The Rt. Rev. Susan Goff has announced “This afternoon the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Virginia announced the decision of a majority of its members not to add any petition candidates to the slate for the election of the 14th Bishop Diocesan.”
The last diocesan bishop, the Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston, announced his resignation in November 2018. Goff, bishop suffragan, has served as the ecclesiastical authority of the diocesan since that time.
The nominations committee in March announced a slate of four white men. On April 4th, Bishop Goff addressed concerns about the slate. Her announcement today thus is her second statement on the matter.
Below are reproduced her two statements, beginning with the latest.
Our Responsibility in the Election Process
May 6, 2022
Dear Friends in Christ,
This afternoon the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Virginia announced the decision of a majority of its members not to add any petition candidates to the slate for the election of the 14th Bishop Diocesan. Some of you have heard the news with surprise. I write to you with a reflection and an invitation as you receive this news and as we as a Diocese move toward the election on June 4.
The Standing Committee is made up of six clergy and six lay members who are elected by the delegates to Diocesan Convention. Two clergy and two lay persons are elected each year from a slate of those nominated by their congregations, regions or other organizations, or who self-nominate. The delegates to Convention who elect them are themselves elected by vestries, who are elected by congregations. Through this democratic process, all people of the Diocese have a voice in electing the Standing Committee and responsibility for the work of the Standing Committee.
Responsibility for the selection of nominees for a Bishop, according to the Canons (Church laws) of the Diocese of Virginia, rests in the hands of the Standing Committee. The Bishop calls for an election, then the Standing Committee designs the process, appoints the Search and Transition Committees and oversees the petition process. Our Standing Committee has done that work according to the process they designed.
The design and outcome of the process belong to the Standing Committee and questions may be addressed to them at email@example.com. Just as importantly, responsibility for our democratic election process in The Episcopal Church and in the Diocese of Virginia belongs to all the people of this Diocese, both lay and ordained.
I therefore invite you to:
· Take your place in the Conventions and other democratic processes of our Church;
· Pray about and work toward the election of strong candidates for Standing Committee at our Convention in November;
· Identify any places of brokenness in our structures and systems, and work in concrete ways toward healing them;
· Pray for our democratic process, giving thanks for the ways it serves us well, seeking to revise the ways it does not;
· Pray for all delegates who will vote in the June 4 election;
· Pray for the Nominees;
· Pray for the Standing Committee;
· Pray for the Church.
God give us grace to continue faithful conversation about the experiences that hurt and divide us. God give us the courage to work for healthy growth and healing change.
A Collect for the Church
Gracious God, we pray for your holy catholic church. Fill it
with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt,
purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is
amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in
want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake
of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, page 816
Your Sister in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff
Bishop Suffragan and Ecclesiastical Authority
There is an 800-pound gorilla in the room. A two-ton elephant. A fire-breathing dragon. Everywhere we turn, there it is. As I name it in this Monday meditation, I ask you to hang in with me, putting blaming and judging aside for a moment. Let’s ask some healthy questions about the state of our Diocese and the wider Church, and let’s listen for what the Holy Spirit might be up to.
For the first time since 1993, a slate for bishop in the Diocese of Virginia does not include racial, ethnic or gender diversity.* This slate as currently composed has become a lightning rod for deep issues facing both the Diocese of Virginia and the entire Church. Our anxieties about diversity, race, sex, gender, Covid losses, economic uncertainty, changes in church attendance and other issues have latched on to this slate, making it the latest repository of our fears. How do we understand and respond faithfully in light of these realities?
- We avoid blaming. This is not the fault of the four men who are on the slate, and it does not call their qualifications into question. They were presented by the diverse Search Committee to our diverse Standing Committee which, in turn, presented them to our Diocese. Any complex systemic issues that are part of this outcome are broader than these groups alone, so it will not help us to lay blame at their feet. We are all on the same bus, so let’s not throw anyone under the bus.
- We notice and name our emotions about this, then we put those emotions aside so that we can act effectively and responsibly.
- We uncover, name and work to heal the brokenness that people experience because of racism, sexism, genderism, heterosexism or any other “isms.” We name what we see, and we work and pray for a Diocese, a wider Church and local congregations that fully reflect the wonder and beautiful diversity that is already present at the feasting table in God’s heaven.
- We expand our learning and growth through Sacred Ground and other circles. We spend time, honest time, with people who are different from us. We recognize the gifts of individuals, the strengths of our Church and the growing edges for our Diocese, all through eyes of love.
- We take part in next steps in this election. Engage the petition process which remains open until midnight on April 8. If you desire to see the slate expanded, this process lays out how to do it. Attend a Meet and Greet session. Read the materials on each candidate. Pray, pray and pray some more for the person God is raising up as our next bishop diocesan.
- We ask questions and live with the questions for a while:
What is the Spirit saying to the Church in this moment of our story?
What patterns and trends in the Church and in the world are being revealed?
What is our response to those patterns and trends?
What new thing might God be doing among us?
How will we be Jesus’ hands and feet, eyes and ears, mouth and voice in
our Diocese and in our world right now?
God, lead us and guide us along the way. Still our restless minds long enough so that we will see the way and let you continue to work through us.
Bishop Susan Goff
Bishop Suffragan and Ecclesiastical Authority
*Summary of Slates
- 1969 – An African American man was on the slate for Bishop Suffragan for the first time. A white man was elected.
- Slates between 1969 and 1993 included all white men.
- 1993 – The slate of seven nominees for the election of two Bishops Suffragan included three white men, three white women and one African American man. A white man and the African American man were elected. (The second was never consecrated, however, after accusations of sexual misconduct were thoroughly investigated by the Standing Committee.)
- 1995 – The slate of eight nominees for Bishop Suffragan included four white men, three white women and one man of color. Two of the eight were on the slate by petition. A white man who was nominated by petition was elected.
- 2007 – The slate of five nominees for Bishop Coadjutor included three white men and two white women. A white man was elected.
- 2012 – The slate of six for Bishop Suffragan included two white men and four white women. A white woman was elected.
Since 1993, bishop slates in the Diocese of Virginia have included:
- Two men of color – one was elected, though not consecrated
- Twelve white women – one was elected
- Twelve white men – three were elected
No slate for bishop in the Diocese of Virginia included persons who self-identified as LGBTQ+ at the time of the election.