On Saturday, clergy and lay deputies from the Diocese of Lexington will gather at Christ Church Cathedral to elect the Seventh Bishop of Lexington. The election will take place in the context of a celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Prayers are offered as each ballot is taken. Votes are taken by orders – lay and clergy. A majority of the deputies and a majority of the clergy are required to elect the bishop. Following each ballot, those present are told how many votes each candidate received from each order. Occasionally, a bishop is elected on the first ballot. However, it usually takes several ballots. One candidate begins to “rise” and is finally elected.
Each of us has a role to play in choosing the Bishop as well. In addition to all the things we’ve been doing to become acquainted with those who have offered themselves as candidates, we are invited to pray for them and for those who will be voting. It should come as no surprise that the Book of Common Prayer can help us do our part.
I recommend that you begin by reading the simple description of the ministry of bishops that is found in the Catechism:
“The ministry of a bishop is to represent Christ and his church, particularly as apostle, chief priest, and pastor of a diocese; to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the whole Church; to proclaim the Word of God; to act in Christ’s name for the reconciliation of the world and the building up of the Church; and to ordain others to continue Christ’s ministry” (BCP, pg.855).
Then, turn to page 512 and read the text of the liturgy that will be used in December when the new Bishop is ordained by Presiding Bishop and at least two other Bishops. There you will find the ministry of Bishops described more fully. You will also find the questions the new Bishop will be asked to answer and the declarations her or she will make in the presence of the Church in Lexington.
Finally, I invite you to offer the prayer we have been using in worship for the last six months:
Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a bishop for this Diocese, that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
When we gather on Sunday morning, we’ll start saying a new prayer for the one who has been chosen to lead the people of this diocese into the next era of mission.