This Sunday at St. Nicholas, we will be joined by the Right Reverend Keith Whitmore, the Assistant Bishop of our diocese and his wife Suzie. We will start at 9:00am with a Bishop’s Forum which will be an open time for you to get to know Bishop Whitmore and ask questions about what he does, what’s going on in the diocese, and for him to get to know us better. Then, at our 10:00am service, Bishop Whitmore will preach and celebrate, and will receive 7 people into the Episcopal Church: Bill Caudill, Cora Coverson, Ona Graham, Ralph Graham, Carolyn Jacik, Judy Jacik, and Heather Roper. After church, we will have a reception for our new Episcopalians. Then, they and those who have been attending the Episcopal 101 class will go to the Mountain Creek Inn for lunch. It will be a full and wonderful day, and I hope you can all be there to meet the Bishop and support our 7 new Episcopalians.
Here’s is some information about Bishop Whitmore: The Rt. Rev. Keith B. Whitmore, the former bishop of the Diocese of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, became the Diocese of Atlanta’s assistant bishop effective April 15, 2008.
He currently serves on the The Episcopal Church’s Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance and is president of Affirming Anglican Catholicism. He serves as a trustee for the Berekeley Divinity School at Yale.
He was ordained bishop of Eau Claire in April 10, 1999. He is a Wisconsin native and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Nashotah House, Nashotah, Wis. He has served congregations in Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas, where he was dean of Christ Cathedral, Salina, and is a retired Army chaplain. He and his wife, Suzie, have been married more than 40 years. They have two grown children.
And here are 10 random facts about bishops:
- A Bishop is elected by a diocese. Dioceses search for bishops much like congregations search for priests. In fact, Fr. Jeff is currently serving on the nominating committee for the 10th Bishop of Atlanta, after our bishop, the Right Reverend J. Neil Alexander announced his resignation last month in order for him to go back to serving the church through his gifts of teaching. After the search process, there is a slate of 4 or 5 candidates for bishop, and a special election council is held. A bishop has to receive a majority vote from both the clergy and the laity of the diocese.
- There are a few different kinds of bishops. A Bishop Diocesan is the main pastor and overseer of a diocese. Bishop Alexander is our Bishop Diocesan. A Suffragan Bishop is an elected bishop to serve to assist a Bishop. This is different from an Assistant Bishop, which is how Bishop Whitmore serves, because a Bishop Diocesan can appoint an Assistant Bishop whereas a Suffragan is elected by the diocese. Finally, there is a Bishop Coadjutor who is elected to succeed a Bishop Diocesan while that Bishop is still functioning.
- The Bishop is an integral member of all the churches of the diocese. Therefore, one wouldn’t say “Welcome to St. Nicholas,” as if he were a newcomer. In some churches, there is a bishop’s chair that remains in the sanctuary as a symbol that even when the Bishop is not there, he or she still has an important place in the church. This is why we list our bishops at the top of our list of ministers in our bulletin because they are the chief pastors of St. Nicholas.
- The hat a bishop wears is called a “mitre” and is pointed to symbolize the flame of the Holy Spirit that appeared above the heads of the apostles on the day of Pentecost.
- A bishop carries a “crozier” which is a staff that looks like a shepherd’s crook, to symbolize his or her role as chief pastor of the diocese and shepherd to the larger flock of the church.
- The bishop makes annual visitations to every parish in the diocese. When a diocese is large like ours, it requires a second person to help make those visitations, thus the need for an Assistant Bishop like Bishop Whitmore.
- The word “Episcopal” means “having bishops,” therefore, the role of the bishop is central to who we are in our tradition of Christianity. When we talk about the “episcopacy,” we are talking about the role and function of the bishop. “Episcopal” comes from the greek word “episkopoi” which means “bishops” found in Acts 20, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5.
- Only bishops can confirm a Christian, receive someone into the Episcopal Church, and ordain people to holy orders. This is special because of “apostolic succession,” or the historic line through which people have been connected all the way to the first apostles, who had hands laid on them in prayer to equip them with the power of the Holy Spirit. The heads whom receive Bishop Whitmore’s hands will be connected to those apostles this Sunday.
- While a congregation may call a priest to serve their church, the bishop must confirm that call.
- St. Nicholas was bishop of Myra which is in modern-day Turkey. We celebrate his feast day on the Sunday closest to December 6.