompasses five European countries. The Convocation is aligned with Province II (primarily New York and New Jersey dioceses, as well as Haiti and the Virgin Islands), but is unique in that it falls under the jurisdiction of the Presiding Bishop and has not until now shared fully in the choice of its Bishop in Charge.

A search committee will now be established, to begin the process towards the selection of the next Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe. With Bishop Rowthorn's definite retirement at the end of December 2001 (he is currently working on a reduced schedule), the Convocation is aware of the great challenge that will be addressed during the next twelve months. As Bishop Rowthorn said in his letter to the Convocation announcing the good news, "The coming year will be a moment of unprecedented opportunity for us in our life and witness together here in Europe. As I said in my sermon at our final Eucharist in Nice, so I say again in the name of us all: "Come, Holy Spirit, come!"

Below is the letter that Bishop Rowthorn sent to the Convocation announcing the eagerly awaited decision to elect the next Bishop in Charge.

6 December 2000

Dear Colleagues,

On this feast of St. Nicholas I am delighted to report that the Convocation has just received a splendid Christmas present.

In response to the resolution adopted by Convention in Nice on Saturday, October 21, the Presiding Bishop has now given his consent to the election of my successor as Bishop in Charge. The Episcopal Leadership Working Group is being asked to propose names to Bishop Griswold to assist him in forming the Search Committee. These names will be shared with the members of the Council of Advice for their reactions before being sent to the Presiding Bishop. However, the actual choice of the members of the Search Committee (how many members and who they are) will be for him to make.

I have no doubt that several factors contributed to Bishop Griswold's decision:

  • the fact that the resolution was adopted by Convention with no votes against;
  • the extremely positive reports given to the Presiding Bishop by the three members of his staff who were present in Nice (Canons Carlson Gerdau, Patrick Mauney and David Perry);
  • the care with which the Episcopal Leadership Working Group prepared the set of documents requested by the Presiding Bishop following the adoption of the resolution (and, of course, their work over the past year and more);
  • the excellence of the video which Michele Spike prepared with your help and with financial assistance from the three Boards;
  • the spirit which marked the meeting of the Boards in New York on November 14;
  • and, I suspect, the Presiding Bishop's very positive experience when he worshiped at St. Paul's in Rome on November 19.

Taken together, these all made a profound impression on him and the outcome is an answer to our hopes and prayers.

The coming year will be a moment of unprecedented opportunity for us in our life and witness together here in Europe. As I said in my sermon at our final Eucharist in Nice, so I say again in the name of us all: "Come, Holy Spirit, come!"

With great joy and affection,

Your brother in Christ

The Rt Revd Jeffery Rowthorn
Bishop in Charge