Bishop's Role

What is the Role of a Bishop?

As we celebrate the ministry of Bishop Klusmeyer and prepare for the election of a Bishop Coadjutor in September, some parishioners may be wondering how to select a Bishop. After all, Bishop Klusmeyer has been our Bishop for almost 20 years. It may be hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Those who are delegates and tasked with helping to elect the Coadjutor may be wondering how to make this decision.

First, it is helpful to remember that – like calling a rector – electing a Bishop is about discernment. It’s not like hiring someone to do a job. It’s about listening to the Holy Spirit and getting a sense of where God might be calling our Diocese in the future.

There is a job description for the office of Bishop. One way to begin the discernment process might be to read through it and imagine how the various candidates might carry out the tasks.

During the ordination service, the Bishop-elect is reminded that s/he is:

“A bishop in

God's holy Church is called to be one with the apostles in proclaiming Christ's resurrection and interpreting the Gospel, and to testify to Christ's sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of kings.

You are called to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church; to celebrate and to provide for the administration of the sacraments of the New Covenant; to ordain priests and deacons and to join in ordaining bishops; and to be in all things a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the entire flock of Christ.

With your fellow bishops you will share in the leadership of the Church throughout the world. Your heritage is the faith of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and those of every generation who have looked to God in hope. Your joy will be to follow him who came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

What does all this mean in practice? How does this help us to discern among the candidates?

First, the office of Bishop is very diverse. A Bishop is called to be a pastor, leader, listener, friend, disciplinarian, guide, judge and more.

Below are some examples of how Bishops do these various things. Of course, every bishop does things differently and focus their attention differently. As you discern who might be called to be the Bishop Coadjutor, it would be helpful to think about how the various candidates might live out these various ministries:

  • To proclaim and interpret the Gospel – Most of us see the Bishop during the annual visitation, when the Bishop often preaches and celebrates the Eucharist. The way a Bishop proclaims the Gospel impacts our lives in the Diocese.
  • Guard the faith – Our Bishop, as a member of the House of Bishops, help form the policies of the Diocese and the larger Church and may need to act to preserve what they believe to be right.
  • Celebrate and provide for the administration of the sacraments – Bishops, guided by the Book of Common Prayer, decide what types of services may be authorized in their diocese. For example, a parish celebrating its 100th anniversary (or a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary) might want to re-create the service that happened all those years ago. A service like that, using a different prayer book (in this case, the 1928), requires permission from the Bishop.Obviously, Bishops also work with parishes to help them find clergy and ministry opportunities.
  • To ordain priests and deacons – Many of us don’t think much about where clergy come from. Bishops have a big role in raising up leaders of all kinds, including training programs for lay leaders, discernment for those considering ministry, advice in seeking out education (traditional seminary, distance learning, or local training options), and mentoring for newly ordained leaders.
  • Faithful pastor – A Bishop, along with the priests in the Diocese, should inspire the flock and offer pastoral care. The pastoral care of the laity is primarily the privilege of the other clergy, while the bishop provides pastoral care to the clergy. However, Bishops also preside over a variety of pastoral situations.
  • Provide a faithful example – this may seem obvious, but a Bishop reflects on the entire diocese. Bishops may offer press conferences to announce initiatives, or speak to the media about important concerns, and may inspire people to work to build up the Kingdom or join a church initiative. On the flip side and if a bishop is found in an unflattering position, that also can reflect poorly on all Episcopalians.
  • Share in the leadership of the Church. As many of us know that in addition to presiding at Diocesan committees and Diocesan Convention, Bishops attend the House of Bishops twice a year to consult with other Bishops on the life of the Church. Beyond that, Bishops may participate in a wide variety of councils reflecting their interests, expertise, or regional affairs. For example, Bishops serve on the boards of seminaries, on Episcopal Church committees and commissions and on boards like Episcopal Relief and Development. Of course, they also gather once every 10 years for Lambeth, which draws Bishops from across the Anglican Communion. Bishops may be involved in other international efforts as well, such as companion diocese program. Many times, they share these interests with their dioceses through education programs or opportunities to get involved.

All of the candidates have committed to doing these things. However, each would bring different skills tothe office, different experiences and expertise, and different passions and priorities. They also may beginother initiatives beyond these to build and strengthen the Church in West Virginia. As you read throughthe bios and other information about the candidates, let the Holy Spirit guide you into considering howeach of their gifts might further the work of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia.