Enter George Conger, the ambitious evangelical cleric from Central Florida. Is he qualified? Eminently so. He is by far away the most credentialed of all the candidates with a good track record in his own diocese. However, there is no love lost between Conger and his bishop, Greg Brewer, who may well be glad to see the back of him.
It’s actually official and you can see his candidacy page here.
Conger and I grew up at the same parish in Palm Beach (which he lists as his home town, like I do.) I was there in the 1960’s while I think most of his years there were in the following decade. So his course of life has been of interest.
It’s really surprising that someone who has pointed out the deficiencies of the Episcopal Church the way he has (and from the viewpoint he has) is even in the running, but that reflects the more desultory way the Episcopal Church is organised (?). The left has picked off the dioceses one by one; Katherine Jeffert-Schori’s brutal reign is atypical in a church which values riding the fence. Springfield is one of the last outposts of any semblance of orthodoxy, and given the statistics that David Virtue points out, will do well to remain an outpost during the tenure of any new bishop.
In any case Virtue points out something else that stands in the way of my fellow Palm Beacher becoming the Rt. Rev. George Conger: getting enough consents from the other bishops, most of whom (as both of them have chronicled over the years) are lefties. It should be remembered that Mark Lawrence had trouble with this before being elected Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. After initiating the unfinished task of taking that diocese out of the Episcopal Church for the ACNA, I’ll bet that many in the Episcopal Church–including its Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, will do just about anything to avoid that happening again.
As far as his episcopal qualities are concerned, Conger is an interesting person in that he combines being a very pastoral person with being the quintessential Episcopal snob, a quality enhanced by the place of his upbringing. That combination may sound strange but the latter has been a key element in attracting people to the Episcopal Church for many years, and the former is sorely lacking in pastors of all kinds. If the task of the bishop is to be the pastor to his clergy, he’ll do well. Whether it’s enough to reverse the decline of the diocese is a different matter altogether, although I doubt anyone else could do better.
One thing we have disagreed on is the role of givebacks vs. renunciation. I’ve always felt that he started with givebacks and, with his ministry in central Florida, ended up with renunciation, while I did the reverse in swimming the Tiber and the other things I did at the time, and gave back later in my own church work. He ruefully noted that a salary cut is in order. Although I’m sure that some inherited wealth will tide him over, his elevation to the episcopate–if it happens–may be the greatest act of renunciation of all.