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Committee hears from three bishops on ‘set-aside’ legislation

by Neill Caldwell
April 26, 2012

In an unusual but allowable move late Thursday, the Superintendency Legislative Committee heard from three bishops who offered rationale and asked for support for the petitons establishing a set-aside bishop.
Bishops Larry Goodpaster and Ann Sherer-Simpson and retired Bishop Bruce Oden made the presentation after the committee asked for input from the Council of Bishops. Petitions 20314 and 20315, concerning paragraphs 49 and 406 of the Book of Discipline, respectively, were submitted by the council and ask for a full-time president of the body who has no geographic assignment.

“We’ve asked to amend Paragraph 49 (of the church’s constitution) to give us permission to set aside a council president to lead a church that is rapidly spreading around the globe and is in need of leadership,” said Oden, who reminded the delegates that this request was first made at the 1968 General Conference.

“We do not want a ‘presiding’ bishop,” added Sherer-Simpson, “but one who will help us do our work. It’s almost impossible now to hold a worldwide church together while also maintaining the work of an annual conference. This person would help us do the work you’ve asked us to do.”

Goodpaster, who has been the Council of Bishops president while also directing the Western North Carolina Annual (regional) Conference, said trying to do both jobs at the same time damaged his ability to devote his full presence to either job.

“There’s a lot of travel around the world,” he said, “and a lot of special demands on the life of the president of the Council of Bishops. It means you have to be available and I was not always available to Western North Carolina. …

“Having a bishop without those restrictions would give that bishop time to wrestle with the adaptive challenge. It’s really about the mission of the church.”

In response to a question about people’s fear that this would create some kind of “superbishop,” Goodpaster said, “There’s no secret, coded language in the petitions. … We’ve tried to be as transparent as possible.”