“God has done marvelous things. I, too, will praise God with a new song!”
Hymn 412 (updated)
The Diocese of Southern Ohio invites you into a season of prayerful discernment to answer this question: Are you called to be the Tenth Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Ohio?
The pages that follow are tools for prayer and data for meditation. The Diocese of Southern Ohio is at a crossroads and we are ready to sing a new song unto the Lord. Blessed with an abundance of both human and financial resources, we are confronted with the universal challenges of the decline in mainline congregations and the trauma of the global pandemic. As you may be aware, our previous bishop resigned due to alcoholism and ill health. Nonetheless, God is at work, Jesus is present, and the Holy Spirit is up to something throughout the diocese. We seek a Bishop to lead us as we participate in the work of the Spirit in Southern Ohio.
This is what we pray for, and we invite candidates to discern their desire to be with us in this ministry.
“Earth and All Stars” lyrics used with permission of Augsburg Fortress.
The Nominating Committee hosted 18 focus groups across the diocese in late October and early November 2022 and conducted an online survey. About 400 people participated, and they provided us with a very clear sense of the characteristics and qualities they hoped for in our next bishop. The information we received in the focus groups was consistent with data from a Holy Cow Consulting survey conducted in early 2021.
We hope that our next bishop will embody the characteristics needed to further our successes and overcome our challenges in ministry. We need someone with an active spiritual life. We need someone who is a committed follower of Jesus who wants to spread the gospel.
More than anything, the people of the Diocese of Southern Ohio want a bishop who will be present with them. We want a people person who is committed to us specifically rather than to the role. We want someone who will travel to all corners of the diocese (rural, suburban, and urban) and be with us. We want someone who listens well. We want someone who will get to know the many cultures of southern Ohio. We want someone who can build and maintain a culture of collegiality across the diocese. Though this theme was repeated across geographies and between lay and clergy leaders, the clergy especially asked for a pastor who can be present for their pastoral needs. There is also a desire for strong support of the diaconate from clergy and lay people.
We want a bishop who is able to understand our unique financial situation with a strong Jesus-inspired theology of money. We want the next bishop to unite us in using our funds in Christ-centered ministry.
While we understand that bishops have a responsibility to serve in the councils of the whole church, we seek their broader ministry to be rooted in and emerge from their ministry within the Diocese of Southern Ohio.
We want a person who is interested and invested in the youth of the diocese, in Latino ministries, in racial healing and Becoming Beloved Community, and in continuing to develop the ministries of the Procter Center. We want someone who is radically loving and inclusive of people from all walks of life—socially progressive while being grounded in Episcopal theology.
We want a visionary leader who does the little things well; who will hire the right people for the diocesan staff and lead them with accountability. We want someone who is brave enough to tell hard truths and unafraid to fail. We want someone who will empower parishes to be in ministry in new and creative ways. We want someone with significant parish leadership experience who knows what it means to bear the responsibility for their decisions. We seek a joyful risk-taker. Are you the one who can lead us in a new song?
“Flowers and trees, loud rustling dry leaves, sing to the Lord a new song!”
Ohio is more diverse than people might imagine: geographically, economically, racially, and culturally. Ranging from the farmlands of the west, which are as flat as poster board, to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the east, the land shapes the people and the people shape the land in this place. We grow things here in Ohio. We make things. We create, we compete, and we serve here in Ohio. Three major metropolitan areas anchor the southern (Cincinnati), western (Dayton), and central (Columbus) parts of the diocese. The east is home to passionate faith communities bordered by I-70 in the north, I-71 to the west, and the Ohio River on the south and east. Most locations around the diocese are easily accessible, so the bishop can have an extensive visitation schedule throughout the week and still sleep in their own bed at night.
Our diversity is not without its challenges, however, especially economically and racially. There is a great economic disparity between the haves and have-nots in this diocese, and the gap exists in both rural and urban areas. In every city, you’ll find some of the richest people and institutions in the world bumping up against the poorest. A similar dynamic exists in rural areas as well. In every small community in southern Ohio, there are one or two families that have a whole lot and a whole lot of people struggling to get by.
