One of the three orders of ordained ministers in the church, bishops are charged with the apostolic work of leading, supervising, and uniting the church. Bishops represent Christ and his church, and they are called to provide Christian vision and leadership for their dioceses. The BCP (p. 855) notes that the bishop is “to act in Christ's name for the reconciliation of the world and the building up of the church; and to ordain others to continue Christ's ministry.” Bishops stand in the apostolic succession, maintaining continuity in the present with the ministry of the Apostles. Bishops serve as chief pastors of the church, exercising a ministry of oversight and supervision. Diocesan bishops hold jurisdiction in their dioceses, with particular responsibility for the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the church. Bishops serve as the focus for diocesan unity and for the unity of their dioceses with the wider church. Since the bishop's ministry is a ministry of oversight, the term “episcopal” (derived from the Greek episcopos, “overseer”) is applied to matters pertaining to bishops. An “episcopal” church is a church governed by bishops, and “episcopal” services are led by bishops.
Episcopal services in the BCP include the services for the Ordination and Consecration of Bishops, Ordination of Priests, Ordination of Deacons, the Celebration of a New Ministry, and the Consecration of a Church or Chapel.
Bishops also preside at services of Confirmation, Reception, or Reaffirmation. Bishops bless altars and fonts, and the blessing of chalices and patens and church bells are traditionally reserved for the bishop. In the Episcopal Church, diocesan and suffragan bishops are elected by Diocesan Convention. Bishops-elect are ordained and consecrated after consents have been received from a majority of the diocesan standing committees and from a majority of the bishops exercising jurisdiction in the Episcopal Church. If the episcopal election takes place within three months before General Convention, the consent of the House of Deputies is required instead of a majority of the standing committees. Three bishops are required to participate in the ordination and consecration of a bishop. Diocesan bishops may be succeeded by bishops-coadjutor upon resignation of diocesan jurisdiction. Diocesan bishops may also be assisted by suffragan and assistant bishops, who have no right of succession upon the resignation of the diocesan bishop. See Apostolic Succession.
Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.