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THE REFORMED EPISCOPAL CHURCH

OFFICE FOR THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA


A Founding Member of the Province of the
ANGLICAN CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA

Dear Reformed Episcopal Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who by His death has destroyed death, and by his
rising to life again has restored unto us everlasting life!

I write to you regarding recent news for the Reformed Episcopal Church, and for the Diocese of the Northeast
and Mid-Atlantic: The Rt. Rev. David Hicks has sent a letter to the standing committee and the diocese, resigning
as the Ordinary of the Diocese of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. He has received and accepted a call to be the
rector of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Butler, PA, in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, part of our province, the Anglican
Church in North America.

I know this announcement meets all of us with surprise, perhaps shock, and certainly sadness. Bishop Hicks has
served his diocese for fourteen years as its pastor, and at the Reformed Episcopal Seminary. Furthermore, his
calling is away from episcopal service, although he will still be a bishop without specific portfolio. As the saying
goes, “Once ordained always ordained.” This call even comes in the middle, not the end of his life’s service. At
the same time the sense of finishing what God has called us to do in one specific endeavor, much earlier than
expected, sometimes comes along the road of ministry. This kind of occurrence appears at all levels of service
both lay and clergy.

I realize though that such an unexpected call in our brother’s life may cause some of us to speculate. I hope we
will not do this. We should all hear what Bishop David has expressed in his letter as from his heart and love for
Jesus Christ. The decision to accept a new call was driven by the leading of the Lord to return to parish work. He
simply wants to be a rector again ministering to the local congregation!

For any concerned on the matter of Holy Orders, however, it may help to know that although the Diocese of
Pittsburgh (ACNA) allows for the ordination of women to the diaconate and presbyterate, there are also parishes
in the diocese that do not share this belief and practice. St. Peter’s Anglican Church (Butler) is one of those
congregations. The Reformed Episcopal Church in all of its dioceses, however, is resolute and clear on its
understanding of the Holy Scriptures and the practice of the historic Church as articulated in our Constitution and
Canons: only males serve in the three offices of this church (Deacon, Priest and Bishop). Please know that our
bishops and clergy continue to pledge our fidelity to and remain unwavering in our convictions to uphold these
ancient standards!

To address another matter that could be misunderstood. It may seem unprecedented for a bishop to move back
into the pastorate, and other non-episcopal fields of service. Yet, this has happened before with bishops in the
Anglican Way. One of my own professors at Oxford University, the Rt. Rev. N. T. Wright, was called away from his
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episcopal service as the Ordinary of the Diocese of Durham in England. He took a call back into academia at St.
Andrews University in Scotland. Some have conjectured that he may have even been on a trajectory toward the
Archiepiscopate of Canterbury given the history of Bishops at Durham Cathedral. Bishop David’s decision
therefore was personal and pastoral, not anything more.

Bishop David served the Reformed Episcopal Church and his diocese faithfully for fourteen years as a bishop. He,
along with his team, led our historic seminary, the Reformed Episcopal Seminary, into full accreditation with the
Association of Theological Schools. He was called additionally to serve as the Vice President of the REC. He has
been of enormous help, support and service to me, to our jurisdiction, and the Council of Bishops. Bishop David
has done the hard work of the episcopate with the love, integrity, and steadfastness, into which God and His
Church call a man for such a difficult challenge. My dear friend even includes in his letter of resignation, as
further testament to his godly character, a humble reflection. As he puts it, “the diocese needs a bishop with
fresh perspective and the particular gifts that will be helpful in moving the diocese forward from this point.”

Thankful for Bishop David’s service and saddened by his decision, in the will of the Lord, I believe we should listen
to what God is saying to us through Bishop David. Yes, we are called upon to express our goodbyes, even though
he will still be in our province, never far away from our hearts, and always in our prayers. Nevertheless, we would
be remiss if we did not consider his full sense of leading for not only his family but for the diocese. Bishop David’s
anointing of what the Diocese of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic needs for its future leads me to address how we
take the next steps.

Certainly until July 31, Bishop David is still the Ordinary. After that point, our REC Constitution and Canons call for
the presiding bishop to become the ordinary in an interim capacity, allowing for a search process, election, and
consecration of a new bishop. To this end, I have already begun to meet with the Standing Committee of NEMA,
under Bishop David’s permission and support, to outline what I believe is necessary for this process. I have
referred to it as similar to a rector search at the parish level.

