Episcopalians considering 5 nominees 4 men and a woman for bishop

March 01, 1995|By Frank P.L. Somerville | Frank P.L. Somerville,Sun Staff Writer

A search committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland announced yesterday that it has selected five nominees -- four men and one woman -- for the office of diocesan bishop, vacant since the retirement of the Rt. Rev. A. Theodore Eastman 14 months ago.

Only one of the nominees is a priest of the Maryland diocese. None is black. All are described as "middle of the road" with respect to the theological and social issues that have divided the Episcopal Church locally and nationally.

Agreeing to stand for election at a diocesan convention in Frostburg May 20 are:

* The Rev. William P. Baxter Jr., 52, rector of St. Thomas' Church in Garrison, Baltimore County. The only nominee from the Maryland diocese, he has been active in Jewish-Christian dialogue and other diocesan affairs beyond his Green Spring Valley parish.

* The Rev. James A. Diamond, 49, rector of Christ Church in Andover, Mass., since 1981. Educated at Brown and the Harvard Divinity School, he has served churches in Minnesota as well as Massachusetts.

* The Rev. Robert W. Ihloff, 53, rector of Grace Church in Madison, N.J., a suburb of Newark. He has a doctorate from the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., and is an adjunct professor at Drew, the university in Madison affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

* The Rev. Patricia M. Thomas, 58, a canon -- or administrative assistant -- to Bishop Ronald H. Haines of Washington, D.C. She is a former associate rector of St. Columba's, a large parish in Northwest Washington, and former vicar of St. John's Church in Huntingdon, Pa.

* The Very Rev. Gustave J. Weltsek Jr., 59, dean of St. John's Cathedral in Jacksonville, Fla., since 1985. A native of New York, he has served parishes in Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Before the May convention and, finally, from the floor of the convention itself, it is possible for any two delegates to make further nominations if the potential nominees, who must be Episcopal bishops or priests, consent. Selected lay delegates and all active clergy of the diocese have a vote.

The Rev. David E. Crossley, rector of St. David's Church in Roland Park, co-chaired the search committee with Betty Spiggle, a laywoman.

Eight other clergy and 11 other lay members from many parts of the state made up the committee. Father Crossley said they began last summer with a list of 150 names gleaned from sources both in and out of the diocese, including the clergy deployment office at the Episcopal headquarters in New York.

At a long weekend meeting in September, the committee established criteria for the job -- such as administrative experience at both the parish and diocesan levels and leadership qualities -- and the list of possible nominees was reduced to 75.

Another cut resulted in 40 candidates, all of whom were contacted by phone to determine their interest.

Before a final daylong meeting of the search committee behind closed doors at the Cathedral of the Incarnation Saturday, the list had been cut to 16. Each of them was visited by several committee members, who also interviewed parishioners and the staff of the candidates.

Two potential choices withdrew from consideration on or before Saturday, when successive votes of the committee produced the five nominees. All have agreed to visit the Maryland diocese March 25, 26 and 27 to be questioned by Episcopalians in meetings in Severna Park, Cumberland and Baltimore.

"They represent a spectrum of gifts and experience and are in the broad middle of the church," Father Crossley said. On divisive social and theological issues, such as the ordination of homosexuals, "there are no extreme positions among them," St. David's rector said.

But all favor women's ordination, another divisive issue in the Episcopal Church, Father Crossley added.

Ordinations of gays and lesbians in the denomination have caused serious rifts, leading to formal ecclesiastical charges being brought by 10 bishops seeking sanctions against a liberal member of the House of Bishops in Iowa.

On that question, the candidates for bishop of Maryland gave cautious answers, Father Crossley said.

In addition to Mrs. Spiggle, the lay members of the committee were Claudia Stout, Joyce Chabot, Susan Helfenstein, Patricia Jackson, Nan Putnam, James Rauth, William White, Richard Holmes, Arschell Morell and Peter Dahl.

The clergy members, in addition to Father Crossley, were two ordained deacons, Lauren Welch and Carl Rehling, and six priests: Ellen Hurwitz, Tricia De Beer, Carol Cole Flanagan, Frederick Thomas, Eddie Blue and Carl Edwards.

Another priest, the Rev. Sarah Lewis, and a layman, John Thorpe, met with the committee, serving as its chaplains.

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