Frequently Asked Questions about the Election of the Tenth Bishop of Albany
Last updated Friday, September 8, 2023
The Special Convention to Elect the Tenth Bishop of Albany will take place Saturday, September 9, 2023, at the Cathedral of All Saints, 62 South Swan Street, Albany, New York. The doors open at 7am.
Visit https://albanyepiscopaldiocese.org/episcopaltransition/ for further resources, including the Election Book, and the individual candidates’ profiles, question responses, and more at https://albanyepiscopaldiocese.org/candidates-for-bishop/.
Video of stops on the Albany Bishop Candidates’ Tour can be viewed here on Youtube.
The Role of the Standing Committee
The Standing Committee of the Diocese is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the special Convention to elect the Tenth Bishop of Albany is conducted according to applicable constitutional provisions, canons, and rules.
Those authorities (constitutions, canons, rules, etc.) do not cover every possibility or every situation. Practical decisions must be made. At times there are multiple alternatives, each with pros and cons.
While not all of these decisions are popular with everyone, the Standing Committee has been diligent in ensuring that all of our decisions are within the range of customary and reasonable practices for valid bishop searches and elections.
We are grateful in this regard for the guidance and assistance of
- our specialist consultant, the Rev. Canon Brian Nordwick; and
- the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, Director of the Presiding Bishop’s Office for Pastoral Development.
Bishop Ousley is the point of contact at national Church headquarters for bishop searches.
About Conventions and Deputies
Understanding the term “Convention” is important and will help clarify some of the answers below.
Article I of the Constitution of the Diocese of Albany states that “[t]here shall be a Convention of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Albany each year.”
Article II of the Constitution speaks, however, of “special meetings of the Convention” (emphasis added).
… and in case of a vacancy in the Episcopate, the Standing Committee shall have power to call a special meeting of the Convention. Twenty days’ notice shall be given to its members of any special meeting. Such notice shall contain a statement of the purpose or purposes for which it is called and only such matters may be considered at such meeting except by unanimous consent of the members present.”
Article III states that “Lay Deputies … shall hold office until the next annual meeting of the Convention” (emphasis added).
The term “Convention” refers, therefore, to a body, not an event. In most years, there is only one meeting of the Convention (the “annual meeting”), so in that case it us usually not a problem to use the phrase “Convention” as shorthand when what we really mean is “meeting of the Convention.” Because the makeup of the Convention (body) is established annually (the term of office of Lay Deputies), the same Lay Deputies serve at any and all special meetings of the Convention from one annual meeting to the next, including any intervening “special” meetings of the Convention.
This year, the Convention of the Diocese meets twice. The “annual Convention” took place in June; an “electing Convention” (so called by Rule 1A) is a special meeting that has been called for September 9, 2023.
The Convention is a representative body, that is, the fact of canonical residence (for priests and deacons) or election duly certified (for Lay Deputies) endows the members of Convention with authority to make decisions for the whole of the Diocese.
Q: Who may attend the Convention in person?
A: Attendance in person is limited to:
- Up to three duly elected or appointed Lay Deputies from each Congregation (one collective seat, voice, and vote, regardless of whether 1, 2, or 3 Lay Deputies attend)
- Canonically Resident Clergy, i.e., priests and deacons (one seat, voice, and vote each)
- Clergy licensed to officiate in the Diocese of Albany (seat only; no voice or vote). This permits parishes served by licensed clergy to have pastoral support for their deputations.
- Members of the Standing Committee, Diocesan Council, and Trustees of the Diocese (seat only unless also a certified Lay Deputy or Canonically Resident Clergy)
- Staff as needed to support the work of the Convention
- Designated volunteers as needed to support the work of the Convention
- Contractors as needed to support the work of the Convention
Q: Why can’t I attend as an observer?
A: A very thorough explanation follows. Please read.
