Every organization or system has its own language to describe how it functions, and each religious organization or denomination has language that is particular to it. In order to better understand how the Episcopal Church is organized, and how it functions in every diocese across the country, it is helpful to know the titles and functions of leaders in the Episcopal system, and who holds those particular positions in the Diocese of Lexington, which is one of the 110 dioceses of the Episcopal Church. To be an Episcopal church, and an Episcopalian is to be a part of a recognized structure that is consistent throughout the denomination, with a polity that governs all parts of the system.
The presiding bishop is the presiding officer and primate of the Episcopal Church and the symbol of unity with its dioceses, and represents the Episcopal Church to the member churches of the Anglican Communion. The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry is the Presiding Bishop. His office is at the Episcopal Church Center at 815 Second Avenue in New York.
The bishop is the chief sacramental officer of the Episcopal Church and the office that gives the church its name. The greek word for bishop is episcopos , “overseer” ; the name Episcopal Church thus means it is a church with bishops. Each diocese has a bishop who is entrusted with safeguarding the teaching and faith of the church, with ordinations and confirmations, and administrative oversight of their diocese. The Rt. Rev. Bruce Caldwell is Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of Lexington. The office of the bishop is at Mission House.
The canon to the ordinary is the diocesan bishop’s representative to all churches in the diocese, providing counsel to the bishop, helping to oversee the ordination process, working with clergy and lay professionals who are attending programs of continuing education, coordinating events for all diocesan clergy, and assisting with parish development. The Rev. Canon Elise Johnstone is Canon to the Ordinary for the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington.
The dean is the head of a Cathedral, seminary or special geographical region within a diocese. The Cathedral is the principal church of a diocese, where the bishop’s cathedra (chair or seat of office) resides. It is the church of all the people of the diocese, and may also have a resident congregation. It is the symbol of the ministry of the whole diocese, and the place where many important Episcopal services take place. The Very Rev. Carol Wade is the dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Lexington. The diocese also has an historic wooden cathedral at its conference and retreat center, The Cathedral Domain. The Very Rev. Dr. Ron Summers is dean of the Cathedral of St. George the Martyr.
The bishop’s staff is composed of men and women who are charged with responsibility for particular areas of ministry in the diocese, and serve as a resource to the congregations. In the Diocese of Lexington, the Bishop’s or Diocesan staff is composed of the following:
- Deputy for Administration: oversees the administrative functions of the Diocese, including insurance, background checks, safeguarding God’s children, compliance with diocesan and national canons, Title IV disciplinary actions, etc. The Venerable Bryant Kibler, Archdeacon, is Deputy for Administration. He also heads the ministry at Barnes Mountain, a missionary outpost in Eastern Kentucky where groups from across the country come on mission trips.
- Missioner for Finance: oversees the finances of the diocese, working with the finance and budget committees. Ruth Lawton, CPA, serves as Missioner for Finance.
- Director of Reading Camp: oversees the steering committee and staffs of the multiple reading camps, as well as securing grants and planning fund-raising activities. Sarah Harcourt Watts serves in this position.
- Executive Director of St. Agnes House: oversees the residential cancer hostel which provides low-cost housing for people seeking treatment in the Lexington area. The director is also responsible for the Board of Directors and fund-raising/development. At the current time this position has not been filled.
- Resident Manager of the Cathedral Domain: manages the property and buildings in Lee County which comprise the Diocesan Conference and Retreat Center, the Cathedral Domain, and is liaison to the Camp and Conference Board, overseeing residential staff and summer camp staffs. Lay Canon Andy Sigmon serves in this position.
- Executive Secretary to the Bishop: has primary responsibility to the bishop of the diocese for functions of administrative assistance. Ellen Darnall serves in this position.
- Receptionist, Administrative Assistant and Youth Leader: The receptionist is generally the first person one encounters at Mission House, the home of the Bishop and staff of the Diocese. This person also is responsible for aspects of administrative assistance, and is serving as part-time leader of the Diocesan Youth Community. Cindy Sigmon functions in this role.
- Database Administrator and Communications Coordinator: assists with the missions of Cathedral Domain, St. Agnes’ House and Reading Camp by maintaining current and accurate database records; is responsible for the presentation of DioLink, the biweekly online newsletter of the Diocese of Lexington; is designing and building a new diocesan website while maintaining the existing diocesan website. Lynn Vera serves in this position.
Mission House is the name of the headquarters of the Diocese of Lexington, located at the corner of 4th Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard. The office of the bishop and his staff and diocesan meeting rooms are located here.
Ministers of the Church are the ordained and lay, or non-ordained, ministers of the church
- Priests in the Episcopal Church are ordained to “represent Christ and his Church, to proclaim the Gospel and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God.” Priests serve under the authority of a diocesan bishop. Most are rectors or head pastors of local congregations, although some are also chaplains, teachers, and in non-stipendiary ministries.
- Deacons are those ordained to a special vocation of serving, especially the sick, the poor, the weak and the lonely. The sign of the deacon is a stole worn over the left shoulder and fastened under the right arm. Vocational deacons read the gospel and have a special calling to a particular servant ministry. Transitional deacons serve as deacons for a period of time in preparation for ordination to the priesthood.
- The laity – from the Greek word laos, meaning people – refers to the whole people of God. The word is customarily used to refer to non-ordained Christians whose ministry is to bear witness to Christ and his Church and carry his reconciling work into the world.
The Standing Committee is the elected body of three clergy and three lay persons who serve as the bishop’s council of advice, and in the absence of a diocesan bishop, represent the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese.
The Executive Council is the elected interim body that implements and monitors decisions in the months between the conventions of the diocese. Four lay members and two clerical members are elected yearly to serve three year terms. The council includes ex officio members. The bishop serves as president and chair; a lay person is appointed by the bishop to serve as vice-president. The members are divided into a number of standing committees with responsibility for areas of the church’s life.
The Diocesan Leadership Team is a group of trained volunteers from across the diocese who work in teams to assist with self study for transition and planning, conflict, and other situations where skilled objective facilitation is helpful.