Diocese of Virginia ends search for second bishop suffragan

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In a letter to the Diocese of Virginia, published on the diocesan website today, the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, XIII Bishop of Virginia, stated that the ongoing search for a second bishop suffragan has come to an end without an election.

Bishop Johnston writes:

“We have taken this extraordinary step for two fundamental reasons. First, over the past few months, serious questions have been brought forward by members of the diocesan staff having to do with the leadership and the culture among diocesan staff. As Bishop I must take full responsibility for this situation. Utmost in my priorities will be to ensure that all of us function well together. The crucial point as we face this reality is that this is not the time to introduce a new bishop into the diocesan system. Rather, it is much preferable to bring in the help we need to address the difficulties and identify ways that the staff as a culture and system can be become fully functional again.”

In the letter, Bishop Johnston noted that his own discernment around when he will retire was also a factor in ending the search.  At the time the search commenced, Bishop Johnston was prepared to work for five years alongside a new bishop suffragan but is no longer certain he will remain in his current post that long.

Today’s news comes one month after the announcement that the Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Virginia, the Rev. Canon Pat Wingo, had accepted a call to become the Interim Rector of the Church of the Ascension, Knoxville, in the Diocese of East Tennessee.  During the search for the next Canon to the Ordinary, the Rt. Rev. Ted Gulick, former Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, will fill the role on a part-time basis.

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Eric Bonetti
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My own experience with a dysfunctional diocesan leadership here in DioVA and a culture that both tolerates and protects clergy misconduct suggests to me that the issues alluded to in this article run much deeper than may appear at first blush. Thus, I would say that challenges in the diocese involve more than learning to work together; they require a top-to-bottom examination of the ethical and cultural aspects of the organization. In short, the diocese has gotten so caught up in "doing church" that it has forgotten to "be church."

Hopefully, whatever decisions +Shannon makes start with a close and meaningful examination of these sorts of foundational questions; my fond hope is that +Shannon will be willing to ask the tough questions, then make the changes needed. That includes setting and enforcing the expectation that all clergy and diocesan staff act from the top down act according to the highest ethical and operational standards.

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Kenneth Knapp
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Kenneth Knapp

I suspect that I am not the only person in the Diocese of Virginia wondering about the back story.

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Georgia DuBose
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Georgia DuBose

I wonder how many people in the Diocese of Virginia are praying for the bishops and the diocesan staff during what is clearly a challenging time.

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