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?