Bishop Joe Goodwin Burnett, of Nebraska, will serve as assistant bishop of Maryland effective April 1, 2011, following the Jan. 1, 2011, retirement of Maryland Suffragan Bishop John L. Rabb.
Maryland Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton, with the support and consent of the diocesan Standing Committee and in accordance with the canons and constitutions of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Maryland, has chosen to appoint an assistant bishop to serve full time in the diocese for a period of approximately two years until he calls for the election and consecration of the diocese's next bishop suffragan, according to a May 17 news release.
"It gives me great pleasure to know my colleague and friend Joe Burnett will be able to accept my invitation to come to the Diocese of Maryland to assist us during these years of transition," Sutton said. "He is a known leader in the Episcopal Church, whose experience, intellect and wit will be greatly appreciated by everyone here. We are absolutely delighted that we can use his considerable gifts as we move forward."
An assistant bishop assists the diocesan bishop by providing additional episcopal services, and is appointed by the diocesan bishop, with the approval of the Standing Committee of the diocese. The assistant bishop must already be exercising episcopal jurisdiction as a diocesan or suffragan bishop. The assistant bishop serves under the direction of the diocesan bishop, and may not serve beyond the termination of the appointing bishop's jurisdiction.
The Rev. Scott P. Bellows, former president of the eight-member elected Standing Committee and current rector of St. David's Church, Roland Park, in his report to the annual diocesan convention on April 30, noted that the appointment of a "long-serving and experienced colleague" would allow Sutton, who was elected in 2008, more time to grow into the duties and responsibilities as the diocesan bishop, and would "better prepare [the diocese] to discern the gifts and skills we desire in our next bishop suffragan."
In his letter on May 17 to the Diocese of Nebraska announcing this transition, Burnett stated, "I believe it is a call of the Holy Spirit, and that it offers just what is needed at this pivotal time in my life and vocation -- a new and still challenging episcopal ministry, but also one that moves at a somewhat different pace. I anticipate working with Bishop Sutton for approximately two years, after which I will move toward full retirement."
Burnett was ordained and consecrated 10th bishop of Nebraska in 2003. As of next April he will have served that diocese nearly eight years. Burnett's full biography is available here.