San Diego names Susan Brown Snook as single candidate for election as bishop

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The Diocese of San Diego has announced a very unusual “slate” in its bishop search consisting of just one candidate. In an update on its search process website, the diocese announced;

“Upon the recommendation of the Bishop Nominating Committee and nomination by the Standing Committee, one priest stands for election as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of San Diego at the upcoming electing convention on Saturday, February 5.…”

 

That single candidate is the eminently qualified Susan Brown Snook. Snook currently serves as canon for church growth and development in the Diocese of Oklahoma. She is a respected church planter who authored God Gave the Growth: Church Planting in the Episcopal Church. She has also been an effective advocate for marshaling church resources for growth and evangelism, founding the Acts 8 Movement, serving on Executive Council and on the board of Forward Movement.

 

There is a petition process that will nominations of candidates other than from the process guided by the Bishop’s Nominating Committee (BNC). The petition window will be open two weeks, closing on November 16.

 

Snook responded on Twitter thanking the search committee and encouraging additional candidates, writing “I ask your prayers for the Diocese of San Diego, for me, and for any other petition candidates who may emerge as we enter this process of discernment together.”

 

Bishop Edward J. Konieczny of Oklahoma wrote a letter to the Diocese of Oklahoma praising Snook and saying that he fully expected her to be elected bishop one day;

“When I invited Canon Susan to serve in the Diocese of Oklahoma I knew the probability existed she would be nominated bishop. I assured Canon Susan during our conversations that I fully supported her in that event.

During Canon Susan’s tenure here in Oklahoma, she has begun a process of growth and transformation that I know will bear fruit in the future. Although we would be glad to have her remain in this diocese, I am proud that the wider church has recognized the gifts she has to offer.”

The Diocese has updated the Frequently Asked Questions page on the transition with this explanation for the unusually small slate:

“Why is there only one candidate? Did something fail or break down in the process?
A. Our bishop nominating committee carried out its work diligently and faithfully. They presented a slate to the standing committee, and the standing committee approved a single candidate to be a nominee for election. Her name is the Rev. Canon Susan Brown Snook, currently a canon in the Diocese of Oklahoma.”

The FAQs do not give a further explanation of the Standing Committee’s decision-making process. However, it does note that the petition process is underway. Names will be received until 5:00 pm on November 16, and, “If we receive proper petition candidates, and background and reference checks are completed, and approved by the standing committee, then those candidates will be able to participate in the January Walkabout with the Rev. Canon Snook.”

This is far from the first instance of a diocese’s appearing to experience challenges with an episcopal nomination. Recently, the Diocese of Nevada suspended its bishop search process and one of the reasons offered was a sense of a lack of good candidates because of the large number of bishop transitions currently occurring across the church, writing in a statement,

“Our bishop search process this year was challenging in several respects. One is that there were an unprecedented number of bishop searches in process, resulting in a limited applicant pool.”

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John Rabb
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John Rabb

A number of years ago the Standing Committees of the various dioceses raised objections about a single candidate being nominated in the Diocese of Northern Michigan. Now there were other issues related directly to the candidate which is why sufficient consents did not happen. However the single nominee was, especially for Standing Committees, an issue because we "elect bishops." Is there an insufficient number of candidates? Was there full vetting and clarity that this one candidate is the one? I have no issue with her qualifications, but wish to rasie the issue that we have elections for bishops; diocesan, coadjutor and suffragan. A nominating committtee may be a good representation of the diocese; however the convention or annual council elects; not merely ratifies. The recent decision by the Diocese of Nevada should also cause us to look carefully at a process where only one candidate emerges.

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Eric Bonetti
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I have followed Susan’s work for a number of years, and corresponded with her on several occasions. I believe her to be a person of integrity, compassion, and justice, and an excellent candidate for bishop.

Were that more clergy were like her.

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Kenneth Knapp
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Kenneth Knapp

The Episcopal Church desperately needs evangelists. There probably aren't more than a handful of priests left in the church with a successful track record of church growth. If she is one of them, I think the Diocese of San Diego is smart to focus on getting her elected.

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Tom Downs
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Tom Downs

Kenneth Knapp: I wonder. She is a skilled church planter. There have been great missionary bishops in the past who were credited with planting congregations and growing dioceses; no doubt they had skills as evangelists. Are there any like that today in the House of Bishops? I wonder if the role of bishop, as we currently understand it, still allows one to be a missionary. Have we come to a point where a proven church planter is more valuable to the Church planting churches than being a diocesan bishop?

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Kenneth Knapp
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Kenneth Knapp

My sense is that in any organization people will develop the skills that the organization values. If a proven track record of planting churches and growing congregations is perceived as a requirement for being elected bishop, people will start to develop those skills.

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Tom Downs
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Tom Downs

Perhaps I wasn't clear. I think that the way we do "bishop" today precludes bishops becoming church planters ala missionary bishops of the 19th and 20th century. Thus, making a church planter into a bishop wastes a talented church planter. What's needed is a new vision for doing the work of a bishop. Perhaps Susan Brown Snook will have a role in creating that new vision. However, there will be a cost to the Church--one less effective church planter. I think it's generally accepted that church planters don't grow on trees and are much less common that priests capable of being bishops.

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