While I had not even considered watching the papal conclave stovepipe live streaming webcam, I must admit that I felt a rush of excitement when someone on the second floor of Christ Church’s offices announced, “We have a pope!” I wondered who was elected, what he will be like, and will he bring reform into an institution (the worldwide Roman Catholic Church) that is in deep need of some reform. (His choice of name, Pope Francis, gives me hope!) I wondered how he will direct those participating in the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC – the pathway for having ecumenical dialogue between the worldwide Anglican Communion and the worldwide Roman Catholic Church). It is good to have someone in the role of spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

But, at the same time, I keep in mind that the new pope, Pope Francis, isn’t our pope. He is their pope. It is a peculiar blessing of the Anglican Communion and of the Episcopal Church to not have a pope, one supreme religious leader with the power to dictate belief (orthodoxy) and practice (orthopraxy). Instead, we have a Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church, elected by bishops (who were originally elected by their dioceses) to be a first among equals kind of bishop. She, the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/presiding-bishop, is pretty awesome, even if white smoke was not released when she was elected. In the Anglican Communion, the Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/pages/about-justin-welby.html, will soon (March 21) begin his public ministry as Archbishop of Canterbury. Even as the Archbishop of Canterbury, he will not have role of a supreme religious leader able to command a new course on his own – he must work with his brother and sister bishops to make changes to doctrine, worship, and practice. Here in the Episcopal Church USA, we elect, not appoint, our bishops and both clergy and lay people scrutinize, pray, and vote in choosing their bishops.

Each Sunday we pray for our bishops, the bishops of the Diocese of Virginia. Being a bishop is incredibly hard work. I hope that you will hold in your prayers our three bishops, Shannon, Susan, and Ted, as well as Katharine our Presiding Bishop and Justin, the Archbishop of Canterbury. And go ahead and pray for Pope Francis too. After all, we can also use some extra prayers!