Resigned bishops may lose voting rights

August 5, 2003

The House of Bishops took the first step Tuesday to remove the voting rights of resigned bishops.

Resolution B005 proposes a constitutional change that gives seat and voice to all bishops – but vote only to bishops with jurisdiction, coadjutors, suffragans, assistants and every bishop holding an office created by General Convention. A constitutional change requires two readings at General Convention before it becomes part of church law. The earliest this resolution could take effect is Jan. 1, 2007.

Bishop Gordon Charlton, retired bishop of Texas, proposed an amendment to allow retired bishops to vote on house resolutions as well as those dealing with the “faith and order” of the church.

“I always considered I was called to this office for the rest of my life, which includes being involved in the governance of the church,” said Bishop David Reed, retired bishop of Kentucky. “The amendment gives us the opportunity to continue our ministry.”

But other bishops struck down the amendment, countering that ministry can continue even without a vote.

Governing of the house “ought to reside with those who have responsibility and accountability,” said Bishop William Smalley of Kansas, who said his retirement is 149 days away. “I’ll be happy to come back, but not if I have a voice on the matter.”

Some bishops referenced a study of resigned bishops, which found that 70 of 102 responders favored the resolution.

In the roll call vote, 126 bishops supported the resolution, with 31 opposing it; there were six abstentions.

In other business, the issue of direct ordination still remains a sticking point for some bishops – despite a consensus in the house to keep the transitional diaconate.

During what should have been simple housekeeping of rejecting two resolutions about direct ordination – which the bishops directed the ministry committee to do – some bishops took the floor in favor of direct ordination.

“We’d like to have the option in Southwestern Virginia,” said the diocese’s bishop, the Rt. Rev. Neff Powell. “I believe ministry begins with baptism, and I think dual ordination track confuses the issue.”

Ultimately the bishops rejected the resolutions, although they seemed to agree with a suggestion by Bishop John Croneberger of Newark that the bishops need to have an in-depth discussion about direct ordination.