The Diocese of Albany has a decades-long history of holding, arguably, the best — and best-attended — annual diocesan convention meetings on the planet, the envy of many other dioceses. We all recall fondly the huge weekend-long gatherings in spacious and beautiful settings, where Convention members and multitudes of others had time to hang out and enjoy fellowship. Many of us miss that, and long for a return to those days.
Even then, however, we always separated the voting clergy and Lay Deputies physically from all others (visitors, youth, guests) at Convention business meetings. Voting members sat in the middle of the auditorium, while all others sat on the sides, in recognition that the canonical requirements for the business of the convention, including debate and the election of officers, are met precisely and solely by the credentialled members. At Camp of the Woods, the space itself accommodated such an arrangement. We could do that there without an additional strain on resources, and with plenty of time to stretch the business of the Convention as long as needed. Furthermore, before the advent of broadband video streaming, in-person attendance was the principal way for anyone to witness the Holy Spirit at work in the Church assembled.
We are keenly aware of the importance of this electing Convention. We are, likewise, keenly aware of the problems encountered by other dioceses that have recently conducted electing conventions. In addition, we are keenly aware of our obligation to the candidates, no less than to our brothers andsisters in Christ who make up this Diocese, to conduct this Convention in a way that demonstrates the integrity of the Convention body and of its impartiality toward all of the Candidates. This duty to all concerned demands that we conduct this Convention as fairly, impartially, and transparently as we can.
We also seek to honor the members of Convention, whether the clergy, or the Lay Deputies elected by the congregations to represent them, by making it as easy as possible for them to deliberate prayerfully, to communicate among themselves, and to fulfill the duties to which they have so generously committed to give of themselves and their time. They deserve to do so as efficiently as possible, with a minimum of distraction and, especially, competition for resources.
The decision to limit Convention attendance is not in any way intended to shroud the process in secrecy. On the contrary, to further our goal of transparency, ample provision has been made, at great expense, to permit anyone to observe from the comfort of their own homes. Uncensored livestreaming of the proceedings affords an unprecedented level of immediate access by a far wider audience than ever before in the history of our Diocese. Barring an unforeseen natural disaster, catastrophe, or infrastructure failure, not a word spoken between the floor of the convention and the chair will be unavailable to anyone, anywhere, who wishes to hear it. In point of fact, given the floor plan of the cathedral and its acoustics, remote viewers may see and hear as well as, if not better than, some Convention members attending in person.
Working within the realities of limited time, personnel, and resources, we consider the approach we have adopted optimal for the purpose for which this Convention is called. Those limitations extend far beyond the mere availability of space on the floor of the Cathedral. Those who wish to know more about these considerations may wish to review the following question.
Q: What practical considerations limit attendance at Convention?
A: Around 400 people, possibly more (registrations are still coming in) will be present at the Cathedral on the day of Convention. Each person present contributes to time, expense, and personnel needs. For example, considerations of parking, and transit from parking to the Cathedral and back; food; sanitary facilities; seating (for an event of this size, the Cathedral must rent seating); and a host of security, health, and public safety concerns have directed the logistics of the Convention. Even with only Convention members in attendance, video screens and a sound system are being rented to ensure that every member can see and hear everything on the floor. To extend visibility to spectators as well will add to those demands. Preserving adequate telecommunications bandwidth for the fair, proper, and transparent conduct of the election must also be among our highest priorities and could necessitate requiring that all private telecom devices be turned off or placed in airplane mode.
Q: My parish did not submit a Certificate of Election of Lay Deputies before the annual Convention in June. Can we submit a certificate of election now and send Lay Deputies to the electing Convention?
A: Yes. Each congregation may elect up to three Lay Deputies and three Alternates. The clergy in charge of a congregation (rector or priest-in-charge), or, in the event of a vacancy, a Churchwarden, must certify the election of Lay Deputies and Alternates using the Certificate of Election form. Only the three certified Lay Deputies from any one congregation will be admitted to the Convention floor. See below for questions about alternates and revised lists of deputies.
