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Must the PB be CEO?

Must the PB be CEO?

In commenting on an earlier item at the Cafe, Lionel Deimel asked:

Why should our church be led by a bishop? I would feel very much better if our highest officer was a layperson. The Church does not exist for the benefit of clergy. Moreover, experience suggests that most mischief in the Church is initiated by bishops.

I think Lionel’s question is worth exploring. At the moment, the presiding bishop is the chief executive officer of the church, and, as far as I am aware, almost impossible to recall once he or she sets out on their nine year term. The PB is elected by only one of the two houses of our General Convention–the one that does not include lay people or clergy. Once in office, the PB is tasked with simultaneously administering a large bureaucracy, representing our church in Anglican Communion matters and acting as our chief pastor. This job is too big for one person. Additionally, it encourages what I have heard called “primatial creep,” the tendency of presiding bishops to act as though they and not the General Convention (and Executive Council when convention is not in session) are the ultimate authority in our church.

That said, I can’t really imagine our church without a presiding bishop, though I can imagine it without a presiding bishop who exercises primatial authority, or who is involved in the day-to-day operations of the staff.

Perhaps some of you with backgrounds in organizational development can help us build a better mousetrap here. Thoughts?


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Juan Oliver

I utterly agree with Elizabeth.

But why are we talking about this? The PB HAS a CEO –we call it COO, but it´s the same. And no, the PB cannot really act without GC and its extension, EC. So I don´t know what this is about. Or are we afraid that the next (conservative?) PB may have to be “balanced” in some way? Someone enlighten me….

Jamie McMahon

I’ll second Terry’s comment that mischief in the church is hardly confined to the episcopate.

Jim Pratt

I think it needs to be explored, not just at the top level, but at all levels in the church.

As a lay leader in the church, I encountered clergy who were great pastors but couldn’t manage their own finances, let alone the parish’s. As a priest, I have served under bishops whose administrative skills have been lacking. Some of them delegated those functions quite well, others not so well. But the structure makes delegation of authority optional.

Especially at the PB/Primate level, the person should be first a prophetic leader and pastor, and especially able to fill those roles on a national stage. To expect them also to be a top-notch manager considerably narrows the pool of candidates.

Elizabeth Kaeton

Thank you, Paul Martin. The problem is not with the PB. The problem is systemic. It begins with our understanding of the role and nature of the church and continues with the role and nature of baptism and ministry and ordination.

I am able to do “management” and being and “executive”. I don’t enjoy it, but I do it and I do it quite well, thank you very much. I much prefer to have an empowered member of the laity or a deacon with those gifts and talents to “manage”. Let me pastor and teach and preach and evangelize.

All that being said, my concern is less about being a manager and more about the balance between “pastor” and “evangelist”. How much time do we expect priests/bishops/presiding bishop to divide between “tending the home fires” vs. “lighting the fires in the world”?

It’s a tough balancing act, but sometimes I wonder if dioceses in particular and our church in general might be healthier if the “driver” spent more time “at the wheel”.

I don’t have an answer for that. It’s not a criticism. It’s just a ‘wonderment’, is all.

Paul Martin

First of all, if we are asking this question about the Presiding Bishop, we need to ask it as well of all Bishops and all Priests. These are the training grounds for future Presiding Bishops, and this is where they develop their management styles.

If you are looking for other models, there are many available. One that keeps coming to my mind is that of the doctor’s office. It is a system which has many faults, but it focuses relentlessly on discerning the unique talents of the physician as distinguished from the skills of other professionals in the office. We invest a vast amount of money in the theological education of our ordained ministry, and they spend their time doing . . . budgets? . . . administration? Are we crazy?

I understand that, in smaller parishes and dioceses, the priest or bishop is not only chief pastor but administrator, janitor, chief cook and bottle washer. Only in larger jurisdictions do we have more options, but we need to explore them. It is a matter of making the best use of everyone’s talents.

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