Guest Blog – Initial Thoughts on Episcopal Elections

This is a guest blog from Eric Seiberling, who is a change management consultant with the Abreon Group and has a blog, www.itlunatics.com, that deals with creating change in large organizations. Eric was a delegate at the North Central Jurisdiction from the West Ohio Conference and experienced the Episcopal elections first hand. This will be a series of posts about the election process and some thoughts on how to improve it.

Over this summer, I had my first opportunity to experience an Episcopal election first hand. I had the opportunity to experience this process both as a voter and as someone helping run a candidacy. I discovered that there is a fine line that candidates try to walk between making yourself “available” for election and “running” for the office. The process is inherently “political” but also a matter of spiritual “discernment.”

All 11 candidates were exceptional people. They had a breadth of experience and a deep spirituality. It was not so much a matter of “do they have the initial qualifications” but how do I discern differences between the different candidates?

Prior to the Jurisdictional Conference in Grand Rapids, I received a number of mailings, postcards, personal letters, and websites to seek information. Most of them were the equivalent of “plain yogurt.” Everyone used many of the same terms like “bridge builder, visionary, leader, spiritual.” I spent a lot of time trying to read between the lines to figure out the encoded message about what they really believed.

The sessions during Jurisdictional Conference itself provided some additional ways to gain insights, but were limited as well. Most candidates said the same things …”I will gather a team together, listen to the chorus of voices, lead by consensus, etc.” I spent a lot of effort trying to discern the differences between candidates while they were trying to articulate their position in a way that had the broadest appeal. The simple question is, “Is this process the best way to elect a bishop?” So, over the next few weeks, we’ll open a few questions up for discussion …

  • What are the qualifications for a bishop?
  • Should we judge a candidate on performance? If so, what are the measures?
  • What is the right way for the electorate to get to know the candidates?

Do you have any experience at Jurisdictional Conference? Is this common across Jurisdictions? Feel free to post your experiences.

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