When our bishops get together


I was consecrated a bishop in our denomination in November 2007 after our then-bishop, John W. Holloway, suffered a massive stroke that June at the age of 53. I would have jurisdiction over the states of Georgia and Tennessee and, in 2011, I would also become the Associate Endorser for our United States military chaplains. In 2014, Bishop Holloway, my bishop and my pastor, died.

Twice a year, we have a weeklong meeting formerly called the North American House of Bishops (HOB), now called “The Primate’s Council.” In the Western Church, Primates (from the Latin, “primas,” meaning “first,” refers to a bishop having jurisdictional authority over the bishops in a “province,” usually a nation or, in our case, North America, and is usually an Archbishop.

Periodically, someone will ask, “What do the bishops do all week?” In short, it is a week of worship, work, problem solving, vision sharing, and relationship building and enhancing relationships. Ours may be unique in that all our bishops are godly, Bible honoring and believing men, who all hold to the words and truths of the ancient Creeds, especially the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, and give honor to the lives and teachings of the Apostolic and Early Church Fathers.

All our bishops believe in the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death (with several not supporting capital punishment), a commitment to minister to the “least, the lost, and the lonely,” and all are sacramental people, evangelicals ( in a biblical, not political, sense), and are charismatic (embracing the present day work of the ministry and gifts of the Holy Spirit).

Every day of the HOB begins with a worship service filled with contemporary songs and traditional hymns, prayers, a message presented by someone selected by the Primate, and Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion). Afterwards, the bishops, and any clergy who wish to attend, retire to a room to do the work of the Council.

The first item of business was to, after six months of prayer, to approve three younger priests to be consecrated as new bishops to succeed three bishops, in their 60’s or 70’s, who will be voluntarily retiring from that office in the near future.

Bishop-elect Brett Crompton, of New York, presented the “Northeast Diocese Transition Plan,” as he prepares to succeed retiring Bishop Gregory Ortiz. Following that was a detailed report from the Committee on the North American Convocation for all clergy and laity to be held in Orlando, FL in July of this year. That was followed by a report from CEC for Life, the denomination’s global outreach on the sanctity of human life.

Bishop David Simpson, who serves Florida and the Caribbean, and is North America’s Ecumenical Officer, reported on over five years of meetings with the bishops of three Anglican Continuing Church denominations and the progress to establish a friendly and collegial relationship with them.

There was also agreement to resume talks with a large Anglican group and a sister “convergence” Anglican group that is interested in talks. These discussions are not designed to end in any kind of “merging.” As John Wesley was reported to have once said to a rival church leader, “If your heart is as my heart, give me your hand.”  In other words, we may not agree on every little thing. but we’re still in fellowship.

There was also consideration given to exploring a fellowship relationship with the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America (PCCNA), which has over 45 churches, denominations, universities, parachurch groups, and other entities claiming a constituency of 16.7 million persons in North America. Again, fellowship, not merging. I volunteered to investigate that subject and report back in October.

A very detailed report on the re-imagining and re-launching of our Military Chaplains ministry was presented by myself and Canon Brett Travis, a retired Army chaplain (lieutenant colonel) and Rector of a growing church he and his wife planted In Knoxville, TN. We have outstanding chaplains in the field but, as the associate endorser, I have long since determined that they deserve someone with better knowledge and skills than me. There will be a further meeting between now and the next HOB with our Primate, Archbishop Craig Bates, prior to a more complete report to be presented in October.

Following a report and a request, the HOB approved a North American Single Young Adult (18-35) Conference to be held in San Clemente, CA in 2025. There was also a report on our denomination’s Saint Michael’s Seminary that trains and educates men for the diaconate and priesthood.

Bishop Rob Northwood of the Mid-Atlantic Diocese was appointed to replace the retiring Bishop Douglas Kessler (who will be succeeded by Bishop-elect Chris Moran in May as the Bishop of the Diocese of the West) as the chair of the St. Michael’s Seminary Committee. The committee members will be looking at how to increase and enhance the seminary’s programs and offerings in a way that would help provide both education and spiritual formation for students.

Each night, the bishops and visiting clergy took to the streets to sample Long Island’s restaurants where fellowship and laughter flowed freely. That last night, I looked over the gathered crowd of men and their wives, watched the interaction and concluded that the writer of Psalm 133, who stated, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” was correct.

It wasn’t so when we hit a rough patch back there for a while. But God, who is active and merciful, forcefully brought us all to a place of repentance. And, indeed, we repented, dropped our defenses, laid down our personal shields and swords, along with our egos and personal agendas, and asked for, and freely gave, forgiveness. Tears were shed back then. We are but men, after all. We are all sinners who are utterly undone were it not for Jesus and his mercy. So, we buried those days and moved forward. Since then, we have experienced and lived that verse in Psalm 133.

The last night of the HOB, I looked around the restaurant and realized that I would be missing these people in the not-too-distant future. I am 73 and my son, Father Jason Epps, almost 52, has been elected to replace me at some point in the future. He will be consecrated at our church at the HOB in October and we will work together until I step aside as an active bishop and pass the baton. It is the first time in our 32-year history that a North American bishop will have been succeeded by his son.

As Psalm 133 was being played out before me that Thursday night, a lump formed in my throat and my vision became misty. What an honor to serve with these People! What an honor to serve with our Primate, who also serves as the global patriarch!

What mercy and grace God has extended to me, utterly unworthy and undeserving though I am and continue to be. So that is a short answer to “What do the bishops do all week?” When we are at our best, we do the work of the Church, and we do the work of God. Someone asked me how they could pray for me as I went to New York. The answer is simple. If you are ever led to pray for me, at any time, just “pray for me, a sinner.”

David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). Worship services are on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and on livestream at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may be contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.