All bishops are asked to affirm the “job description” statement from the Book of Common Prayer:


A bishop in God’s holy Church is called to be one with the apostles in proclaiming Christ’s resurrection and interpreting the Gospel, and to testify to Christ’s sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of kings.


You are called to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church; to celebrate and to provide for the administration of the sacraments of the New Covenant; to ordain priests and deacons and to join in ordaining bishops; and to be in all things a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the entire flock of Christ.


With your fellow bishops you will share in the leadership of the Church throughout the world. Your heritage is the faith of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and those of every generation who have looked to God in hope. Your joy will be to follow him who came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (p. 517)



What will our next bishop do with his or her time? As our chief diocesan shepherd, he or she will spend time:

  • Visiting parishes
  • Administering Sacraments (Baptisms, Holy Communion, Confirmations, Ordinations of priests, deacons, and other bishops, even Marriages and Funeral Rites)
  • Providing pastoral care, especially of clergy
  • Teaching
  • Providing Church leadership—unity, faith, discipline—both locally and worldwide
  • Participating in the House of Bishops
  • Receiving “Baby Bishop” training through the House of Bishops
  • Offering administrative oversight of Diocesan staff
  • Delivering deployment and spiritual guidance of deacons & seminarians
  • Following Christ, who also came “not to be served, but to serve”

This list captures many, but surely not all, of the responsibilities and privileges of being a bishop.

As you can see, bishops work very hard for their dioceses, their people, and, of course, for and with our ultimate Great Shepherd. We must remember that a bishop needs to have personal time as well!


Please pray for our next bishop and all for bishops everywhere.

Alert to All Parish Administrators & Church Secretaries

The Bishop Search Committee’s website offers bulletin inserts which you can simply copy from the site (under the Communications Tab) and then paste right into your bulletin document. You can then edit for length as you need.

From time to time, the Committee will offer resources for Adult Education or Sunday Forums. The Committee hopes you will alert the appropriate church leaders in your parish to these resources as you receive announcements in updates to you. We count on the work you do connecting the Search Committee and their work to people in the parish. We’re grateful to you for your efforts in keeping all of us in touch with each other.

The Rt. Rev. Nathan D. Baxter Retiring

On Saturday, May 3rd, friends from across the diocese and the country gathered together at the Cathedral Church of St. Stephen’s, Harrisburg, for a Celebration of Ministry honoring Bishop Nathan and Mary Ellen Baxter. The guests included representative from UBE, The Pennsylvania Ecumenical Council, elected officials, bishops, diocesan staff, diocesan clergy and friends. A special hymn honoring Bishop and Mary Ellen was composed by Bruce Trinkley, (retired, The Pennsylvania State University) and sung by a diocesan choir with members from several parishes in the diocese.

Assisting bishops included The Rt. Rev. Mike Creighton, retired Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, The Rt. Rev. Charlie McNutt, retired Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, Bishop of Diocese of Northwest Pennsylvania and Provisional Bishop elect of the Diocese of Pennsylvania and The Rt. Rev. Arthur Williams, retired, Diocese of Ohio. The Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry, Bishop, Diocese of North Carolina and a personal friend of Bishop Baxter was the preacher. Bishop Baxter will officially retire on May 31, 2014 and he and Mary Ellen plan to spend retirement between their homes in Harrisburg and the eastern shore of Maryland.

Standing Committee Report

At a meeting on May 1, the Standing Committee adopted the following two resolutions:

1.  “After reviewing the results of recent diocesan meetings–the data from the Listening Events  conducted by the Search Committee, the Assisting Bishop’s initial report on the state of the diocese, and the responses from the joint meeting of the Trustees and Standing, Search, Transition, and Finance Committees–the Standing Committee affirms the continuation of the current time line for the search process.”

2.  “The Standing Committee is simultaneously committed to working with the Provisional Bishop to address systemic weaknesses, indicated by Bob Gallagher and Michelle Heyne in their report of the recent facilitated joint diocesan leadership meeting, to bring health to our diocesan community.”

