December 1, 2020
Feast of Nicholas Ferrar, deacon
Dear friends in Christ,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We who serve on the Standing Committee are writing to give updates on our diocesan transition.
On November 30, our diocese began a new chapter. We have said thank you to Bishop Breidenthal for his faithful leadership of our diocese over thirteen years. In gratitude for all that he has done, we wish him every blessing in the next chapter of his ministry.
In the Episcopal Church, when a diocese is without a diocesan bishop, the Standing Committee becomes the ecclesiastical authority. This formal term indicates that the life and the ministry of our diocese can continue, and many of those things which might have required the bishop can be approved or decided by the Standing Committee.
The Rt. Rev. Kenneth L. Price, Jr.
Certain tasks require the ministry of a bishop. For example, only bishops can do confirmations or ordinations. In the immediate near term, we are finalizing arrangements with Bishop Ken Price to serve the diocese, organizing visitations, confirmations, ordinations, and other work that must be done by bishops. His working title will be Bishop in Southern Ohio, though he will canonically serve as assisting bishop, working with the Standing Committee as ecclesiastical authority. Bishop Price will work part-time. Bishop Ken Price is well-known in our diocese, having served here as bishop suffragan. He lives near Columbus.
In addition to Bishop Price, we will benefit from the ministry of Bishop Nedi Rivera and Bishop Wendell Gibbs. Many of you will know Bishop Rivera, as she has been living near Cincinnati for several years now and has been a regular presence in our diocese. Bishop Gibbs recently retired from his work as Bishop of Michigan, and he now lives near Columbus. Bishops Rivera and Gibbs will do occasional visitations, while Bishop Price will have a more active role.
We have heard from some people who believe that our diocese is healthy and ready to proceed quickly with a search for our next bishop. We have heard from others who believe we have issues that require attention and time to address.
We have chosen to have a short time of reflection and assessment of our diocesan ministry and life over the next few months. You will receive more details soon, but we hope to hear from lay people and clergy about the needs and the state of our diocese. We want to get a sense of whether we are ready to embark on a relatively speedy transition heading toward the election of our next bishop, or whether we have particular challenges that might require outside expertise and more time. Look for details about listening sessions, surveys, meetings, and so on, in the weeks to come. We hope to launch this work in January.
During this time of reflection and assessment, for the next six months or so, Bishop Price will be visible as a regular presence in our diocese. However, the Standing Committee will retain its role as the ecclesiastical authority. Within three or four months, we expect to be able to lay out a timeline which could include a longer search period (24-36 months) and the need for an outside, provisional bishop; or we may see that we are ready to proceed on a more traditional timeline (about 18 months) continuing without the need for sustained, outside leadership. In either case, the Standing Committee will appoint a bishop search committee, and you will hear more about that in due course.
Much of the work of the diocese will continue through diocesan staff, ably led by Canon John Johanssen, Canon to the Ordinary. He will serve as chief of staff, and he will be in touch with the Standing Committee if there are matters which require our attention. Otherwise, diocesan committees and commissions, as well as congregations, clergy, and lay leaders should continue to interact with diocesan staff as usual.
We are aware that this communication may answer some questions and raise others. Please contact us with questions, comments, or concerns. You can reach our president, Larry Hayes, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This will be the first of many letters from us, and we want to be as clear and transparent as we can during this period. We expect to be able to write again within a couple of weeks with more details.
Of course, this time is not just the beginning of a new chapter for our diocese. We are at the start of our liturgical year, a time in which we look for Jesus and prepare to meet him in our hearts and lives. We have much to celebrate in our diocese, even as we have some measure of uncertainty. But we also know that if we keep our lives oriented toward Jesus our savior, he will bless us.
We encourage you to pray for Bishop Tom Breidenthal and Margaret, his wife, as they begin a new chapter. Pray for our whole diocese, and especially for those of us on the Standing Committee who have begun a kind of leadership we could not have imagined a few months ago.
You might like to offer this lovely collect from the prayer book.
Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be peaceably governed by your providence; and that your Church may joyfully serve you in confidence and serenity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
We wish you the blessings and peace of the Advent season. We are,
Mr. Larry Hayes, president
The Rev. Philip DeVaul, vice-president
Dr. James Allsop
The Rev. Dr. Ellen Cook
Mr. Barry Feist
The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn