Rev. John Keener Mount, 86, controversial Episcopal priest

June 28, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

The Rev. John Keener Mount, who shook up the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland when he admitted his own homosexuality and blessed a same-sex union in defiance of a church moratorium, has died.

Father Mount died June 15 of congestive heart failure at his home in Easton. He was 86.

A task force report on human sexuality presented at the 1992 Convention of the Episcopal Diocese on Solomons Island caused Father Mount, who was in declining health, to rise from his chair and make a confession that freed him from a personal agony he had kept locked away for six decades.

"I've never told this before, but I think it's necessary to tell it now: As far as I know, I've been a homosexual ever since I've been born. It isn't really a question of should we or should we not ordain homosexuals. The question is should we stop doing it.

"For me, it's over -- the struggle, the deceptions. And it was the deception that was the terrible part," he said.

He left the podium in tears to the applause of many of the delegates who stood in tribute to Father Mount and his courage.

"I thought he had a lot of courage and guts," said his sister, Mary M. Walker who lives in the Charlestown Retirement Community.

"He told me that he got so mad sitting there at the convention and then something came over him and he just couldn't sit still any longer. I was very proud of my brother," Mrs. Walker said.

In a controversial incident last year, he officiated at a ceremony in Trappe, Talbott County, for two gays who were HIV-positive. As a result, he was stripped of his license to preach or serve communion in any church of the Easton Diocese by its Bishop Martin G. Townsend.

"They both deserved some sort of reassurance, a blessing as two people," said Father Mount in an interview with The Sun last year. "It seems to me to be unconscionable not to do it."

In a letter to Father Mount concerning his actions, Bishop Townsend wrote, "While such a relationship might be loving and faithful, it cannot be considered a marriage and you have no authority to bless it as such."

"I have my orders from God, not Bishop Townsend," Father Mount said after receiving the letter.

Charles L. Longest, Suffragan Bishop of Maryland, said Father Mount never took himself seriously but took his work with the church very seriously. He had "a long and very good ministry in Maryland," he said.

"What he did came out of his own personal life and he worked through it," Bishop Longest said. "He felt by addressing the issue of sexuality he could bring others into the discussion. He saw what he did as being entirely appropriate."

"I was convinced that there was no bitterness and at the end of his life that he and Bishop Townsend, whom he considered a good friend, had reconciled to the point that they both accepted each other's points of view," said the bishop.

"He ran the risk of being ostracized, put down and disciplined, yet he would do what he did again. His struggle was that poignant," said Bishop Longest.

Dean Robert Gepert, of Trinity Cathedral in Easton, said, "I saw a man in search of wholeness for himself and others. He always impressed me as a man of integrity, a man who loved God, the Church and the Eucharist.

"I think he was done living his life and was ready to die," said the dean.

Father Mount was born in Baltimore and was raised near Old Pimlico Road. He was a graduate of the old Marston's School and earned his bachelor's degree in English in 1932 from the Johns Hopkins University and his divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria in 1935.

"As kids we had a pet cemetery, and every time a cat died or something, John always wanted to be the minister," said Mrs. Walker with a laugh.

"Our mother was religious, and I guess by the time he was 20 he had decided to become a priest."

Known for his eloquence and ruddy good looks, Father Mount, who was always a popular priest, was ordained in 1935 and served at St. Stephen's in Severn, St. Bartholomew's in Ten Hills, St. Barnabas in Sykesville, and at Tideswell Parish Church in England, before retiring to Easton in 1972.

He had taught parish administration for four years at Nashota House, in Nashota, Wis., and liked to quip, "I don't know how many people I've helped into heaven, but I do know how many parishes I've gotten out of debt."

He married in 1960, when he was 50, to the former Alice Thornton Dashiell, who was from an old Southern Maryland family and was raised in Philadelphia. She died in 1991 when she was 84.

A memorial service for Father Mount was held June 19 at Trinity Cathedral. His ashes will be interred next to his wife in St. Andrew's Churchyard in Glen Moore, Pa.

Pub Date: 6/28/96

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