Dear Friends in Christ:
As I come to the halfway mark in my ministry as your Bishop Provisional, it is time to turn toward the election and ordination of the Tenth Bishop of Southern Ohio. This letter comes to you alongside a word from the Standing Committee, who have primary oversight for this transition and all its details.
There are a few matters, however, that I want you to hear directly from me. Not least of these concerns arises from Standing Committee President Scott Gunn’s sudden and serious illness. The Committee and I have depended on Scott’s abundant gifts and energies, both of which we will miss sorely in the short term, and we pray daily for his return to health. It might be tempting to defer the start of an election process; the Standing Committee and I are resolute in moving ahead, because the time has come.
I also think that the Diocese is on a clear trajectory toward well-being and wholeness. Together we have worked toward addressing addiction and its effects on Southern Ohio. The staff at Diocesan House is in good shape. Morale there and throughout the Diocese is improving. We have addressed issues of isolation, both geographical and emotional. We have become both more confident and more careful in facing the effects of COVID on the Church’s life, although the disease still wears on us all. We continue to uncover the effects of systemic racism in the life of this Diocese and the culture around us, and we struggle to address its caustic reality. We are trying, faithfully, to become the Beloved Community whom God desires.
The work remains incomplete in every one of these matters—and so it will be. It is my judgment, and that of the Standing Committee, that we have nonetheless come to the right moment to move toward election and ordination.
You should know that I am willing to consider an extension in my agreed-to time as Bishop Provisional, past the original end date of August 2023. I can imagine continuing in my current role through the time of an election, and then in a scaled-down role until the ordination. The timeline proposed by the Standing Committee sees an election in September 2023 and an ordination in February 2024.
There are details aplenty to sort out with the Presiding Bishop’s office, with the Church Pension Fund, and with the Standing Committee. I see nothing insurmountable, however, in any of the likely details.
And know that I remain blessed to be your bishop, during a season of transition.
George Wayne Smith
Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio