Episcopal bishop leaving Lexington for church leadership position

Bishop Stacy F. Sauls of the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington will take a new job Sept. 1 as chief operating officer for the national Episcopal Church.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori named Sauls to oversee the staff of the denomination's offices and coordinate the church's mission program. His duties will include communication, finance and administration.

Sauls has served as bishop of the Lexington diocese since 2000.

"This is the most interesting and rewarding time I can imagine to serve the Episcopal Church," Sauls said in a news release from the church.

Lexington's Diocesan Standing Committee, made up of three elected clergy and laypeople, and Bishop Clay Matthews of the national denomination's pastoral development office will meet to discuss plans for finding the next bishop of Lexington.

Kay Collier McLaughlin, spokeswoman for the diocese, said the process for naming a new bishop could take a year to 18 months.

Matthews and the standing committee will decide whether to hire an interim bishop or elect the standing committee to remain in charge until a new bishop is named. The new bishop will be elected by clergy and laity of the diocese.

The diocese covers Central and Eastern Kentucky and includes 35 churches with 6,000 members.

Sauls in 2003 supported the election of Lexington native V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. Robinson was the first openly gay man to be approved as a bishop.

After the Robinson vote, the leadership of two conservative churches in the Lexington diocese quit. The diocese dismissed the leaders of a third congregation after they clashed with Sauls over the hiring of a new minister.