The population is primarily white, but there is a significant African American population, especially in the major cities. The region is also home to growing populations from Latin America, Central and Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Systemic racism with material and economic consequences exists in southern Ohio. You can read about times the Diocese of Southern Ohio has both successfully and unsuccessfully pushed against racism in the extended history posted on the search website. And you can read about our ongoing efforts at Becoming Beloved Community later in this profile.
The varied landscapes, coupled with our economic and racial diversity, produce robust cultural diversity in the diocese. Consequently, we struggle with the challenge of regionalism and can fail to see our common bonds both as Ohioans and Episcopalians. It will be important for the next bishop of Southern Ohio to lead us toward greater trust and help to build common affiliation and affection across our differences.
“Limestone and beams, loud building workers, sing to the Lord a new song!”
Our Current Vision
A church focused outside our doors, loving and serving Jesus Christ in our beloved communities in relevant ways, both new and traditional
Our Current Mission
Christ is calling us into meaningful connections with each other that tran-scend all boundaries, and to act on those connections for the benefit of all. By these connections, we are made whole.
We are excited for the next bishop to lead us in building a new vision and mission from the grassroots up and in co-creating a new way forward.
Some Current Ministries
Social Justice & Advocacy
Ohio has been a “battleground” state politically for most of our over 200-year history. We’ve swung red and blue—the phrase “As goes Ohio, so goes the nation” was, for many years, a political truism. The Episcopal Church is called to “seek and serve Christ in all persons.” Episcopalians also promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”
The Diocese of Southern Ohio empowers spiritual leaders and social justice advocates for this holy work. When we see laws, lawmakers, and law-enforcers disproportionately targeting vulnerable populations and marginalized communities, our members and their congregations turn to the church for support, to take a stand and make a difference. Our shared belief in the way of Jesus teaches us to lead our lives in service to all people and to act with love and compassion to realize the abundance of God’s heavenly kingdom here on Earth. Collectively following the Holy Spirit and the promise of our Baptism, the Diocese of Southern Ohio is committed to these areas of focus for social justice and advocacy:
Racial Justice & Healing
Our diocese has been committed to the work of dismantling racism since at least the mid-1970s, yet there is still much to do. Southern Ohio is home to an active chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians and to four historically African American parishes. Under Bishop Breidenthal’s leadership, a Reparations Task Force began discerning how the diocese is called to make amends for the sin of racism. Their work, which will continue for the next several years, is already bearing fruit, including a commitment of $1 million to reparations efforts and the creation of a Missioner for Black Ministries position that is in the process of being filled. Read more about diocesan efforts toward racial justice and healing in the extended history found on southernohiobishop.org.
Becoming Beloved Community
Since it began in 2018 as a task force led by the diaconate, the Becoming Beloved Community initiative has gathered momentum at the grass roots, deepening the commitment of the diocese and its congregations to the project’s three pillars: racial healing, evangelism, and creation care. Rooted in scripture and Jesus’ teachings, BBC builds meaningful relationships between neighbors by developing communities of practice. As we are becoming beloved community, we are invited to grow together as people who love God and love the God we see in everyone and in everything.
BBC and its leaders continue to develop and evolve, offering numerous opportunities for education and formation that deepen participants’ understanding of integrating the principles of Beloved Community in all they do. The Reparations Task Force is planning a sesquicentennial celebration focused on the work of Becoming Beloved Community: telling the truth, practicing the Way of Love, proclaiming the dream and repairing the breach.
Creation Care & Environmental Justice
In the last three years, new energy has arisen in our diocese around embracing ministry in this area. The Creation Care and Environmental Justice Commission (CCEJ) was officially commissioned at Diocesan Convention in November 2022 after serving as a task force for two years. The CCEJ hosts formation events, develops formation and liturgical materials, and supports creation care teams/ministries on the congregational level. Most recently it advocated for, and now administers, a diocesan-funded Energy Efficiency Grant program that awards parishes up to $10,000 in grants and an additional $10,000 low-interest loan for projects that improve efficiency in diocesan buildings. So far 25 parishes have improved their energy efficiency, and approximately $250,000 has been awarded.
