The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh voted today to name the Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell as its next bishop.
This election of the 8th permanent Bishop Diocesan was a momentous occasion in the 147-year life of the diocese, which has been rebuilding its mission and ministry following a split in 2008.
“St. Paul says we are called to be ambassadors of reconciliation. If we are going to offer that to the world, we certainly have to do it among ourselves,” said Bishop-elect McConnell.
“We can be an exciting witness,” the bishop-elect continued. “There is no better place to build bridges than Pittsburgh.”
The Right Rev. Kenneth L. Price, Jr., who has been serving as Bishop of Pittsburgh on an interim basis since 2009, praised the choice, saying “I came to know Dorsey during the search process and I was immediately impressed. The diocese will be in good hands with him as bishop.”
Bishop-elect McConnell is currently rector of the Church of the Redeemer in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. He was chosen from a slate of five nominees voted on by the clergy and lay deputies participating in a Special Convention of the diocese convened solely to elect a new bishop.
The outcome was decided on the sixth round of balloting, when Bishop-elect McConnell received 31, or 76%, of the clergy votes and 47, or 57%, of the votes of lay deputies. A simple majority from both groups in the same round of balloting was needed for election.
The results of each ballot are available at www.episcopalpgh.org/bsearch.
The election took place at Pittsburgh’s Trinity Cathedral during a Eucharist celebrated by Bishop Price and involving 126 voting deputies and dozens of others representing a growing number of actively participating diocesan congregations.
In his sermon, the chaplain for the election, the Rev. Don Youse, spoke to the theme, "You will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God, and in keeping the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace, the world will know."
Moments later, the balloting began.
Pealing bells echoed through downtown and filled the cathedral as the results were announced. The celebration of the Eucharist resumed with deputies sharing in Holy Communion and lining up to sign papers testifying to the election results.
The other nominees on the ballot were the Rev. Canon Michael N. Ambler, Jr., rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Bath, Maine; the Rev. Canon Scott T. Quinn, rector of Church of the Nativity in Crafton, Pennsylvania; the Rev. R. Stanley Runnels, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri; and, the Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Denver.
Afterward, each of the four offered their best wishes to the bishop-elect and the diocese.
Bishop-elect McConnell said he was proud to be included among “gifted colleagues” and noted a positive spirit by all involved in the search process and the election. “It was prayerful,” he said. “I sensed everybody was humbly trying to get this right before God.”
More about Bishop-elect McConnell
The Rev. Dorsey McConnell, 58, grew up in a military family and continued to move about in various careers after college.
One day as a young publishing executive in New York City, he stopped inside the Church of the Transfiguration during a service. “I felt as if someone was grabbing me and pulling me toward the Sacrament,” he recounts.
Ordained a priest in 1983, McConnell served at two New York City parishes and as a university and labor union chaplain before heading to the West Coast. He became rector of St. Alban’s Church in Edmonds, Washington, where he helped establish several ministries in the Seattle area. In 2004 he returned to the East Coast, accepting a call as rector of Church of the Redeemer in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
The Rev. McConnell holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale College, was a Fulbright Scholar in Paris, and earned a Masters of Divinity cum laude from General Theological Seminary.
He has held various posts in four dioceses and has twice been a deputy at two General Conventions of the Episcopal Church.
He and his wife, Betsy, who is a clinical social worker in private practice, have one college-age son.
Additional background and resume is available at http://www.episcopalpgh.org/bsearch/final-slate-for-bishop-election/mcconnell-bio/
Milestone in Rebuilding Diocese
Pittsburgh is one of four dioceses in the Episcopal Church to have lost a bishop through a recent split and is the first to have come full-circle in electing a new, permanent leader.
The process began in 2008 with the departure of many in diocesan leadership, including clergy whose congregations ceased to be active in the diocese. For the first year, the diocese was led by a local Standing Committee, initially chaired by the Rev. Dr. James Simons and assisted by several bishops, including the Rt. Rev. David C. Jones of Virginia and the Rt. Rev. Robert H. Johnson of Western North Carolina.
During that period, the entire diocesan infrastructure had to be rebuilt. “Many talented people, lay and clergy, emerged to become exceptional leaders during that time,” said the Very Rev. George L.W. Werner, the current Standing Committee president.
In 2009, Bishop Kenneth Price arrived from Southern Ohio to accept a call from the Pittsburgh Diocesan Convention to serve as bishop, with full authority to run the diocese, until a successor could be elected.
Bishop-elect McConnell said he was grateful for the work of so many that he met during the search process and when he visited the diocese in March: “I was so impressed by the caliber of leadership among both the laity and clergy. The diocese has wonderful people at the helm.”
Today’s election involved the highest number of participating congregations since the 2008 split. Since then, the diocese has grown as it admitted one new parish and welcomed the return of four others to active participation.
The most recent return was noted today as the Convention again seated members of St. Paul’s, Monongahela, after they reorganized that Episcopal parish.
This increases to 33 the number of actively participating parishes.
The Search Leading to this Election
The presentation of the slate voted on today marks the end of an 18-month prayer-centered process that began in October 2010 when the Diocesan Convention formally issued a call for election.
An appointed Nominating Committee then spent one full year conducting forums in 30 parishes, surveying over 500 members of the diocese, and screening the 125 people whose names were submitted as potential nominees for bishop.
Of those, 62 agreed to be considered and submitted written material on why they felt called to serve the diocese. The field was continually narrowed, with 24 interviewed by telephone, 12 visited at their home parish, and eight invited to Pittsburgh for a retreat.
On January 15, 2012, the Standing Committee accepted and announced the Nominating Committee’s recommendation of a preliminary slate of four nominees. A fifth nominee was added later through a prescribed process allowing for nomination by petition.
All five nominees toured the diocese and spoke at public forums held March 20-23. The Transition Committee responsible for that tour and the election then encouraged discussions within many parishes in advance of today’s electing convention.
Although bishops in the Episcopal Church are elected by the local diocese in which they will serve, they are not approved to serve as bishops until leaders in the wider church give consent and the bishop-elect is consecrated.
Because this election occurred in close proximity to the start of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, set for July 5-12, 2012, church law requires consent be voted on at that convention.
Assuming consent is given, the new bishop will be consecrated in a ceremony scheduled for Saturday, October 20, 2012, at Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, is expected to officiate.
More About the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Diocese of Pittsburgh strives to be a fellowship of vibrant Episcopal communities united in Christ. The diocese and its congregations welcome all who are interested in following Jesus Christ. The Episcopal Church meets people where ever they happen to find themselves in their spiritual journey and invites them to deepen their relationship with Christ.