Election of Bishop Pierre Whalon’s successor
I was at Waterloo a week ago for the Bishop Election Convention of the Episcopal Church parishes in Europe.
I had an unusually close view of proceedings. As I was not entitled to be an elector, I was invited to be a teller for the election.
Voting was conducted in two houses, the clergy and the laity. One candidate, Paul-Gordon Chandler, was clearly ahead in the house of clergy from the outset and he sustained his lead.
After two of the four candidates withdrew, Paul-Gordon Chandler and Mark Edington continued to the eighth and final ballot, with Mark Edington sustaining and gradually increasing his lead in the house of laity.
On Friday, it appeared that Chandler would be the next bishop. It was only in the seventh and eighth ballots that the clergy vote began to move towards Edington. Several electors, clergy and lay, commented to me that the clergy usually moved in the direction that the lay vote took. It appears that the clergy are not usually prepared to deny the will of the laity.
On the eighth ballot Mark Edington was elected to succeed Bishop Pierre Whalon. Later on Saturday, we heard him speak with Bishop Pierre. He came across as articulate and warm. This impression was confirmed when the Convention had a Skype call with him. He was humorous – making almost goofy gestures as the technical aspects of the link were secured – and humble.
Pending the confirmation process of the Episcopal Church, which involves all its dioceses, he will be consecrated at the American Cathedral in Paris, on Saturday, April 6.
We hope to have Bishop Pierre for a visit to Holy Trinity and St Hugh’s before he steps down. We will also invite Bishop Mark to visit later next year.
Blindness and deafness are serious human afflictions. When they happen to artists or composers, they seem even worse. It’s hard to imagine how Beethoven coped without being able to hear the music he’d composed. We’re struck by the impact that cataracts had on the painting of Monet, how his palette darkened with the deterioration of his sight.
The thought of the effect of sight problems affects the way we respond to accounts of Jesus healing the blind. Sunday’s gospel has the story of a blind man called Bartimaeus. He yells out to attract Jesus’ attention and others try to silence him. The able-bodied see him as a nuisance.
But Bartimaeus has faith like that of the Syro-Phoenician woman and the woman with haemorrhages. He won’t he be held back.
Jesus responds by telling him that he is healed. Bartimaeus responds by following Jesus.
This picture is contrary to the way the institution of the Church sees itself. Church leaders talk about our responsibility for mission: “we” are called to evangelise, serve, and care for “them”.
The contrary is manifested in Mark’s Gospel. The people in the greatest need – the blind, the deaf, the marginalised – are the first to grasp the meaning of Jesus’ teaching.
This means that the Church cannot be simply regarded as be for the poor or even with the poor. As Pope Francis teaches it must be “a poor Church of the poor”. As Rafael Luciano wrote in Pope Francis and the Theology of the People, society’s transformation “cannot be driven from the centre, but rather must come from the peripheries, whether existential and social or political and religious”.