Episcopal Community Ministries
Since 2020, Episcopal Community Ministries has been the “Outreach Arm of the Diocese of Southern Ohio,” offering grants to support the outreach missions of our congregations. From 2022 to 2023, ECM’s grant total is projected to increase from $70,500 to $100,000. ECM is also instituting a second granting period to continue the flow of money to congregational ministries year-round. By directing its support to congregational ministries making a positive impact on their communities, ECM hopes to foster a culture of outreach inspired by the gospel. In 2022 alone, twenty hands-on ministries across the diocese received grants to provide services for elementary students, immigrant families, survivors of sex trafficking, homeless and under-housed communities, persons recently released from prison, people with food insecurity, and those with medical financial needs.
The Procter Center
The Procter Center is the Episcopal camp and retreat center of the diocese. Established in 1952 with a substantial gift from the Procter family, the center’s mission today focuses on spiritual formation, sustainability, and rejoicing in God’s love. This is a safe place filled with grace, loved widely and deeply by people of all ages, who for decades have gathered here to follow the teachings of Jesus and share and live into the abundant love of God. In the green, humid summers, the Procter Center hosts diocesan youth and family summer camp programs, offering the respite of fresh air, picturesque skies, and the forming of lifelong friendships and relationships with Jesus, just to name a few. Out in the fields, by the water, surrounded by quiet, living off the land, William Cooper Procter recognized God’s presence in the natural world, a kind of peace he recounts struggling to feel in the bustle of the city. The Center cultivates the Holy Spirit through its hospitality and care, offering beautiful, charming scenes for worship, work, prayer, and play alike. The Procter Center is also a year-round working farm that produces the pork, chicken, eggs, and vegetables served in the dining hall and sold at the Procter Store in downtown London.
Diocesan Organizational Chart
“Daughter and son, loud praying members, sing to the Lord a new song!”
At its 18 focus groups, the Nominating Committee received extensive feedback about the elements of our diocesan life and program that are working well, and the challenges we face in our collective ministry.
What is Working
Participants noted a growing sense of collegiality across the diocese. While there is significant room for further growth, the common experiences of dealing with the COVID pandemic and coming to terms with Bishop Breidenthal’s alcoholism bound us together through a common challenge. We want the next bishop to nurture this progress and plant additional seeds to counter our regionalist and congregationalist tendencies. Both Bishop Price, as interim, and Bishop Smith, as provisional, have done significant work to improve communications across the diocese though there is still room for improvement. The bishops have also made people and parishes feel valued while giving the diocese time to heal.
The Becoming Beloved Community initiative (described in the previous section) is widely supported and will play a key role in the sesquicentennial celebration as we remember past successes and failures of our struggle against racism to inspire future action. The regional missioner program is considered effective and appreciated especially by the southeast region and river parishes. The Procter Center is a valued center of ministry, worship, and formation that has untapped potential. In recent years, its leadership has been more integrated into the diocesan administration.
At the grassroots level, many of our parishes support feeding programs, some through their own food-growing ministries. A number of our parishes have been enthusiastic supporters of Pride marches and festivals, and of LGBTQ outreach more generally. Music ministry is a passion for many parishes. While many parishes with diocesan support successfully built digital ministries during the pandemic, some parishes still need support.
The Standing Committee and Bishop Smith worked to name our diocesan system an alcoholic system and to help us begin the work of us becoming a recovering diocese. This work will take time to complete and must be a priority for the Tenth Bishop of Southern Ohio. Other challenges include:
The diocesan budget is large and the collective balance of the various endowments is massive, yet there is a mindset of scarcity amongst diocesan financial leaders. Consequently, the next bishop will need to build on the efforts toward financial transparency initiated by Bishops Breidenthal and Smith while developing a Christ-centered, mission-focused theology of money throughout the diocese.
