House of Bishops elects Armed Forces and Federal Ministries bishop suffragan and Navajoland provisional bishop, reaffirms trans rights

At The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops spring gathering, 122 bishops gathered March 8-13, 2023, at Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Alabama, for a time of retreat.

Presiding Bishop’s opening sermon

In his opening sermon, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry challenged the group by asking how they live into the fact that they are bishops of a church that is both “Good Friday and Easter,” where there is death and new life all at the same time.

“Not one of us has ever been a bishop in this moment of the church’s life before; there are no experts; there’s nobody who knows how to do it,” Curry said, “but last time I checked my Bible, Jesus said, ‘Wherever two or three gather in my name, I’m going to show up.’”

He added: “You and I have been called to be bishops, as Mordecai said to Esther, ‘for such a time as this,’ when Good Friday and Easter are indistinguishable. And this Jesus has the truth of eternal life.”

Read full transcript of Curry’s sermon.

Scheduled events during the spring gathering

Scheduled events included a day pilgrimage to Montgomery, Alabama, with visits to the Legacy Museum, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and conversation with Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

 “We went to Montgomery not as tourists to consume, but as pilgrims to pray,” Curry said, reflecting on the visit. “We went on pilgrimage to holy places to remember those enslaved and abused in the institution of chattel slavery—and the martyrs and witnesses who labored for a society in which there is ‘liberty and justice for all.’ … We went as pilgrims following Jesus and his way of love.”

The Very Rev. Miguelina Howell, chaplain to the House of Bishops and dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Connecticut, delivered a homily for Sunday Eucharist. She invited those present to reconsider traditional interpretations of the story in the Gospel of John of the Samaritan woman at the well.

“Change begins from within at the personal and institutional levels,” Howell said. “The Samaritan woman was courageous, and her bravery did not translate into arrogance. She allowed herself to be vulnerable. She felt seen by Jesus. Jesus spoke to her soul. Jesus spoke to her story. She made the most of the encounter at the well.”

Read full transcript of Howell’s sermon.

Business meeting

Bishop Suffragan for the Armed Forces and Federal Ministries

In its March 12 business meeting, the House of Bishops elected the Rev. Ann Ritonia, former Marine Corps major, to the position of bishop suffragan for the Armed Forces and Federal Ministries. While the initial election was declared null and void due to a single ineligibly cast vote, Ritonia was then elected on the first ballot of the second election.

Most recently, Ritonia served as rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church and Parish Day School in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. She is the recipient of the Navy Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendations, and the Recruit Honor Graduate Award. Ritonia also served as a member of the Chaplain Selection Committee for Armed Forces and Federal Ministries for seven years.

“I so look forward to working with the Rev. Ritonia,” said Curry. “We are very fortunate to have her coming on board, and I wish her every blessing in this crucial ministry.”

Ritonia’s consecration date, pending consents, is set for September 30, 2023, at St. John’s Church, Lafayette Square.

The bishop suffragan for Armed Forces and Federal Ministries is a Department of Defense-appointed Ecclesiastical Endorser with responsibility for Episcopal chaplains and congregations in the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The Office of Armed Forces and Federal Ministries supports federal chaplains who provide spiritual and day-to-day support for those in the military, Veterans Affairs hospitals, and prisons.

Bishop Provisional of the Navajoland area mission

Also in the business meeting, the House of Bishops confirmed the recommendation of the people of the Navajoland area mission to appoint the Rt. Rev. Barry Beisner as their bishop provisional. Beisner served previously as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California, and, since 2019, has served as assisting bishop in Navajoland with a focus on the formation of new clergy—in collaboration with his wife, the Rev. Ann Hallisey.

The Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, bishop for pastoral development, referenced Resolution D080 from the 80th General Convention, which calls for the empowerment of The Episcopal Church in Navajoland to call its own leadership, including any necessary amendments to church canons at the 81st General Convention.

Transgender support

Recalling its March 2022 statement of love and continued support for transgender people and their families, the House of Bishops reaffirmed its commitment in a resolution responding to current legislative actions in 41 states targeting trans people. “We urge all in our church, in all the countries in which The Episcopal Church is found, to create safe spaces and shield all people from harassment based on gender identity, and to join in advocacy to protect them from discriminatory laws,” the resolution states.

Honoring life and ministry of the Most Rev. Frank Griswold

The bishops also passed a resolution honoring the life and ministry of the Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold III, the 25th presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, who died on March 5. The resolution remembers Griswold for being a leader “who, rooted in the fullness of the human experience, encouraged us, in tracking down the Holy Ghost and in gathering up the fragments, to pray all our days, that we might grow more deeply into the love of and longing for God, and so might become prayer itself.”

Read full transcript of Curry’s closing sermon.

Article from the Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs.

A message from Lent from the Most Reverend Melissa Skelton, Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of Olympia to the people of the diocese.

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