Friday, July 6, 2012

General Convention: Susan Goff confirmed as Bishop Suffragan for the Diocese of Virginia

The news from General Convention in Indianapolis is the confirmation of the Rev. Canon Susan Goff as our bishop suffragan. Because her election was within 120 days of General Convention, she had to be confirmed by the deputies and House of Bishops meeting this week.

The Very Rev. Hilary Smith, who leads our deputation (note: not called "delegation") posted a short video of the vote on her Facebook last night. What was remarkable was how unremarkable it has become that women are elected and confirmed as bishops. There were no speeches, no dissenting votes, just a quick "aye" before the House of Deputies moved onto the next order of business.

Meanwhile, the Church of England, our "mother church," continues to struggle with the concept of women bishops. There is proposal awaiting its governing body that would allow women bishops but limit their authority because they are women. A number of women priests in England consider that proposal a "poison pill" and are considering a "no" vote.

In the United States, we crossed the river of women bishops in the 1980s, and the Church is the stronger for it, in my view (and we now have a woman as our presiding bishop and primate).

I've been asked what a "suffragan" bishop is. Basically, suffragan bishops have full sacramental authority but serve as assisting bishops to the diocesan bishop. Suffragans have no right to succeed the diocesan bishop, though that sometimes happens through an election upon the death or retirement of a diocesan bishop. In the Diocese of Virginia, Canon Goff was elected to fill the vacancy of Bishop Suffragan David Jones, who retired earlier this year. Typically, large dioceses (like ours) have suffragan bishops to share the workload and Sunday visits to parishes with the diocesan bishop.

God willing, and the weather cooperating, Canon Goff will be ordained a bishop at ceremony at St. Paul's, Richmond, on Saturday July 28 at 11 am. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will preside, and everyone is invited. Please come if you can!

By James Richardson, St. Paul's Memorial Church, Fiat Lux

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