Episcopal Bishop John Maury Allin, 77, led fight to rebuild black churches

March 09, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Bishop John Maury Allin, the 23rd presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, who was a pivotal supporter of Mississippi's NTC effort to rebuild burned black churches in the 1960s but was an ardent critic of the ordination of women, died Friday in Jackson, Miss.

He was 77 and had been struggling with complications from a stroke he suffered a week before his death. He also had lung cancer.

Bishop Allin was elected presiding bishop in 1973 and served in that position until he retired in 1986. Often called John the 23rd by those who knew him well, he was chosen to lead the church during one of its most divisive periods, as factions were beginning to press for the inclusion of blacks and women.

Four years after he was elected, he offered to resign, saying he was unable to back the church's support of female priests. In 1976, the church had allowed women into the priesthood, two years after 11 women were illegally made priests in Philadelphia.

At the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, while he was bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, he made the unpopular choice of helping to found the Committee of Concern, an alliance between ecumenical and civic leaders that raised money to rebuild more than 100 black churches that had been firebombed by white supremacists. The organization is now known as the Mississippi Leadership Conference.

Bishop Allin was born April 22, 1921, in Helena, Ark. He graduated from the University of the South, at Sewanee, Tenn., and its divinity school, St. Luke's Seminary, in 1945. He earned a master's of education degree in 1962 from Mississippi College in Clinton. He was ordained a deacon in Bishop, Ark., in 1944 and was elevated to the priesthood 11 months later. In 1961, he was consecrated bishop at St. James Church in Jackson, Miss.

He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Ann; a son, Dr. John M. Allin Jr., of Jackson, Miss.; three daughters, Martha May Skelton, and Kelly Ann Allin Butler, both of Jackson, and Frances Elizabeth Allin Hazel, of Brevard, N.C.; one brother; and 12 grandchildren.

Pub Date: 3/09/98

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