Ecumenical council salutes retiring bishop's success

January 28, 1994|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Staff Writer

Protestant, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic church leaders gathered in Baltimore yesterday to affirm their commitment to interfaith cooperation and to honor a retiring bishop for his contributions to the ecumenical movement -- locally and globally.

What brought members of the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council to the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation was the last interdenominational prayer service to be attended by Bishop A. Theodore Eastman as head of the Diocese of Maryland.

The 65-year-old churchman will retire Monday.

The California native became coadjutor -- or assistant bishop -- of Maryland Episcopalians in 1982 and has headed the diocese since 1986. A search committee is being formed to nominate his successor.

Preaching at the service, the Rev. William Calhoun of West Baltimore's Trinity Baptist Church, president of the city's Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, said of the bishop, "I have come to know, love and respect him for his contributions to the ecumenical movement."

Those contributions included international leadership positions since 1983 in discussions among Anglicans and Roman Catholics aimed at reaching theological common ground. From 1986 until recently, Bishop Eastman was the chief U.S. Episcopal Church representative in the Anglican-Catholic dialogue.

Linking the civil rights and ecumenical movements, Mr. Calhoun acknowledged that much work remains to achieve equal rights and true Christian unity.

But both struggles will continue, he said, because "the witness of unity . . . is central to the growth of Christianity."

While "some folks say the ecumenical movement is dead," he told his listeners, so long as church leaders remain fully convinced of "their common relationship to Jesus Christ," the movement will live. "Never mind the naysayers," he said, his voice rising.

Offering a prayer during the worship, Bishop Eastman described the world's Christians as "one in essence" even though many are overly concerned with denominational priorities as the result of the "sins of pride and arrogance."

Three other bishops took part in the service: Charles L. Longest, Bishop Eastman's assistant in the Episcopal diocese; P. Francis Murphy, an auxiliary bishop of Baltimore's Catholic archdiocese; and George Paul Mocko of the Delaware/Maryland Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Rev. Richard H. Tillman, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Columbia, presided.

At an amiable lunch in the Episcopal diocesan center after the service, the clergy exchanged ecclesiastical jokes and compliments.

"Promotion of heaven on earth is what it's all about," Mr. Calhoun said of Bishop Eastman's career. Bishop Murphy added, "Ted has been a true apostle of Jesus Christ."

Before coming to Baltimore, Bishop Eastman and his wife, Sarah, were residents of Washington for 10 years while he was rector of St. Alban's Church there. They have bought a house in the Washington suburb of McLean, Va., and plan to move there in April.

He will commute periodically to New York, where he will head an innovative study program being developed at General Theological Seminary to train newly elected bishops of the Episcopal Church.

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