After this weekend’s spate of episcopal elections (four bishops were elected in dioceses throughout the country), I realized just how tired I am of hearing the exact same quotes from the “winning” bishop-elect. The two biggest buzzwords are “humbled” and “overwhelmed.” Usually these spill out one right after the other as in “I’m humbled and overwhelmed to be called to this new ministry.”
That’s not to say I think this immediate reaction is inauthentic — I’m sure anyone called to such a position of leadership and responsibility is truly both humbled and overwhelmed. But I’m also certain that the “thrill of victory” gets publicly tempered while they’re popping the champagne in the privacy of their own homes.
So I thought I’d help out all future bishops by writing a more appropriate “victory” speech. You know, the words they really want to say but can’t since they have an entire diocese waiting to hear just how “humbled and overwhelmed” they are at having been elected.
A Bishop’s Victory Speech
Begin with a Howard Dean-like yell. Then do a few fist pumps. If you’re feeling spry, do some push-ups to show that you’re an incredible physical specimen who will never have to relinquish power due to health concerns before the mandatory retirement age.
[You may be wondering why you're in the convention hall after the election to deliver this speech. You were so confident you'd win, that you booked a room in a fancy nearby hotel. Then right after the election you "just happened to be passing by" in order to greet the diocese in person rather than via a bland statement].
To a standing ovation, you emerge from a giant cloud of incense to deliver your speech. There’s bound to be some praise band on hand (since it’s a diocesan convention and all liturgical and musical sensibility has therefore evaporated). Use this to your advantage and have them play what will henceforth become your theme song. Some suggestions are Purple Rain by Prince (change spelling to “Reign”); Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi; anything by Deep Purple (though Smoke on the Water could be considered baptismal imagery); We Are the Champions by Queen (change “We are” to “I am”); or if there’s a horn section, a short but intricate fanfare will do.
Victory is mine! [Then stand for a full 30-seconds with arms raised in the classic Richard Nixon double V pose while soaking in all the applause.] And you, good people of the Diocese of XXX are obviously smarter than the Episcopalians in (name the five dioceses in which you lost elections).
Thank you for finally getting me out of St. Thomas-by-the-Turnpike and away from all those annoying parishioners who kept showing up week after week and telling me all about their “problems” at coffee hour. It’s been a long-time coming. And my wife and I are psyched that my current salary will now be doubled. Show me the money! And by the way here are some plans we had drawn up to redo the kitchen in the bishop’s residence [hand them to the diocesan treasurer].
To my fellow candidates: in an election, there can only be one winner. Thus, God thinks you’re a loser. As does this entire diocese. But take it from me — there will be other elections and other chances to join ME in the House of Bishops. Until then please know that I won’t return your phone calls and, in fact, I’ve already forgotten all of your names.
[Your cell phone rings; you answer it and tell Wippell's to go ahead and ship the purple shirts you pre-ordered.]
I’m delighted you bought all that stuff I said at the pre-election walkabouts. Please don’t hold me to any of it since I can’t remember what I said to get elected. But the important thing is that I look fantastic in a purple cassock. Also, please forward pictures of the vestments from the cathedral sacristy as soon as possible so I can Photoshop myself in.
To my future staff, I like my coffee served at 163 degrees fahrenheit with 3/4 of a teaspoon of sugar and free range soy milk. And you can simply call me “Your Grace.” If you’d like to kiss my humongous bishop’s ring — that costs more than the down payment on your house — know that I do tend to keep it in my back pocket.
And, finally, to the good people of this diocese, I look forward to showing up at your churches, meeting you, and criticizing the liturgy. Sure, I’ll preach for 35 minutes and throw off your whole Sunday morning schedule while simultaneously giving your poor Church School teachers PTSD. And since I don’t plan to remember your name or what you look like in between visitations, kindly leave me alone when you see me dining in a fancy restaurant on the diocesan dime.
Oh, wait. I think I forgot to mention that I’m humbled and overwhelmed to be your new bishop.
Congratulations, by the way, to the four newest bishops-elect in the Episcopal Church: Nick Knisely in Rhode Island; Robert Wright in Atlanta; Jeff Fisher in the Diocese of Texas; and Douglas Fisher in Western Massachusetts. If any of you would like me to ghost write your first sermon as bishop, just let me know.