Transparency & Trust
The two are inextricably linked. Comments in focus groups suggest a significant lack of trust in most, if not all, diocesan structures and leaders. Some of that is based on “things done and left undone.” Mistakes have been made in the past and things have fallen through the cracks at times. Across the diocese, people feel unvalued and overlooked. They perceive a lack of clarity or transparency in many areas: money; the nature and scope of certain individuals’ and governing bodies’ responsibilities; the nature of diocesan decision-making and how decisions are communicated. The root source of this low-trust environment is clear. Relations between congregations and the bishop have been persistently weak. Participants in every focus group said people felt pastorally disconnected from the bishop and the other parishes in the diocese.
Feeling Isolated or Left Out
Small, remote, rural parishes say they feel “left out” or “neglected” while large parishes feel they are only wanted for their mission share. Even parishes in the Cincinnati area express a sense of living at a distance from the heart of the diocese. It should be noted that this is a felt distance. The actual geographic area of the diocese is significantly smaller than many dioceses in the Episcopal Church.
Despite recent improvements, diocesan communications do not yet deliver the transparency nor the sense of connections that the diocese desires. People do not think they know what is happening in the diocese or who is making it happen. They are unaware of events and opportunities. This may be most notable in the area of formation. The diocese recently established a formation team, but many people do not yet know about it.
“Engines and steel, loud pounding hammers, sing to the Lord a new song!”
The 2023 budget, approved by Diocesan Convention, funds several new priorities identified by Bishop Smith. These include funds for New Episcopal Communities, congregational development, Becoming Beloved Community, and formation. The 2023 budget supports these key areas of ministry, as well as the search for the Tenth Bishop of Southern Ohio while anticipating a 5% decrease in mission share contributions from congregations.
It is important to note that approximately half of the diocese’s $5.9 million dollar budget for 2023 is allocated by the Bishop and Trustees from invested funds that are available for the various programs and initiatives.
The Trustees are a five-member body whose five-year terms are staggered such that the diocesan convention elects one new member each year. The group usually meets four times a year. They receive and invest funds given to the diocese as endowments. They also advise the bishop on the use of the William Cooper Procter Fund. The Trustees set the draw rate on the Procter Fund, and recently lowered it from 4% to 3.75% based on the average value of the portfolio for the 12 quarters ending October 1, 2022.
The Trustees review all applications for grants from the Procter Fund. They review all expenditures from that fund as well as more than 60 other funds under their control. Congregations are invited to invest their endowments through the Trustees in either the Consolidated Growth or Income Funds.
Recently, Bishop Smith and the Trustees continued grants to congregations facing financial challenges due to the pandemic; continued grants for energy efficiency measures in partnership with the Creation Care and Environmental Justice Commission; and approved Bishop Smith’s request to commit up to $200,000 beginning January 1, 2023, for an African American Missioner and the work of the Reparations Task Force.
The Diocese of Southern Ohio comprises 40 counties in southern Ohio. According to information from the 148th Annual Convention, held on November 19, 2022, we currently have 71 parishes, and like many Episcopal churches, our attendance suffered during the pandemic. According to our 2021 parochial reports, we have 16,688 active members with an average Sunday attendance of 3,787 people in 40 municipalities across the state’s southern half. There are 17 churches in Cincinnati, 12 churches in Columbus, six in Dayton, and 36 churches in farm towns, county seats, and suburban centers.
There are four historic African American churches: (St. Andrew’s, Evanston; St. Philip, Columbus; St. Margaret’s, Trotwood and St. Simon of Cyrene, Lincoln Heights), a Latino church (La Iglesia Del Espíritu Santo, Forest Park), and a bilingual, multicultural church (Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, Mt. Auburn).
The diocese currently has 49 full-time and 34 part-time clergy positions. There are seven vacancies for full-time clergy and six vacancies for part-time clergy.
The Diocese of Southern Ohio was blessed to produce two African American bishops and one African American seminary dean: the Rt. Rev. Wendell Gibbs, former rector of St. Andrew’s, Evanston is the retired bishop of the Diocese of Michigan. The Most Rev. Michael Curry, former vicar of St. Simon of Cyrene, Lincoln Heights, was bishop of North Carolina before becoming Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. The Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas of St. Margaret’s, Trotwood, is the dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
“Trumpet and pipes, loud crashing cymbals, sing to the Lord a new song!”