NOTE 1: All requested information on every Lay Deputy or Alternate must be provided.
NOTE 2: Certification of Election of Lay Deputies is NOT the same as registration for the Convention. The clergy in charge or churchwarden must also register each Lay Deputy or Alternate to ensure that credentials are issued and provision is made for food service. Click here to register. There will be no opportunity to leave the Cathedral for lunch. Consequently, the final deadline to register with a lunch menu selection is Monday, September 4.
Q: Since the annual Convention in June 2023, new or different Lay Deputies and/or Alternates have been selected in my parish. What needs to happen to ensure that our new Lay Deputies are seated at this Convention?
A: Yes. The clergy in charge of a congregation (rector or priest-in-charge), or, in the event of a vacancy, a Churchwarden, must certify the election of Lay Deputies and Alternates using the Certificate of Election form.. Even if elected earlier or reported on a previous Certificate of Election, ALL current Lay Deputies and Alternates must be reported on the new Certificate of Election.
NOTE: Certification of Election of Lay Deputies is NOT the same as registration for the Convention. The clergy in charge or churchwarden must also register each Lay Deputy or Alternate to ensure that credentials are issued and provision is made for food service. Click here to register. There will be no opportunity to leave the Cathedral for food. Consequently, the final deadline to register with a lunch menu selection is Monday, September 4.
Q: What is the procedure for sending an Alternate to replace a Lay Deputy?
A: The clergy in charge of a parish (rector or priest-in-charge) or, if there is no clergy, a churchwarden, must notify the Secretary of Convention in writing or via e-mail to Secretary.Convention@albanydiocese.org before an Alternate may be seated as a Lay Deputy from your Parish.
Q: Can Alternates attend in addition to the three Lay Deputies from my parish?
A: No. Only actual Lay Deputies (whether originally certified, or Alternates promoted to Lay Deputy) may be present.
Q: A Lay Deputy from my parish was unable to attend the June 2023 Convention. An Alternate was promoted to Lay Deputy and attended. The original Lay Deputy can now attend the electing Convention. Can that original Lay Deputy attend, returning the original Alternate to Alternate status?
A: Yes, provided that the Congregation has no more than three Lay Deputies present.
NOTE: This question first arose shortly before the June 2023 annual Convention. At that time the best guidance available was the procedure used for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Subsequent research has revealed that practices vary at the diocesan level. There appears to be no impediment to changes in status from Alternate to Lay Deputy or Lay Deputy to Alternate, as long as a congregation’s Lay Deputation on the floor of the Convention consists of no more than three Lay Deputies. All changes in status must still be reported to the Secretary of Convention in writing or via e-mail (Secretary.Convention@albanydiocese.org) for credentialling purposes.
Q: How will voting work?
- THERE WILL BE TWO KINDS OF VOTING at the Convention
Each member of Convention (canonically resident priest and deacon, and each certified Lay Deputy) will receive an electronic voting device upon registration.
On procedural matters (such as acceptance of the credentialling report), every member of Convention votes individually.
In the Election of a Bishop, the Constitution of the Diocese requires a vote by orders.
In a vote by orders, each priest and deacon gets one vote, and each congregation gets a single aggregate vote.
Only one of the handheld voting devices for each congregations Lay Deputies will be active.
This means that the Lay Deputies from each congregation must come to agreement among themselves about:
- which candidate to cast the congregation’s ballot for; and
- which of the Lay Deputies in a congregation’s deputation will operate the active voting device to register the vote
UPDATE Q: Why do we have to have a vote by orders?
A: “Why?” is a question with many layers of meaning, and the answers also have multiple layers. No simple, single exhaustive explanation that is guaranteed to address every sense of the question.
That said, the ultimate reason for us on this occasion is “because we must follow our own Constitution in order to elect a bishop validly.”
Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church states that:
In every Diocese the Bishop … shall be chosen agreeably to rules prescribed by the Convention of that Diocese.