This report is to let you know about a concern regarding the search process for a new diocesan bishop: The question we discussed was, should we proceed along the present timeline, or should we put the process on hold to give us time to address a number of concerns that have come to the fore.  Although Bishop Gepert suggested that we stretch the process out for an extended period, he has clearly stated that it is a decision for the Standing Committee to make.  In the first of the two resolutions, we unanimously agreed that we should continue on the present timeline  (http://cpabishopsearch.com/search-schedule/).  What follows is the background and rationale for our decision.

First, we wish to thank the Search Committee for their excellent efforts in conducting the Listening Events throughout the diocese, and the members of the diocese who participated in those sessions, sharing their concerns and desires for our diocese.  The data which were gathered are available on the diocesan web site, here:  http://cpabishopsearch.com/resources/     We encourage everyone to view and reflect on them.  A pdf  is provided with suggested questions for use in a parish forum or adult education discussion.

Members of the Search, Transition, Finance, and Standing Committees, and of the Council of Trustees participated in a workshop on April 26th facilitated by Robert Gallagher and Michelle Heyne from Congregational Development Institute  (http://www.congregationaldevelopment.com/).  We looked at the data from the perspective of several models of organizational function, and we also heard from Bishop Gepert, our Assisting Bishop, soon to be our Provisional Bishop, concerning his observations in the brief time he has been with us in the diocese.

After some discussion there was some feeling that we should stretch the search process.  However, it was again made clear that this was a decision that the Standing Committee would have to make.

The Standing Committee believes that some of the concerns raised by the material can be dealt with over the next few months.  We believe that clear job descriptions will be put in place for the bishop’s staff and that Bishop Gepert will work closely with them to improve relationships with the parishes.  The Finance Committee is working to make financial information more readily understood and available.

Other issues, such as people having a feeling of being disconnected, do not have a definite end point at which we can declare them resolved; they instead require continuous work, both now and into a new episcopacy.  As such, the Standing Committee does not believe they are a sufficient reason to prolong the search process.

We sense that through the listening process and the airing of concerns, there is some momentum developing for addressing areas in which people feel a need for change.  We need to continue to listen to each other with respect and understanding, for it is only in such two-way communication that we can address the things that bother us and grow into a more healthy community.

Dr. Sam Ward, President, Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania


Listening to the Data: Joint Leadership Meeting Held

When a system like a diocese moves into the time of transition from one bishop to another, the people charged with discerning the choices for election do well to take time considering what makes for a good fit between themselves and the candidates.  The Listening Events were the first step we took in making ourselves more aware of who we are, how we are, and who we hope to become.  The second step we took involved looking at ourselves honestly.

The Search Committee invited all members of the Standing Committee, the Council of Trustees, the Finance Committee of the Council of Trustees, and the Transition Committee, to join them at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Harrisburg, on April 25th and 26th. Assisting Bishop Bob Gepert and the Very Rev. Ronald H Clingenpeel, our consultant from the National Church guiding us in the Bishop Search process, were also with us.   The Search Committee asked Bob Gallagher, OA,  and Michelle Heyne, OA, who are congregational development consultants in religious systems,to facilitated both meetings.  They brought skill in facilitation, but more significantly, skill in helping large groups of church leaders come to grips with understanding what’s going on in the system, and how to make changes for health and faithfulness.

The Search Committee scheduled and hosted the meetings, initially to bring all the current diocesan leaders together on the same ground while looking at the Listening Event data, before we put the results into the diocesan Profile.   But even before the meeting, systemic concerns plain to many of us loomed large, seeming to overshadow the possibilities ahead.  So, with Bob and Michelle’s guidance, the groups took a few steps back, to see the whole with detachment and not just the parts of our diocesan system that we ourselves experience or represent with passion.  Our goal was to understand and reflect on the way we do our work, and how our work benefits our ministry and mission.   We used the same set of questions on the Listening Event data which are provided for parishes on the Resource page, to name, claim and find a responsive stance toward these issues. During this time, the search process timeline came into question. The questions raised and the concerns named are discussed in the report Bob and Michelle made to the diocese, and also in a statement from Dr. Sam Ward, President of Standing Committee, published above.

