Maryland elects totally safe bishop

mitre lg 02Pardon me while I take a quick trip into my GetReligion guilt folder. This is an Anglican warfare story from last weekend that I have been trying to find the time to write about all week.

Except, this really isn’t an Anglican warfare story at all. That’s kind of the point.

The big news is that the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland has a new bishop, a man who previously served as a canon at the National Cathedral, which is not that far away down south inside the DC Beltwary. There are several newsworthy phrases attached to the bishop elect and they show up in the first two paragraphs of the Baltimore Sun story about his election.

Maryland Episcopalians elected the Rev. Canon Eugene Taylor Sutton, canon pastor of the National Cathedral in Washington and an advocate of environmental causes, as the diocese’s 14th bishop yesterday on a single ballot.

Sutton, 54, the first African-American elected to lead the diocese in its 227-year history, also works as director of the Cathedral Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage.

Truth be told, this was a very non-controversial election — which is almost news in itself in the Episcopal Church these days. Even the most cynical of news-hounds would be hard pressed to find any signs of tension in the essays and profile materials provided by the various nominees in this race.

The story includes some interesting material about the bishop elect’s views on the environment and background notes on his work as a seminary professor and as a popular leader of spiritual retreats. All of this is appropriate.

But — you knew there was going to be a “but” — try to imagine how a mainstream newspaper would cover an election in a conservative Episcopal diocese in which there was complete and utter unity about the various hot-button issues facing the Anglican Communion these days. It appears that the nominees were completely united on all issues linked to gender, doctrine and sexuality issues, for example. Was someone silenced? Were there voices excluded?

Well, let me state this another way. Either the nominees shared the same views or everyone in the process remained completely silent. So the whole process was one-sided, there was an amazing lack of diversity or the controversial questions were asked behind closed doors.

sutton smEither way, the Sun story contains absolutely nothing — zip, nada — about the issues that have inspired so many headlines about the Episcopal Church in the past quarter century or so. These issues simply do not exist. Where does the bishop stand? It’s easy to guess, but this story offers nothing on the record.

On this day, all was peace and light.

Episcopal dioceses have a unique democratic process in choosing bishops, involving both clerical and lay delegates. Members say the process reflects the church’s philosophy.

“It truly reflects who we are as a denomination,” Tillman said. “We are open, and we are welcoming. We respect various viewpoints and work to bring various viewpoints to the table. And that’s reflected in this process.”

Many Episcopalians would agree. Many others would disagree.

This is why the church currently faces millions of dollars in lawsuits as the wars rage on. I am not saying that the Sun report needed to dig into all of that. I am saying that it is strange that a hard news story offered no information whatsoever on where this bishop elect stands on the issues that are tearing at the fabric of Anglicanism in North America and around the world. The silence is strange. Bizarre, even.

Photo: The mitre has nothing to do with the Episcopalians in Maryland. It’s amazing how little art there is online linked to this diocese or its cathedral. Good luck hunting!

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • An Anxious Anglican

    What was said of the Romans could be applied to the liberal media (or the leaders of The Episcopal Church, for that matter): they made a desert and called it peace.

  • Harris

    The Washington Post also includes the bishop’s educational background. His is a migration from moderate Reformed thought to that of the Episcopal communion. Conservatives, at lest, are not alien to him.

  • FW Ken

    I wonder if the new bishop was present when former President Khatami spoke at the National Cathedral in Washington. I wonder what he thought he thought about it.

  • Dave

    Maryland has always been a liberal diocese and conservatives are distinctly in the minority. As an alternate delegate, I know that the hard questions got asked in the “dog and pony shows” (regional meetings with all of the candidates) because I asked them. His was the strongest position; to whit, gays and lesbians are deserving of full inclusion in the life and sacraments of the church and that we should not knuckle under to the arrogance of Peter Akinola and the so-called Global South. The reason he won on the first ballot is because he is exactly what the diocese was looking for; the good shepherd who goes after the lost sheep and who can also protect the flock from the wolves. I am impressed to the point that I think he could be the next presiding bishop in ten years, time. Incidentally, this is the only first ballot election since Bishop Claggett in 1792.

  • Dave

    The previous “Dave” is a different Dave.


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