Article VIII of the Constitution of the Diocese of Albany, which was adopted by a Diocesan Convention, states:
In case of an election to fill a vacancy in the Episcopate of the Diocese, … such election shall be at the annual or a special meeting of the Convention. Any such election shall be by a vote by orders.
As a foundational document, the Constitution also provides a process whereby the Constitution itself may be amended. That process is spelled out in Article X. Any Canons or rules of order adopted by the Convention must be consistent with both the diocesan Constitution (Article IX). There is no parliamentary procedure that permits suspension of Constitutional provisions.
Consequently, there is simply no other way, validly, to cast votes for a Bishop at this time. Those who wish to delve further may wish to consult the full text of our diocesan Constitution here. The Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church may be found here. The preservation of four “orders” of ministry (Laity; Deacons; Priests; and Bishops) is addressed in the Catechism, page 855 in the Book of Common Prayer.
The Episcopal inherited this ancient structure and form of governance from the Church of England, which retained it from the early, unified church. This practice remains normative in almost all dioceses of the Episcopal Church.
Q: In a vote by orders, why does each parish get a vote, and not each deputy?
A: Article VI of the states:
The Clergy and the Laity constituting the Convention shall deliberate in one body, and each Cleric shall have one vote, and each Deputy one vote, and a plurality of the aggregate votes shall be decisive except when a vote by orders is taken. Five members may call for a vote by orders, each Cleric shall have one vote in the Clerical Order and each Church in union with the Convention one vote in the Lay Order. The concurrence of a majority of each order shall be necessary to make a decision in a vote by orders.
The Constitution does not limit this aggregate voting procedure to situations in which five members call for a vote by orders.
This procedure levels the playing field for churches. Otherwise, parishes able to send more deputies (for whatever reason; perhaps a deeper pool of parishioners to draw from as deputies; perhaps better resources to send deputies; perhaps closer proximity to the Convention site makes travel easier) would gain an unfair advantage over smaller, more remote parishes with fewer resources. An analogous practice is used in the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, where, in a vote by orders, each Bishop in the House of Bishops gets one vote, and each diocese represented in the House of Deputies gets one vote. This allows dioceses to participate on an equal footing with one another. Our Constitution similarly places parishes on an equal footing, so that no parish (and its membership) is disadvantaged by the mere fact of being small, limited in resources, or remote.
UPDATED Q: The lay deputies from my parish do not agree? How are we supposed to cast only one vote?
A: The Word of God frequently calls upon us to “be of one mind” or to agree, or to come to agreement (e.g.,Philippians 1:27, 4:2; I Corinthians 1:10; II Corinthians 13:11) and assures us that being in agreement will bear fruit in marvelous, even miraculous, ways (Matthew 18:20). This is not always the case, however.
Sometimes we can take recourse to practical methods, such as majority rule, deference to seniority, or deferring to a revered source of wisdom. Some deputations may be OK with those approaches, and reach agreement that way. There are no absolute guarantees or mathematically foolproof approaches, however. Everything depends on the quality of relationships among the deputies and within the parish as a whole. And each parish, each deputation, will have to find its own path.
The answer lies, not in reliable algorithms or the comfort of tried-and-true methods and principles, but in cultivating relationships of faith among the members of the deputation, and a shared faith in God. Humility on our own part, love for one another, and above all a willingness to trust the work of the Holy Spirit allows God to work in mysterious and wonderful ways that may not become evident for some time to come. If a decision results in satisfied “winners” and resentful or defeated “losers,” there are, in fact, only losers. Perhaps the answer will come, not from asking “Who is perfect?” or “Who is best?”, but “Who am I being asked to take a chance on?”
