Bishops Get What They Want

I have been collecting notes for a series of sermons next year about Christians that I have been fortunate enough to know.

One of these was the Rev. Canon Edward West, Sub-Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Although an eccentric, mystic, and altogether unforgettable character, Canon West was also shrewd in the ways of the world.

Particularly in the ways of the Church in the world. He once remarked to me, “Bishops always get what they want.” At the time we spoke, I was serving in a very successful parish whose rector seemed to be able to function with great independence from any higher authority. And I knew that in the Episcopal Church, great power also resides in local vestries, which control their money and have the lion’s share of authority in appointing their rectors.

Yet we are seeing in our own diocese the truth of Canon West’s observation. The indaba program of dialogue would never have gotten started without a powerful and sustained push from the top. In the near future, I imagine parishes in New York and its suburbs will be closed or merged that seemed to be immortal. And whoever happens to be elected Suffragan Bishop of New York on December 7, the diocesan Bishop’s policies will prevail.

“Episcopal” comes from the Greek word for “bishop.” It is no wonder that this is the name of our church. —J. Douglas Ousley

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