What is a bishop?

Dear Maggie,

What is a bishop? 

Ordinally Ornery

Dear Onery,

I hope my answer will make ye a bit less ornery and a bit more informed because the bishop’s office is central to our Anglican understanding of church.  The Episcopal Church is in fact named for the fact that we have Bishops or the Episcopate (derived from the word for “overseer” in Greek). 

There are three kinds of ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church—deacons, priests, and bishops.  Most of ya interact with priests and deacons on a regular basis, but ya don’t interact with a bishop except once or twice a year.  That doesn’t mean, however, that the bishop is far removed from yer church!  Your priests and deacons likely talk with the Bishop or members of his or her staff on a regular basis for matters ranging from church management, new building projects, and liturgy.  The Bishop has oversight of a group of churches arranged geographically called a diocese.  The Diocese of Arkansas covers the whole state, but some states have more than one diocese with different bishops. 

Bishops are charged with a number of oversights tasks, but they also fulfill important liturgical duties including confirmation, reception and reaffirmation.  Baptisms are also meant to be performed by a bishop when one is present, but are done by a priest on the bishop’s behalf when a bishop cannot be present.

Bishops are elected by the convention of the diocese they go on to serve.  Their election is then affirmed by the national church.  When a bishop is ordained he or she must have the laying on of hands from at least three bishops.  The chain of this laying on of hands can be traced all the way back to the apostle Peter, Bishop of Rome.

I hope that helps straighten ya out ornery!

Peace be with ya!