Fifteen months after Diocesan Convention approved a call for an election, and after long periods of listening to hundreds of people across the diocese, after considering scores of potential candidates, and after much deliberation, discernment and prayer, the diocese is taking a tangible step in identifying those who will be on the ballot to be the next Bishop of Pittsburgh.

The diocesan Standing Committee is about to release a preliminary slate as unanimously recommended by the Nominating Committee. The Standing Committee was also unanimous in accepting the slate.

The naming of that slate, which will be made public after 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 15, 2012, is the culmination of the first of two steps in the process to determine those who will stand for election. The second begins immediately, as the Episcopal Diocese enters a period in which additional candidates could be added to the ballot by petition.

“We’ve come to an important point in time, where the diocese as a whole is going to receive the results of the first phase of the process, and where we give real reflection and discernment about whether to engage in the second part,” said the Very Rev. George L. W. Werner, Dean Emeritus of Trinity Cathedral and president of the Standing Committee.

Dean Werner calls the work of the Nomination Committee “extraordinary.”

The committee began that work exactly one year ago this weekend, when they gathered in retreat. “Our task is not too big; it is the Lord’s doing,” they were reminded then, and throughout, by their chaplain, the Rev. Don Youse.

In its first six months, the Nomination Committee visited nearly every congregation in the diocese to conduct listening forums. Additional sessions and online surveys were made available to include the widest possible participation. The input the committee received from more than 500 parishioners directly contributed to the crafting of a diocesan Profile. Once published, the Profile resulted in 125 names being suggested to the committee. Of those, 62 agreed to be considered as a candidate and submitted a resume, a ministry profile, a letter about why they felt called to serve our diocese, and an essay that answered questions posed by the Nominating Committee.

To narrow the field, the committee read each of those documents, scoring them, ranking them, and most importantly, praying about them.

“We actually extended that phase of the process by almost three weeks in order to give enough time to really consider the depth of those materials,” said Dana Phillips, who chairs the Nominating Committee.

After 24 candidates were selected for telephone interviews, 12 were then visited by committee members, and eight of those candidates were invited to Pittsburgh as a group for two days of retreat with the entire Nominating Committee. The final selection was narrowed further from those eight.

“I was privileged to be part of the two day retreat for those final eight potential nominees,” said Dean Werner. “I turned to the committee chairperson and told her that I could joyfully serve under any one of them.”

The Nomination Committee is diverse and broadly representative of the entire diocese. Its members are:

Joseph Baird, St. Peter’s, Blairsville
Fran Gargotta, St. Brendan’s, Franklin Park
The Rev. William Geiger, Christ Church, Indiana
Betsy Hetzler, Church of the Nativity, Crafton
Virginia Ledgard, St. Michael’s of the Valley, Ligonier
The Rev. Canon Dr. Harold T. Lewis, Calvary Church, East Liberty
The Rev. Christine McIlvain, Christ Church, North Hills
The Rev. Kristian Opat McInnes, St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon
Joan Morris, St. Andrew’s, Highland Park
Dana Phillips, Chair, St. Thomas, Oakmont
John Rogers, St. Mark’s, Johnstown
The Rev. Philip Wainwright, St. Andrew’s, Highland Park
Patrice Walters, Church of the Holy Cross, Homewood
The Rev. Charles Weiss, St. Thomas, Canonsburg
Frank Yesko, St. Stephen’s, McKeesport
The Rev. Don Youse, Jr., M.D., Chaplain, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, North Side

The election of the 8th Bishop of Pittsburgh will be held at a Special Convention of the diocese to be held at Trinity Cathedral on Saturday, April 21, 2012. In keeping with the spiritual nature of the search process, the balloting will take place in the context of the Eucharist.

The new bishop will be called to lead a fellowship of vibrant communities united in Christ, who proclaim Him as Lord and Savior, and welcome all persons regardless of where they are in their spiritual journey.

For more information about the search process, visit the Bishop Search section of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh website, www.episcopalpgh.org/bsearch.

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