Well, the decision as to who to elect the next Bishop of Tennessee has been made someone easier–or at least the choices have been narrowed–by the withdrawal of two candidates from the process. One would have appreciated their decisions more had they withdrawn prior to the deadline for write-in nominations. As it is, TN is left with a narrow field. From what I understand, those remaining are fine priests–as where those who withdrew. While I honestly felt during the first election that Neal Michel was
the right person to be the next Bishop of TN, my feelings about this slate are not as hard and fast. As it is I believe Bauerschmidt+ and Paden+ to be the best choices at this time, but who will be elected? Only God knows, and as of yet he hasn’t deigned to reveal the future to yours truly. At the moment I’m leaning toward Bauerschmidt+ more so than Paden+, but I’ll have to reserve total judgment for after I’ve met them.

I’m closing comments on this thread and encourage your participation over at Titusonenine.

Here are the letters from Frs. Russ Levenson and Thack Dyson:

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Dear Sisters and Brothers of The Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee:

For many months now, it has been an honor and privilege to be moving through the process toward the election of your new bishop. Upon notice of my officially candidacy, Laura and I began a process of deep and sincere discernment, rooted in prayer and reflection with several friends and mentors around the Church.

It was with mixed emotions therefore, that I have informed both Anne Stevenson and David Rowe, the co-chairs of your Bishop’s Search Committee, to withdraw from this process and therefore further consideration. My decision has absolutely nothing to do with the fine people of the Diocese of Tennessee, your superb search committee or any sense about what rests before your next bishop. I earnestly believe your Diocese to have a wonderful history and some tremendous opportunities yet to be realized. In short, your
next bishop will be the benefactor of genuine Christians, growing and vibrant parishes and a long-standing commitment to the core mission of the Gospel– knowing Jesus Christ and making Him known.

Primarily, this decision, which Laura and I have made together, had primarily to do with our own discernment about the best match between needs and gifts, timing and work yet to be done. You now have four outstanding candidates from whom to choose for your next bishop, and I am confident that our Lord will guide your Diocese to elect the right person to take you to the next chapter in your history. As for me, my own sense is that the work I have been called to do in Pensacola, Florida and in the Diocese of the
Central Gulf Coast needs to continue. Some of you may question why I have waited this far into the process to come to this conclusion. I can assure you that if I could have made this decision earlier, I would have done so. Only in the last few weeks has it come very clear to the Levenson family that the potentiality of a move to a new environment and ministry is not part of our Lord’s calling for our lives at this time.

Let me express my earnest gratitude to your search committee. All of them, under the leadership of David and Anne, have done a tremendous job in bringing forth a magnificent slate. Let me also say publicly a word of thanks to anyone who supported my nomination. Nomination alone was an honor; and being named a candidate for such a great Diocese was humbling to say the least.

Now may God guide you and direct you to continue to do the work you have been given to do. Know that you are in our prayers, particularly in the weeks ahead and I would ask for your prayers as well, for my ongoing ministry and the people of Christ Church, Pensacola and the very good Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. “May the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” (Colossians 3:15).

Faithfully, I remain,
The Reverend Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.
Rector, Christ Church Parish
Pensacola, Florida


October 8, 2006
The Rev. Canon Anne Stevenson
Dr. David L. Rowe
Episcopate Committee
Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee

Dear Anne and David:

After several months of intense prayer and discernment, I have concluded that I must withdraw as a candidate for bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee. Admittedly, this has not been an easy decision to make, but it is the correct one for me, your Diocese, and my parish.

Since I was invited into the discernment process, the major questions on my heart were as follows: (1) Was I truly called to be a bishop at this time? (2) Do I have the right gifts that are needed to be an effective Bishop of the Diocese? (3) Have I finished my work at St. Paul’s, Daphne, Alabama? (4) What’s in my family’s best interest? In my discernment, I never received a clear answer to the first and second questions. The idea of being a bishop was not a consideration of mine at the time I was notified
that I had been nominated. Consequently, as part of my discernment, I had to shift my focus and consider things that I had never considered before. I also had to consider my strengths and weaknesses as a person and a priest with regard to what I perceive are the most critical needs of the Diocese. In the final analysis, I came to the conclusion that this was not the time for me to be a Bishop in God’s Church.

However, this process did confirm that I am called to be a priest and pastor, and that I still have work to do at St. Paul’s. I have a passion for ministry and love being able to serve such a wonderful and faithful community. My family is also relieved by my decision to withdraw because they know I have not discerned a clear sense that this is what God was calling me to do.

Again, this has not been an easy decision for me. I have been honored and humbled by being a part of this mutual discernment process. Your confidence in me and my abilities has been both affirming and gratifying. It has also been an interesting journey, causing me to engage in some serious self-examination and to seek the counsel of spiritual friends and mentors. Finally, it was a rewarding experience as well because I got to meet you and the other members of the Episcopate Committee.

You still have an exceptional and faithful slate of candidates. Any one of the candidates would make a fine bishop. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will help you to identify the right one to lead your Diocese at this critical time in the Church. Thank you for this opportunity and God’s blessings to you and the Diocese of Tennessee.


The Rev. Thack Dyson