Why is the Church in Wales electing a new Bishop of Monmouth?
This election has been called by Archbishop John following the retirement of the previous bishop, the Right Reverend Richard Pain, on 30 April.
Who elects the new bishop?
Bishops in Wales are elected by an Electoral College made up of bishops, clergy and laity from across the Church. All the serving bishops are members, and each diocesan conference elects lists of clergy and lay members to serve for a period of three years.
At each meeting, the “home” diocese, in this case Monmouth, is represented by 12 members – six clergy and six lay – with the other five dioceses each represented by seven members – one bishop, three clergy and three lay. That makes 47 members in total. Bishops are elected not only to a diocese but also to the Church in Wales as a whole, and so it is appropriate for all dioceses to be represented at elections with the “home” diocese’s delegation given greater weighting than any other single diocese.
A list of electors who will be serving at this meeting of the Electoral College may be found here.
Where does the election take place? Can anyone attend?
The Electoral College meets in the diocese seeking a bishop, normally at the cathedral. Meetings of the Electoral College are held in private, to enable full and frank discussion of candidates. On this occasion, the College will meet on Tuesday 17 September at Newport Cathedral, beginning with a celebration of the Holy Eucharist at 09:30. Church members are warmly invited to attend the opening service. The College may meet for up to three consecutive days in order to reach a decision, and so the Electoral College could meet also on Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 September.
Who is eligible to be elected bishop?
It is possible for anyone in priest’s orders either from within the Church in Wales or another province of the Anglican Communion to be considered for election. However, in discerning potential candidates, electors will also need to take into account the needs of the diocese and of the wider Church in Wales.
How are candidates nominated for consideration?
Currently, candidates may only be nominated by members of the Electoral College at the meeting itself. There is no process for prior nomination, and no formal system for nominations being made from outside the College’s membership. There is nothing to prevent people from the wider Church in Wales suggesting names of potential nominees to electors, but it would then be up to each individual elector to decide whether or not to nominate that person at the Electoral College meeting.
What happens during the Electoral College meeting?
Meetings of the Electoral College are rooted in worship and prayer, and care is taken throughout each meeting to make time for silence, prayer and meditation. Following the opening service, the meeting begins with the Veni Creator, to invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
There is an opportunity for members to discuss the needs of the diocese and the wider Church, and then members are invited to nominate names for consideration. Once a list of candidates has been agreed, those names are discussed. Should any of the nominees be present at the meeting, they are required to withdraw for the discussion, then return for the vote by private ballot.
Should one of the candidates receive two thirds of the votes of those present and voting, they are declared bishop-elect. If no candidate reaches this threshold, the College returns to the nomination stage. Names are not carried forward to the next nomination list automatically and so names are nominated afresh each time.
This cycle of nomination-discussion-vote continues until one candidate meets the two-thirds threshold. If after three days no election is made, the decision passes to the Bench of Bishops.
When will a decision be announced?
It is impossible to predict when the Electoral College will reach a decision – that depends on the result of each ballot – but once it has done so the decision is announced from the door of the cathedral and via the Church in Wales website and social media. The story is usually picked up also by the Welsh media, and the bishop-elect is often interviewed shortly afterwards.
What happens next?
The bishop-elect is allowed up to 28 days to decide whether or not to accept their election. If they accept, the bishops will meet in a ceremony called the Sacred Synod to confirm the election. In doing so, they ensure that the bishop-elect’s birth certificate, letters of orders and DBS disclosure are in order, and provide an opportunity for members of the public to raise any matters they feel should be taken into consideration.
Once the election has been confirmed, the new bishop is given jurisdiction over their diocese, and may be ordained in bishop’s orders by the Archbishop and other bishops. This service, which takes place at the Archbishop’s cathedral, is usually called a service of consecration. On this occasion, the consecration service will be held at Brecon Cathedral. It is also normal practice for the new bishop to be formally welcomed to the diocese at a service held shortly afterwards at the home cathedral.