Trinity dean again a bishop candidate

Very Rev. Philip C. Linder is a candidate to lead Episcopal Diocese of Upper S.C.

The dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral is once again a candidate for bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina.

The Very Rev. Philip C. Linder had removed himself from the nomination process in October, shortly before nine candidates were winnowed to five.

But after a petition drive, he agreed to resubmit his name and now joins five other candidates, including two S.C. priests, a Minnesota priest and a Dallas priest.

The six are vying to succeed retiring Bishop Dorsey F. Henderson Jr. The election is Dec. 12.

Linder has been dean of the downtown cathedral for a decade.

In an earlier letter bowing out of the nomination process, he made it clear it would be difficult to leave Trinity to become bishop.

"We are at a critical moment in the history of our beloved Trinity," he wrote. Trinity, with a membership topping 4,200, is currently in the midst of a multi-million dollar renovation of the historic sanctuary, he noted. "Today, the staff, vestry and laity of Trinity are worshipping, working and serving Christ at a level that I have never before witnessed," he said.

But in reconsidering, Linder told the congregation that much prayer and a lengthy discernment process "has led me full circle back to Trinity Cathedral, where I believe God, and I pray all of you, desire for me to continue to serve as your priest and dean."

Efforts Tuesday to reach Linder about his decision to re-enter the bishop selection process were unsuccessful.

The diocesan search committee opened a weeklong petition process Oct. 19 after the five finalists were named. The petition to nominate Linder was submitted by three clergy members and three parishioners from different congregations. The search committee did not make their names public.

But petitioners who submitted his name may see Linder as a more moderate voice in the ongoing and contentious debate over same-sex relationships in the U.S. Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion to which it belongs.

The bishop candidates were asked to detail their faith story, discuss their management style and paint a picture of the future of the diocese.

But the most controversial question was this: "If you were elected bishop of EDUSC how would you counsel a rector who was asked to bless a same gender relationship in his/her parish, and how would you lead us forward beyond our divisions?

In detailed explanations, all said they would not divert from church teaching and allow the blessing of same-sex unions.

In addition to Linder, the other candidates include: The Very Rev. John B. Burwell, rector of the Church of the Holy Cross, Sullivan's Island; The Rev. David F.O. Thompson, rector of St. Bartholomew's Church, North Augusta; The Rev. Canon Dr. Neal O. Michell, Canon to the Ordinary, Episcopal Diocese of Dallas; The Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Excelsior, Minn.; and The Rev. Jerre Stockton Williams, Jr., rector, St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Kerrville, Texas.

The candidates will come to South Carolina Nov. 21-22 for two "Walk-Abouts" to allow delegates to the electing convention and other interested people to meet and talk with them. The Nov. 21 meeting will be at St. John's Episcopal Church in Columbia, and the Nov. 22 meeting, at Christ Church in Greenville.

The bishop of the Upper Diocese leads parishes in the Midlands and Upstate. Lowcountry Episcopalians are under the leadership of Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina.

The electing convention is scheduled for Dec. 12 at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, with consecration to follow May 22.