This is a condensed version of the history of the Diocese of Southern Ohio. A longer more in-depth rendering may be found on the search website: southernohiobishop.org.
Philander Chase became Ohio’s first bishop in 1819, and built the diocesan headquarters, as well as Kenyon College and Bexley Hall Seminary (now Bexley-Seabury Seminary) in Gambier. As the population of Ohio grew, so too did the number of Episcopal congregations. In 1875, the diocese was partitioned into a northern and southern half, which became the Diocese of Ohio and the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Thomas Jagger was elected as the first bishop of Southern Ohio and served from 1875 to 1904. The diocese will celebrate its sesquicentennial anniversary in 2025.
The early 20th Century saw clergy and laity playing key roles in the Social Gospel Movement and the ecumenical movements including the founding of the World Council of Churches. The diocese also admitted women as delegates to the diocesan convention in 1928, more than 40 years before they could vote in General Convention.
Dynamic vision and generous giving to the wider church became Southern Ohio’s hallmarks under the leadership of its fourth bishop, Henry Wise Hobson. He was elected in 1930 at the age of 39. One of his legacies is Forward Movement which is an active and innovative publishing house today. No history of this time in the Diocese of Southern Ohio is complete without mention of William Cooper Procter, grandson of one of the founders of the Procter and Gamble company. In addition to the William Cooper Procter Memorial Fund, the diocese is the beneficiary of the Charlotte Elizabeth Procter Fund that provides for the salary of the bishop.
Mr. Procter established this fund in his mother’s name. In 1952, his wife, Jane, deeded approximately 1,300 acres in London, Ohio, to the Church Foundation of the Diocese of Southern Ohio. This farm has become the Procter Center, a center of diocesan life often affectionately called the spiritual center of the diocese.
Hobson set a succession of daring fundraising goals, each of which enabled the diocese to expand its ministry. He also traveled the diocese extensively.
After a devastating river flood in 1937, Bishop Hobson spent months traveling river towns to bring encouragement. Money from the sale of the old St. Paul’s Cathedral went to equip an Airstream trailer dubbed St. Paul’s Wayside Cathedral. He and his staff used the vehicle to travel all over southern Ohio.
Hobson’s successor, Bishop Roger Blanchard, was elected in 1959 and spoke out against an array of injustices. He is still remembered with great love by people of many faiths and walks of life for his vision and great personal courage in seeking redress for the poverty and oppression of African Americans. In 1970, the bishop and diocesan convention launched the Institutional Racism Project, a 20-year effort involving a rigorous audit of the practices of the church.
Thanks to the leadership of Bishop John Krumm, Southern Ohio’s sixth bishop, ordained women were welcomed in Southern Ohio in the 1970s and ’80s when many other dioceses were bitterly divided or refused to admit women priests. Krumm’s successor, Bishop William Black and his Archdeacon Morry Hollenbaugh advocated for the people of the Appalachian region within the diocese. Eleven of the poorest counties in Appalachian Ohio are located in the diocese. For several decades, Southern Ohio has been a leader in these regions.
In 1988, the diocese elected its eighth bishop, Herbert Thompson, an African American priest from the Diocese of Long Island, on the first ballot. Bishop Thompson promoted the work of congregations by supporting the Commission on Congregational Life, youth work, and the hiring of the first Hispanic Missioner, Richard J. Aguilar. He led the redesign of the Procter Center and created a lay leadership training program—the Southern Ohio Lay Leaders Initiative or S.O.L.L.I.
The witness of this diocese for inclusion, social justice, and reaching out in fellowship to the worldwide Anglican Communion continued. Suffragan Bishop Kenneth L. Price, Secretary of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, was the only American appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the international committee charged with receiving the Windsor Report. He spoke out on Appalachian issues and was a witness against the death penalty and in support of a living wage.
