NORWAY – The Episcopalian bishop of Maine is stepping down after a 10-year tenure, and a search committee is looking for a successor to provide the tone and spiritual direction for the 66 Episcopal congregations in Maine.

One of the 21 members of the search committee is the Rev. Anne Stanley, rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Norway.

“It’s very important who our spiritual leader is,” Stanley said. “And I just thought that I would be able to give the time, because it does take quite a lot of time. And I’ve been around the block a few times.”

Bishop Chilton Knudsen, who will be 62 when she steps down next fall, promised her husband she would retire at this age when she accepted the position of Maine’s head bishop a decade ago.

Since beginning work last May, the search committee has developed a profile of the diocese, which will be sent to bishops, seminary deans and others interested in the position. Also posted on the Web, the profile describes Maine, the churches here, and some of the struggles they face financially and with an aging population.

There are seven Episcopal churches in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties, considered “Area 4” in the state diocese. A lay person and clergy member from each of the eight areas serve on the search committee. David McKivergan of Rumford is the lay member representing this region.

According to the profile, the committee seeks a bishop who will creatively address the challenges of overseeing a large state and tight finances. And it desires an “energetic, youth-oriented person who can connect with the current generation of young adults in a way that will help us discover ways to minister to them.” About 17,000 people belong to the Episcopal church in Maine, Stanley said.

Also, because the Episcopal church has adopted the United Nations millennium goals, which include halting the spread of AIDs and halving extreme poverty by 2015, the committee is asking that the new bishop focus on the world beyond the church doors.

Nominations and applications will be received from January through March, and the final three to six candidates will be selected next summer. At the diocesan convention next October, the new bishop will be elected by delegates from each congregation elected by their church communities.

“We might get well over 100 people,” Stanley said. “They can be priests, or bishops, although most of the people will not be bishops.”

Some conservative Episcopal congregations scattered across the country are making a move toward becoming connected with dioceses in other places, especially in Africa. If they do, they would be leaving the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United State of America over disagreements on the ordination of gay priests and bishops.

For its part, the Maine diocese is cohesive and strong, Stanley said.

“It’s been hard for some people, but we’re so busy doing our work and our ministry, we haven’t had the dissension or tension that some places seem to be having,” Stanley said, giving some credit to Knudsen, who Stanley described as a good listener and reconciler.

“Most people on Sunday are not thinking about these things,” Stanley said. “Most churches are getting on … with the business of administering to the sick, the wounded, the oppressed, which is what Jesus told us to do.”

Stanley’s ancestor, the Rt. Rev. George Burgess, was the first bishop in Maine from 1847 to 1866, and has been followed by seven others. Knudsen was Maine’s first woman bishop. The Episcopal Church allowed the ordination of women in 1976, which also led to some division in the denomination.

Stanley, although she was comfortable joining the search committee, is not interested in becoming Maine’s next Episcopal leader.

“I am not called to be bishop of anywhere,” she said with a light smile.


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