A slate of four nominees has been announced to fill the position of the Episcopal Church’s top bishop. Bishops Thomas Breidenthal (Southern Ohio), Michael Curry (North Carolina), Ian Douglas (Connecticut), and Dabney Smith (Southwest Florida) were reported as nominees May 1 by the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop. Biographical information on the candidates is available here.
The next Presiding Bishop will succeed Katharine Jefferts Schori, who completes the responsibilities of her nine-year term at the conclusion of Episcopal General Convention, to be held June 25-July 3 in Salt Lake City, Utah. An election will be held by members of the denomination’s House of Bishops on June 27th, which will then pass to the House of Deputies for a vote of confirmation.
The 1.86-million member Episcopal Church has been characterized by a sharp decline and ongoing litigation between the national church and those dioceses and congregations that have sought to depart during Jefferts Schori’s episcopacy. Attendance in the church’s U.S. dioceses has dropped over 18 percent from 765,326 in 2006 to 623,691 in 2013, the most recent reporting year. Membership has declined 13 percent from 2,154,572 in 2006 to 1,866,758 in 2013.
The church has been estimated to have spent approximately $40 million in legal fees through 2014 related to the departures. Partway through Jefferts Schori’s term, conservative Anglicans in 2009 organized an alternative Anglican province to the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church in North America.
Another mainline Protestant denomination, the United Church of Christ, is also set to select a new top official this summer. A new General Minister and President will be voted on at the denomination’s General Synod, held June 26-30 in Cleveland, Ohio.