All who attended the two days of work together indicated on their evaluation forms that the experience was very good, helpful, encouraging and inspirational.  One even said it was the best diocesan event he had ever taken part in. Good congregational development can have that effect.

We encourage you take time to follow the links provided by the Congregational Development team to give yourselves as full an understanding of this joint leadership meeting as possible.

The preparation that Bob and Michelle asked of us before our joint leadership meetings can be found here: http://www.congregationaldevelopment.com/diocese-of-central-pennsylvani/

The consultants’ report on those meetings can be found at this link: http://www.congregationaldevelopment.com/cpa-follow-up/

Data Report Now Available for Viewing & Study

The analyzed data from the Listening Events is now available on the website under the Resource tab. Simply click on the link for Analysis of Narrative Data that you find on the main page under Resources.  In the same place, you will find a link to a suggestion for using the data in a forum or adult education discussion. If you don’t want to use the data directly from the website, you can download the report as a pdf and print it as a handout for discussion. If you’d like to be in touch with a member of the committee for further discussion of the data, please look at the committee members’ tab on the website. Each convocation has at least one committee member resident in its bounds, and all committee members are able to talk with you about the data.

Data Gathering Complete!

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the Search Committee’s recent data gathering events.

63 clergy and ­­­249 lay people were heard at 13 regional listening events. ­­­10 parish leaders from 3 large churches and 1 small church attended the large church/small church event. 28 young people participated at their own event. In addition, we received 8 surveys through submission by those who could not attend any of the meetings. We believe this participation gives us representative information that will provide a basis for discerning our next Bishop.

The entirety of all that input is being assimilated by an outside agency, and the Search Committee will soon be examining their report.  The first analysis of the narrative data, covering all the questions with weighted responses, will be available early in May. Additional reports will be put up on the website as they are available.

We will keep you posted!


The Communication Subcommittee of the Bishop’s Search Committee

Show Us Your Sanctuary

The Search and Transition website has a lovely feature on the opening page.  You’ll notice the slider at the very top, showing you sanctuaries of four different parishes around the diocese, but we want to see more!  Please take a picture of your sanctuary–or look for one in your photo files–and send it to Taylor Lisney <t.lisney@globalhma.com>, one of the design team members at Howard Miller Associates creating and managing the site.  When you send your photo in, tell Taylor which parish you are from and where. If he needs to ask for a photo with better resolution for re-sizing, he’ll get back to you.  We’re looking forward to seeing your parish on the website.

Have Your Say

The 2014 Bishop Search Committee understands that many in the diocese will not have had opportunity to come to the various Listening Events hosted in the convocations over the last two months.  We want everyone who would like to take part, to have a means of telling the committee their thoughts, hopes and perspectives on our life and ministry in common.  If you  have not yet had a chance to  make your voice heard, please speak to your rector, who can give you the form of questions most convenient for you.   The committee looks forward to hearing from you.  Please remember:  we must have your response no later than Friday, March 21st.

Prayer for the Search

First Phase Parish Prayer    Here is the prayer we invite all members of the Diocese to use as we walk through the first phase of our searching process.  The discernment context subcommittee suggests that congregations pray this in unison during the Prayers of the People.

Gracious God, Great Shepherd of your people, we seek your wisdom as we listen for your voice among many voices.  We ask grace to imagine boldly, to pray unceasingly and to act being the community you would have us be.  We ask grace to be strengthened by our companionship with each other and by your presence in our deliberations and decision making.  We ask your blessing on the labors of those who seek our next bishop, who search for the one who will lead us with vigor and vision, and your grace on those who enter the application process.  In this discernment may we all be encouraged in discipleship in Christ for the good of your people throughout the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.  Amen.