The committee charged with this task today released the names of four men to be the next presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. It is a strong and diverse list.
And it is noteworthy that not a single woman’s name made the list. Diversity does not extend to gender. This is especially perplexing in that the current Presiding Bishop is a woman (as are the Presiding Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada).
So where are the women?
The candidate pool for Presiding Bishop is made up of all bishops, though in reality this means all diocesan bishops. Of this number, some may choose not to apply for any number of reasons, whether personal, vocational, or whatever.
I wrote a few weeks ago about how rare women diocesan bishops have become in the Episcopal Church. This afternoon, I went back and tried to get a sense of the composition of the House of Bishops in 2006, the last time a Presiding Bishop was elected. Based on my count, there were more female diocesan bishops in 2006 than there are currently.
2006: Rhode Island, Nevada, Utah, Indianapolis, Maine
2015: Indianapolis, Washington, El Camino Real, and soon-to-be Central Pennsylvania
Given how much the world has changed in nine years, this should astound us. Another way of saying this is that the Church of England, which has permitted women bishops for about six months, will soon have one quarter the number of women diocesans as the Episcopal Church, which got its first woman diocesan bishop over twenty years ago.
With so few female diocesans, a variety of very good reasons may have meant that there were simply no female candidates in the process. Male bishops no doubt chose not to participate in the process for similar reasons but that still leaves plenty who do feel called to move forward.
Where are the women? There may simply not be enough to be in the potential pool of candidates.
And that should count as a very big problem for the Episcopal Church.