Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Diocese of Bethlehem:
On January 1, 2014, we wrote to tell you of our decision that the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem would be best served by calling a provisional bishop to help lead us through an interim period of reflection and discernment. Today we are glad to tell you that our nominee for provisional bishop is the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania.
We approached Bishop Sean about this call because of his stable, forward-thinking leadership in Northwestern Pennsylvania, where he was ordained bishop in 2007. He has a track record of building strong relationships with clergy and lay leaders and is skilled at resolving conflict directly and effectively. Based on the small-group conversations at our last diocesan convention and at a clergy day in November, we know that members of the diocese are looking for a provisional bishop with strong pastoral and leadership skills who can bring the diocese together and help us develop a sense of common call. We believe that Bishop Sean is the leader we need.
Assuming his election by the special convention on March 1, Bishop Sean will both serve as our provisional bishop and continue as bishop of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. We are pleased to report that the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania supports this arrangement and the new opportunities for collaborative mission and ministry that it will provide.
As bishop of two active dioceses, Bishop Sean’s schedule will be busy, but we are confident that his command of technology and the strong Standing Committee leadership in both dioceses will make the arrangement successful. Bishop Sean will spend a week each month in the Diocese of Bethlehem from March 1 until the middle of August, with some provision for a previously scheduled sabbatical. During this transition, the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania will add a long-planned staff position dedicated to administration and congregational growth. Beginning in the fall of 2014, Bishop Sean will spend half his time in each diocese. He and his wife, Carly, and their one-year-old daughter, Lauren, will have a place to live in both dioceses. Both dioceses will share responsibility for his compensation and benefits.
Because the provisional bishop has all of the authority of a diocesan bishop during his term, we must elect a provisional bishop in the same way the convention would elect a diocesan bishop. To that end, we are calling for a special convention for the purpose of electing a Bishop Provisional to be held at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem at 10 am on March 1, 2014. At that convention, we will vote on Bishop Sean’s nomination to be our provisional bishop. If at least two-thirds of all clergy entitled to vote and two-thirds of parishes entitled to vote are represented, we can elect our provisional bishop with a majority of votes in each order—clergy and laity. If fewer than two-thirds of clergy and laity eligible to vote are present, we must elect our provisional bishop by a vote of two-thirds. (Article XI of the Diocesan Constitution and Canons). It is vitally important that everyone who is entitled to vote attend the special convention at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem at 10 am on March 1.
If you have questions about the election, Bishop Sean, or any other aspect of this transition in the Diocese of Bethlehem, please visit our website at www.diobeth.org. There you will find a biographical profile of Bishop Sean, answers to frequently asked questions, and a press release announcing our news to the church beyond our diocese and to media in our communities. If you have other questions, please be in touch with any of the members of the Standing Committee listed below.
Across the Episcopal Church, dioceses are seeking new models for 21st century mission and ministry. All of us—Bishop Sean and the Standing Committees in Bethlehem and Northwestern Pennsylvania—are pleased to have this opportunity to participate in the church’s transformation. We are looking forward to collaborating on new models for mission that will strengthen the witness of the Episcopal Church in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the work of God’s people in our communities.
The Rev. Canon Andrew T. Gerns, President, Trinity, Easton
Dr. Edwin Schatkowski, Secretary, Church of the Mediator, Allentown
The Rev. T. Scott Allen, St. Andrew’s, Allentown
Mr. Raymond Arcario, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Ms. Connie Archer, St. Anne’s, Trexlertown
Ms. Kate Fanning, Christ Church, Reading
Ms. Elizabeth House, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
The Rev. Canon Jane Teter, Retired
The Rev. James Rinehart, Trinity, Pottsville
The Rev. Earl Trygar, St. Mark’s, Moscow