The constitution and canons call for the standing committee of the diocese to conduct the search process. This
may involve the formation of a sub-committee as a search committee. The latter could consist of standing
committee members and include others in the diocese to help. Final approval of all search committee procedures
and conclusions reside with the standing committee it serves. The work of the search committee should involve
the development of a diocesan profile and a survey of the diocese to hear and determine strengths, weaknesses
and needs. It will also need to formulate a clear understanding of the kind of man a Biblical bishop needs to be,
and one who can lead the diocese forward. The call for this type of introspection should be constructive in
outlook. It will take some time in preparation to determine the standards required, and in addition what “special
gifts” for the diocese are preferred in the man, of which Bishop David spoke. These preliminary steps are
essential before recommendations for candidacy should be evaluated. Candidates should be considered from
within and outside the diocese. When the time approaches, lay and clergy will be allowed to submit prospective
names to the search committee for discernment. The search committee then determines who is eligible, willing
and able to serve. It interviews and arrives at a short list for final standing committee approval. The standing
committee, after considering the recommendations submitted to it, should subsequently present at least two
nominees in advance of a specially called synod for diocesan delegates to vote upon. With this approach, there is
openness, transparency, and not the will of any one person. All of the people of God represented by the elected
delegates are involved in the selection of the man who will be their bishop. As God’s will is revealed through the
election, our prayer will be that the diocese accepts, rallies around, and supports the new bishop-elect.
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Given this full process, I anticipate that such a synod will probably be some time in the spring of 2020. Once the
diocese has elected the man, he will need to be approved by the other REC Bishops and Standing Committees, or
at General Council. Finally, the man’s election requires confirmation by the College of Bishops of the ACNA. The
entire process will therefore take about a year. Hopefully, a new bishop may be consecrated in late summer or
early fall of 2020.

In the meantime, all should know that the Diocese of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic has an excellent leadership
team in place to help me serve as the Interim Ordinary. The diocese has a wonderfully experienced standing
committee, whose president is the Rev. Dr. Eric Jorgensen. He is a gifted rector with many years in parish ministry
and parochial school administration.

Furthermore, I want the important episcopal work required in NEMA to continue. To this end, the Rt. Rev. Chuck
Gillin (suffragan) will serve for me as a kind of “field general,” doing the majority of the episcopal visits and
pastoral on-the-ground work required of the bishop. As we all know, he is a choice, trusted, and respected long-
standing minister and bishop in the diocese. I will be assisting with some visits, and there are gifted, talented and
experienced Canons in the diocese as well, who can help Bishop Chuck and me with some of those parishes that
do not require confirmations. As necessary, I may augment with other appointments to assist the bishop, the
diocese, the Church, and me. I will also be offering my academic help and credentials to the seminary as Bishop
David’s role there leaves another vacancy.

For your further information, with the aid of all of the aforementioned dear servants, I will be leading NEMA’s
next diocesan synod at St. Marks (Jenkintown, PA), scheduled for November 7-8. There is simply not enough time
to complete the search process prior to synod. We do not want to rush such an important decision, as the
election of a bishop calls for prayerful, careful, and thorough work on the part of so many.

I hope this summary helps. Surely there will be many questions and matters to address. Certainly, Bishop Chuck,
the President of the Standing Committee, the Canons and I, are available to assist. I encourage all of us to turn to
the Lord with prayer and fasting in this time of unexpected change. Please first of all pray for Bishop David and
Lisa as they enter a major time of transition to a new service for the Lord. Please express your thankfulness to the
Lord and to them. We will be letting you know of a “Dinner of Thanksgiving” in the diocese that is being
organized for June 27, that all of us might show our appreciation to our dearly loved friends and servants.

I also ask you to pray for the Standing Committee the Diocese of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. As you can
sense, they have much work ahead of them. Yet, these are dear, faithful and loving, lay and clergy followers of
Jesus Christ. As God has led, with His help they are up to the task. Pray specifically for the Search Committee to
be formed, and for God’s right man to emerge through the search and discernment process.

I ask for your personal prayers. There are many adjustments that need to be made in my own work and schedule.
Pray for the Lord’s provision of grace, wisdom, good health, and strength in this regard.

Finally, the process of electing a new bishop can be very unifying; it can also be unfortunately divisive. As you are
probably aware, the unity of God’s people in truth is my greatest passion. I spend a good deal of time working
with our fellow Christians of other branches of Christ’s Church to live out Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in John 17. I
pray that God will knit us together in His love as we bear one another’s burdens in this time of need. My
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predecessor, the Most Rev. Royal Grote, was known to remind all of us in his own inimitable turn of the phrase,
“It’s not about me.” This means it’s not just about me as a bishop, or a presbyter, or a deacon, or layman. It’s
about what God wants and wills, which will mean all of us praying and working together as clergy and laity.
Through the new challenges before us, I am confident that God will show us His right man, as we strive in a
conciliar way to find the consensus that only He can create. In the words of the Psalmist, “He is the God that
maketh men to be of one mind in an house” (Psalm 68:6, Coverdale). May He be pleased to do so in the Diocese
of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, in the Reformed Episcopal Church, and in the Anglican Church in North
America!

Easter Blessings in Christ,

The Most Rev. Dr. Ray R. Sutton


Presiding Bishop

The Most Rev. Ray R. Sutton, Ph.D., Presiding Bishop


Church of the Holy Communion Cathedral 17405 Muirfield Dr. Dallas, Texas 75287
972 248 6505 office@holycommuniondallas.org www.rechurch.org