Episcopal diocese picks suffragan bishop Atlanta rector elected to second-highest post

March 29, 1998|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

With a "decisive majority," the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland elected yesterday an Atlanta-based pastor who once led a Baltimore County parish to be its next suffragan bishop -- the diocese's second-highest post.

The Rev. John L. Rabb, a former rector at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Arbutus, will replace Charles L. Longest, who retired in October after eight years in the post. Rabb is expected to take office in September.

Rabb, 53, a native of Chicago, is known for his work on social issues in urban and suburban areas. He was picked on the third ballot of yesterday's election.

Of the 189 clergy and 95 lay people representing 120 congregations who voted, a strong majority supported Rabb in the election at Hood College in Frederick, a church spokeswoman said.

Early in the process, however, Rabb's victory was not clear, the Rt. Rev. Robert W. Ihloff, bishop of the diocese of Maryland, said last night.

In the first of three rounds of voting, the Rev. Canon Nancy A. Roosevelt of Rochester, N.Y., won three more votes than Rabb among the clergy, he said. Clergy and lay voters cast separate ballots, and each group must provide a plurality, which may require several rounds of voting.

The final vote was Rabb, 205 and Roosevelt, 95, Ihloff said. The remaining votes were divided among three other candidates.

"I see him as a person who will be able to relate to people all over the diocese," Ihloff said, noting that it is common for the diocese to elect someone from outside the state. "He's a very fine communicator, a good preacher and a very fine teacher."

Reached at his home in Atlanta, Rabb said he was looking forward to his new assignment.

"I'm honored and humble and excited, all three," said Rabb, who worked in Maryland from 1976 to 1988, including 10 years as pastor in Arbutus. "Since we served in Maryland before I came to Atlanta, this does represent a coming home for us."

For the past 10 years, Rabb has been rector of the 1,100-member St. Anne's Church in Atlanta, where he has focused on social justice issues.

Rabb earned an undergraduate degree from DePauw University in Indiana, a master's from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and a master's from the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass.

In his new role as suffragan -- or assistant -- bishop. he will assist Ihloff in the administration of the diocese.

Although there appeared to be little or no controversy in Rabb's election, this year's contest showed how concerned churches have become about who is elected to top posts.

The diocese, an organization of 120 churches and 200 clergy in 10 Maryland counties and Baltimore, conducted background checks on all the candidates. The diocese includes Baltimore, Carroll and Howard counties and stretches west to Garrett County south to Calvert County and north to Harford County.

Rabb, who is married and the father of two children, won over four other nominees, including two Baltimore rectors -- the Rev. Frances D. Fosbroke of the Church of the Redemption and the Rev. Eddie M. Blue of the Church of the Holy Trinity.

Pub Date: 3/29/98

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