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No bishop provisional vote at Diocese of Virginia convention this weekend

No bishop provisional vote at Diocese of Virginia convention this weekend

A letter from the Diocese of Virginia Standing Committee president breaking the news that, contrary to plans, there will not be a vote on a bishop provisional at convention this coming weekend.

October 29, 2018

Dear Diocesan Family:
The Standing Committee has worked diligently with the Presiding Bishop’s Office since August 3, 2018 to identify a candidate to serve as our Bishop Provisional. The requirements for a previously consecrated, experienced bishop who would not reach age 72 before the end of the proposed term, and who would be willing to move to Virginia quickly for a term-limited position, made the pool of potential candidates a small one.  Our hope was that we would be able to present a name to the Convention for election. We interviewed some outstanding candidates, but those bishops have concluded, through their own discernment processes, that they could not come to Virginia at this time.
The Standing Committee will continue to work with the Presiding Bishop’s office to discern the correct person to work with us as this Diocese moves forward doing the good work of the Holy Spirit following Bishop Shannon’s resignation. In the meantime, in accordance with Articles IX and XV of the Constitution of the Diocese of Virginia, Ecclesiastical Authority is temporarily conferred on the Bishop Suffragan, the Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff. Bishop Susan, the Standing Committee and the Executive Board will continue to work together in faith to keep the ministry of this Diocese moving smoothly during this time of transition.
Your Sister in Christ,
Helen K. Spence, President
Standing Committee



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Brother Tom Hudson

The link “Earlier coverage of Diocese of Virginia governance here.” only does a Google search, which is useless. No articles on the real conflict are found there.
Using the Search box on The Lead apparently returns all articles with “Virginia” in the title. Also there, nothing clearly addresses the promise of earlier coverage of governance.
None of this gets to the issues going on in Dio VA – the conflict over finances and the reasons behind the bishop’s retirement. Come on, Cafe – you can do better!

Annie Milligan

No one wants to come to Virginia. What is going on??!!

Eric Bonetti

Check out the discussion in the relevant report about conflicts with the trustees of the diocesan investments for one of the answers.

Kenneth Knapp

What is the “relevant report” and where might one find it?

Eric Bonetti

It’s set forth in the Executive Committee report, found at

In it, the Executive Comittee discusses its desire for reconciliation with the Trustees of the Funds (TOTF), but announces plans for the withdrawal of all diocesan funds from the TOTF investments, subject to +Shannon’s approval. There is a subsequent discussion about the Executive Committee’s concerns about transparency and governance apropos the funds and, following bishop Shannon’s retirement announcement, the decision to hold off on any withdrawals until a new bishop provisional can examine the relationships involved.

Kenneth Knapp


Jennings Symon

The investment arm of the Diocese seems to have gone rogue. The new bishop needs to bring them back in the tent. Why they need a full-time staff of three I don’t understand.

Eric Bonetti

My sense, too — and I am not unbiased, having had a series of bad experiences involving +Shannon — is that the latter may be too reticent to “lay down the law” and end conflicts such as this. As Jennings notes, there are times a bishop simply needs to say, “No more.”

He also seems to be something of a politician, in that the Bishop tends to tell people what they want to hear. That can be problematic, for in cases of conflict, this often exacerbates the conflict, versus moving the situation towards healing. And both sides can wind up in an uproar when it appears to them — rightly or wrongly — that the bishop has spoken out of both sides of his mouth.

My final observation is that, like many clergy, +Shannon is both conflict adverse, and not good at understanding the dynamics of these situations. That undoubtedly made for a tough go of it for him in a situation in which the diocese is just emerging from years of litigation and internal conflict.

Eric Bonetti

I’d also add that there’s much work to be done within the Diocese on transparency at every level. While I laud the executive committee’s desire for openness and transparency involving the TOTF, it does not appear to see the irony when, in the very same report, it discusses “confidential details relating to benefits and salaries and a proposal that that had been agreed to by the Chancellor of the Diocese, the Treasurer of the Diocese and by Bishop Shannon. The Board approved the agreement on a 15 to 1 vote.“

In well-run organizations, both for- and non-profit, compensation of top officials is a matter of public record. Why should the church be any different, particularly when its finances are continuing to slide? It is hard to feel much buy-in when the whole modus operandi seems like, “just send money and don’t ask questions.”

Marjie Flippen

The report from our deanery leadership is that the investment arm has had a number of large investors withdraw funds – not sure on numbers – maybe $20,000,000. The investment group Trustees aren’t willing to hear the complaints about their staff. It’s a problem that has a lot of us reconsidering. We need the new bishop to address this.

Pegam Johnson III

Heaven forfend! A factor might be that as the largest (or next) largest diocese there is always much work to be done. No carpetbaggers need apply nor scalawags either.


Eric Bonetti

Another troubling development. While it no doubt is true that the pool of candidates was limited due to the present number of vacancies, it would seem that effective succession planning would have considered in advance the challenges facing the diocese.

My take: Assuming the diocese is successful in filling the slot, which is not a given, the successful candidate faces an uphill battle when it comes to governance issues.

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