The Good News of Christianity is that God brings ultimate good even out of (intermediate) failure, and even out of evil. To live in good and pleasant unity (Psalm 133:1) always means living with uncertainty amid each other’s imperfections and sin. Only when faith in God exceeds distrust or contempt for one another do we have hope despite appearances, in other words, faith. Only faith lets us move ahead through fear and anger. Faith in God assuages our fear and distrust of one another, our fear of sin. Faith in God overcomes anxiety about the uncertain and unknowable future, and to find mercy and grace to grow together, not only for our own sake, but for the sake of generations yet to come.
Q: Can I submit an absentee ballot?
Can I authorize someone to cast my vote by proxy?
A: Article I of the Constitution of the Diocese of Albany defines the Convention of the Diocese as consisting of members present. A “fundamental principle of parliamentary law” is that absentee or proxy voting is only an option if it is expressly allowed by the body’s rules of order (Robert’s Rules of Order, 12th edition, 45:56). Rule 14 of the Rules of Order of the Convention of the Diocese of Albany refers matters not covered in the Convention rules to Robert’s Rules.
Following the example of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, we are using electronic voting, which allows for nearly real-time reporting of results, obviates the need to for additional human tellers, and streamlines verification. We have contracted with Padgett Communications, an industry leader, who will have personnel on site to provide tech support in real time.
Q: I have watched all the video recordings from the ABC Tour, and my question was not asked. Why not?
A: The ABC Tour accomplished the goal of allowing members of Convention and the diocese at large to meet and get to know the Candidates. It could never have served as a means of delivering exhaustive information. As promised, the candidates have been given all of the questions, both those that were presubmitted but not used during the ABC Tour stops, and those left behind on 3×5 cards after each stop. As stated throughout the tour, the candidates themselves will have the option to decide whether and how to answer those questions at their own discretion. Any replies they send will be posted on their profile page on the diocesan web site.
On August 24, 2023, the Secretary of the Diocese received the following joint message from all four candidates:
After thoughtful discussion, the four of us have decided that it is best, with just two weeks remaining until the election, to give the Holy Spirit the space to guide the remainder of this discernment process. And so we are choosing to not answer any further questions at this time.
Undoubtedly, there will always be more questions; curiosity is difficult to exhaust. But we have answered many dozens of questions – in a variety of forms. The videos are available; the essays accessible; the Convention booklets printed. We hope folks who are still undecided will find these offerings sufficient.
Though we do not believe an announcement to the diocese is necessary, we did want you to know.
Perhaps some of the concerns that are more pastoral in nature might be answered by the Bishop-elect at a later date.
Thank you for honoring our decision. And thank you for all your efforts and care.
Q: How do nominations from the floor of Convention work?
A: The idea of “nominations from the floor” seems to suggest that individuals can be nominated suddenly and unexpectedly, without any preparation. While it is true that no individuals are actually placed in nomination before the Convention until the day of its meeting, all candidates are subject to prerequisites, some of which take time to meet.
All nominations, whether of candidates identified by the Profile & Search Committee from among the names submitted in recommendation; or any who might have been brought forward during the 30-day open nomination window; or any mentioned on the floor of Convention, must, in addition to a completed nomination form (available here), present:
- Evidence satisfactory to demonstrate that the Standing Committee or its designee may fulfill the requirements of Episcopal Church Canon III.11.3(a)(2) immediately following the election:
- a medical exam showing no unresolved problems;
- a psychological exam showing no unresolved problems; and
- a background investigation for a bishop by SSC Background Screening and Investigations
(followed up in a confidential interview with a Vice-Chancellor of the Diocese)
Consequently, the above three examinations will need to have been completed in advance of the Convention meeting.
In addition, nominators need to deliver to the Secretary of Convention 450 copies of the following (for use by the members of the Electing Convention in reaching their discernment):
- a 100-word (or less) biographical sketch;
- a photograph;
- a résumé; and
- answers to the 6 essay questions required of all candidates
The Diocese will reimburse the expense of copying.
