On a day full of prayer and celebration, the Rt. Rev. Sean W. Rowe, bishop of Northwest Pennsylvania and bishop provisional of Western New York, was elected to be the 28th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. The election, which was decided on the first ballot, took place during the 81st General Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, where on Wednesday at mid-morning, members of the House of Bishops walked from the Kentucky International Convention Center to nearby Christ Church Cathedral to cast their votes. Their decision was made by noon, with the announcement held until after a lunch break, sparking much excited speculation among members of the House of Deputies (HOD), visitors, and the press.

When it was announced, the news was greeted with elation in the HOD, which confirmed the bishops’ vote by a 95-percent majority. Here is what some members of the Maine deputation had to say about the presiding bishop-elect

  • “The energy! He’s been a bishop for 17 years and now he’s going to be our presiding bishop—the man is a saint.” — Deputy Richard Rozene
  • “I was elated. I’m very excited about what he’s going to be capable of getting done for us.” — Rev. Joshua Hill
  • “I’m delighted about the new presiding bishop. I’ve heard from several different people who worked with him. They all sing his praises regarding his ability to be forward thinking, an excellent administrator, and easy to work with.”  — Rev. Lisa Fry
  • “I think it’s a real blessing for the church that he was elected on the first ballot; it’s a real mandate for him. I can’t wait to see what the future has [in store for] for The Episcopal Church.” — Deputy Mark Spahr

At 49, Bishop Rowe is the youngest presiding bishop ever elected, he was also the country’s youngest Episcopal priest when he was ordained at 24, and became the denomination’s youngest bishop at 32. He will begin his nine-year term on Nov. 1. Read more about the presiding bishop-elect and the election process here.

In his address to the HOD, which you can watch here, Rowe expressed gratitude to his fellow nominees, stressed that a willingness to take risks and embrace change was key to the future of the church, and urged the HOD to “hold our structure lightly,” with an eye on providing more church resources for dioceses, “where ministry happens on the ground.” He suggested that the time between now and his installation on Nov. 1 be considered as “a kind of relational jubilee,” where anger and resentments built up during the pandemic and post-pandemic years be forgiven “for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Rowe finished his speech with a quote from “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander,” by theologian Thomas Merton, who spent much of his life in Kentucky.

“In a time of drastic change one can be too preoccupied with what is ending or too obsessed with what seems to be beginning. In either case one loses touch with the present and with its obscure but dynamic possibilities. What really matters is openness, readiness, attention, courage to face risk. You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope. In such an event, courage is the authentic form taken by love.”

Photo by Randall Gornowich

Bishop Brown walking with his fellow bishops to Christ Church Cathedral in Louisville, Kentucky, to vote for the 28th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. Photo by Randall Gornowich