Office of the Presiding Bishop

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Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

Office of the Presiding Bishop

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Dates of existence



From 1789 until 1919 (except for the brief period from 1792-1804), the senior bishop by date of consecration was automatically the Presiding Bishop (PB). In 1919 the PB was made president of the National Council which serves as the Board of Directors of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Service. Duties established at that time included presiding over meetings of the House of Bishops, acting as the executive head of all programs and mission departments, having authority to appoint interim officials and officers, and maintaining oversight of bishops. In 1964 the office was granted authority to appoint the President and Chair of the Executive Council.

In 1967, the duties of PB were brought together under one canon (Canon 2) and stipulated that the term of office be 12 years or until the PB reaches 65 years of age. It also named the PB as chief pastor and gave the office the responsibility for representing the church in its corporate capacity as well as responsibilities involving initiating and developing policy.

The Standing Commission on Structure studied the office further and reported in 1976 concerning the method of electing a PB. They concluded that the PB should continue to be elected by the House of Bishops and approved by the House of Deputies, rather than a joint session of the two houses. The General Convention gave the PB joint authority with the President of the House of deputies to appoint the General Convention Executive Secretary (this position was changed to Executive Officer in 1982).

The Presiding Bishop is the Chief Pastor and Primate of The Episcopal Church, which includes the United States and dioceses or congregations in Europe, Asia and Latin America that maintain continuing ties to the American province of the Anglican Communion. The Presiding Bishop is responsible for initiating new work, developing Church policy and strategy, leading the staff of the DFMS, and representing the Episcopal Church in major public engagements, the Anglican Communion, and ecumenical relationships. In addition, the PB acts as chairperson of Executive Council, President of the DFMS, and is presiding officer of the House of Bishops.

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