Thomas Breidenthal, Director of Religious Life at Princeton University, was elected the ninth bishop in 2007. Bishop Breidenthal focused his episcopate on transparency, leadership, and connection. During his first diocesan convention as bishop, he disclosed his compensation, the first time in memory a bishop had done so.
During his tenure, addressing climate change led to the endorsement of the Earth Charter and the formation of Ohio Interfaith Power and Light. After the General Convention of 2009, he lifted the prohibition on the blessing of same-sex unions effective Easter, 2010. The first same-sex union was performed at St. Stephen’s in Columbus the following Saturday.
In 2018, Bishop Breidenthal encouraged the diocese to focus on the church-wide initiative of Becoming Beloved Community. In 2021, the Task Force on Reparations made its first report to the convention and is continuing its work as we look toward our sesquicentennial. Becoming Beloved Community continues as one of the most active and vibrant diocesan efforts.
In 2020, Bishop Breidenthal announced his retirement due to health concerns brought on by alcoholism. In January 2021, the Standing Committee began the work of preparing for the election of the Tenth Bishop of Southern Ohio. The Standing Committee and Provisional Bishop Wayne Smith have led us to begin understanding that the diocese is an alcoholic system and to begin the work of becoming a recovering diocese. We need the Tenth Bishop of Southern Ohio to lead us in continuing this work.
“God has done marvelous things. I, too, will praise God with a new song!”
In our deliberations as a Nominating Committee, we recognized a dynamic: while there are a multitude of joys and successes throughout the diocese, there is little sense of common purpose. We are ready to change this. We want to sing a new song. Therefore, we seek an apostle who embodies Barnabas and Mary Magdalene. We need a Barnabas who points to Jesus, who encourages us to minister in Christ’s name. We need a Mary Magdalene who through their financial support and presence enables us to carry on the ministry God gives us, and stays with us as we move from the cross through resurrection to act in the world. Are you called to lead us in singing a new song?
How to Apply
Please send the following to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight on February 28, 2023:
- Cover letter saying what about the Diocese of Southern Ohio compels you to enter into discernment with us.
- OTM Profile
- Resume or CV
- Answers to the following essay questions (limit 1000 words per question)
- How have you navigated a changing church in a changing world to enhance congregational vitality?
- Describe a situation in which you needed to create a sense of shared interests and community among individuals or groups who felt disconnected from one another. What is the role of the bishop in bringing a diocese together, and what gifts do you bring to the ministry of connection?
- What is your theology of money? Tell us a story of exercising your leadership to move an institution into a more Jesus-centered, mission-oriented relationship with money.
- In many ways, our region reflects the social inequalities (e.g. gender, education, health, housing, and race/ethnicity) that afflict our country as a whole. Please discuss ways in which you have had experience dealing with and supporting multicultural populations. What do you see as a bishop’s role in addressing and healing these disparities?
Qualifications have been set by the Standing Committee
- Nominees’ names may be submitted either by self-nomination or with a recommendation for nomination supported by two clergy of the Diocese of Southern Ohio and two lay persons in good standing in the Diocese of Southern Ohio, or by members of the Nominating Committee who have proactively researched qualified candidates.
- If the nominee is recovering from a substance use disorder or other addictive behavior, that nominee shall have had a minimum of five years of continuous sobriety and shall actively be working a program of recovery. Ten or more years of recovery is preferred.
- All nominees for bishop should be able to answer heartily, truthfully, and faithfully The Examination in the ordination service for bishops found in the Book of Common Prayer (pages 517-518).
- Nominees shall have been ordained priest for at least seven years at the time the nominations are announced.
- Nominees shall give evidence of active ministry with more than one focus (e.g., parish ministry, diocesan administration, participation in wider church initiatives)
- Nominees shall be priests or bishops in good standing in the Episcopal Church.
- Nominees must be willing to adhere to the Constitution & Canons of our church and relevant General Convention resolutions. Specifically, nominees must be willing to ensure that all people are included fully in the church and its sacramental life without regard to “race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital or family status (including pregnancy or child care plans), sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age” (Canon I.17.5).