Please note that any nomination(s) from the floor will necessitate a recess to permit clergy and lay deputies to familiarize themselves with materials provided on candidates nominated from the floor. While this will have the effect of prolonging the Special Convention session, it is vitally important that the deputies have time to study this information about all candidates they are being asked to consider.
Q: Will the out-of-town candidates attend the Convention?
A: Attendance at an electing Convention is never a requirement in any diocese in the Episcopal Church.
In fact, it is frequently the case that candidates do not attend. The Diocese of Albany is committed to providing as level a playing field as possible for all of the candidates. In order to achieve this objective, in recognition that the selection of a bishop is a matter of spiritual discernment, and not one of electioneering or campaigning, any candidates who do attend are sequestered until voting is completed.
Every one of the candidates has demonstrated passion, devotion, and commitment to the Diocese of Albany in many ways, not least by participation in the recent weeklong tour of the diocese, which every candidate generously undertook at great personal and family investment. After so much intense travel so recently, it is not particularly meaningful that a candidate might not be in a position to undertake the demands of travel and time away again so soon.
Everyone is heartily encouraged to review the candidates’ own statements, which can be found starting here, and also to see and hear, at length, their engagement with the people of the diocese here. (NOTE: Shorter versions of the Albany Bishop Candidates’ Tour stop events are here, with introductory material removed.)
Convention members are strongly urged to base their discernment, not on circumstance, but on familiarity with the candidates through publicly available means, seeking God’s will for our diocese and God’s choice of bishop
Q: Do I have to attend the opening Mass?
A: Our life together as the Church centers on corporate worship, specifically the celebration of Holy Communion. It is foremost among the “means of grace” whereby the Holy Spirit transforms, strengthens, and endows us, as Christ’s body, with the gifts and unity we need to perform faithfully the work of discernment to which we are called. Please do everything possible to arrive early so that the ecclesiastical Body of Christ can share the sacramental Body and Blood of Christ.
Nevertheless, the registration desk will remain open through the day so that Convention members who are unavoidably delayed can be admitted and assume their seats when they arrive.
Q: What about parking near the Cathedral?
A: Ample free parking will be available in the lots across Elk Street. NOTE that parking in the Cathedral alley and on South Swan Street will be restricted all day to ensure that service vehicles (utilities, sanitary facilities, telecommunications, food service, emergency vehicles) can maneuver throughout the day. You may drop off at the door of the Cathedral on South Swan Street and then proceed to parking across the way. There is a street-level lot on Elk Street just below South Swan Street, and a “sunken” lot with its entrance from Elk Street just above South Swan Street. The street-level lot will be reserved for Convention members needing mobility accommodations. A shuttle service will circulate to transport arriving Convention members from parking lots to the door of the Cathedral. Please give priority to those who require assistance,
NEW Q: We just elected a new Bishop of Albany. What happens now?
A: . Before a bishop can be consecrated and hold office, a majority of the sitting bishops of the entire Episcopal Church must confirm acceptance of the Bishop-Elect. A majority of the Standing Committees of the Episcopal Church must also, separately, confirm their acceptance of the Bishop-Elect. (This is similar to a vote by orders: Each bishop confirms the election, and each Standing Committee as a whole, no matter how many members there are on it, provides a single, separate confirmation.)
They have 120 days from the time the Presiding Bishop announces the election to register their consent. Depending on the exact timing of the release of materials, that would roughly be sometime around the end of January 2024.
If the Bishop-Elect fails to obtain a majority of confirmations from either the Bishops or the Standing Committees within that time frame, the election is declared void and a new election must be held.
If a majority of both types of confirmation is received, the Presiding Bishop and at least two other bishops will consecrate the new bishop. We cannot predict every possible contingency, but if confirmation is received within the deadline, we might be consecrating our new bishop sometime in late February 2024. That celebration, to be held at the Cathedral of All Saints, is already in the planning stages.
Albany Bishop X Search page — the starting point for all information regarding the process, information on the candidates, forms, and much more.