Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has named Diocese of Lexington Bishop Stacy F. Sauls as chief operating officer for the Episcopal Church.
"The Episcopal Church Center exists to support the Church in serving a diverse and changing world," Jefferts Schori said in a May 31 press release from the church's Office of Public Affairs. "The church-wide staff has achieved new levels of excellence and innovation as the Church Center has been reorganized and some staff has been dispersed to offices in other geographic regions of the church. This transition represents a healthy and forward-looking opportunity to build on that good work."
"Bishop Sauls brings a unique set of gifts to the next chapter of this ministry, particularly his distinguished service as a diocesan bishop. I am deeply grateful that he will join us in facilitating this work."
Jefferts Schori brought her choice of Sauls to the church's Executive Council during a telephone conference-call meeting on the morning of May 31, according to the church's Public Affairs Officer Neva Rae Fox.
Canon 1.4.3(d) calls for the presiding bishop to appoint a person to the position "with the advice and consent of a majority of the council." That canon refers to the position as an "executive director …who shall be the chief operating officer" who serves at the pleasure of the presiding bishop and is accountable to the presiding bishop.
As chief operating officer, Sauls will oversee the staff of the Episcopal Church Center in New York, as well as offices located in Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles, California; Seattle, Washington; Puerto Rico and elsewhere, the release said. Sauls will coordinate the work of the church's mission program, communication, finance and administration duties while assisting the presiding bishop in her role as the president and chief executive officer of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, the church's corporate legal entity.
According to the release, Sauls will also be an ex-officio member of the Executive Council and an active member of the board of Episcopal Relief & Development.
"This is the most interesting and rewarding time I can imagine to serve the Episcopal Church," Sauls said in the release. "I am anxious to collaborate in the transformative leadership being provided by our presiding bishop and the devoted service being offered by Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, and to bring my own creativity in challenging situations to the team. I am grateful to the presiding bishop for her confidence and the Executive Council for its endorsement."
Sauls was elected as the sixth bishop of Lexington in 2000. The diocese in eastern Kentucky includes 14 of the 100 poorest counties in the United States, according to the release. He is a graduate of Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, and the University of Virginia School of Law. He worked as a corporate lawyer, most notably with the law department of Delta Air Lines. He is a member of the State Bar of Georgia, the District of Columbia Bar and the Ecclesiastical Law Society (United Kingdom).
Sauls later graduated from General Theological Seminary in New York and was ordained a priest in 1989. He served parishes in the dioceses of Atlanta and Georgia before being elected bishop.
He earned a masters degree in canon law from Cardiff University in 2009. General Seminary granted him an honorary doctor of divinity degree in 2001, as did the University of the South, where he serves as a trustee, in 2002.
The release said that Sauls has guided the Diocese of Lexington to address issues and needs of the poor, especially in Appalachia, through education, healthcare, youth work and housing initiatives. Under his leadership the Reading Camp program was established to help children from Appalachia in need of intensive remedial reading work. The program has been replicated in five other settings across the country and has spread to South Africa and Liberia, the release said.
Several congregations, both urban and rural, were redeveloped while he was bishop, and one new congregation was started. Sauls also focused on strengthening smaller congregations in the Appalachian region, according to the release.
He also began the Network for Pastoral Leadership and Congregational Development three years ago, which has placed nine newly ordained priests into congregations in an intentional and intensive training and support program, the release said.
Sauls is a past member of the Executive Council and currently serves on the church's Standing Commission on World Mission and the Budgetary Funding Task Force. He is co-chair of the Joint Committee on the Philippines Covenant, as well as being active with mission projects in Japan. Sauls at one time was a member of the House of Bishops Task Force on Property Disputes.
Sauls and his wife Ginger, a special education teacher, are the parents of two adult sons.
He will assume his new position on Sept. 1, succeeding Linda Watt, who said earlier this year that she would retire in June. Watt had been chief operating officer since November 2006.
Sauls' appointment will precipitate a bishop election in the Diocese of Lexington.