The Very Rev. John Bryson Chane, dean of San Diego's St. Paul's Cathedral, will become Washington's eighth bishop on June 1. He will succeed retiring Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon, who successfully sued to evict a conservative priest from a Maryland parish when he refused to recognize her authority.
Chane, 57, was elected Friday on the second ballot at the Washington National Cathedral. He beat out five other candidates, including an African-American, a woman and an openly gay priest.
Chane has served as the lead priest at the San Diego cathedral since 1996. Prior to his appointment there, he served churches in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He holds degrees from Boston University and Yale Divinity School.
As bishop of Washington and four suburban counties, Chane will occupy one of the church's more prominent--and controversial--posts. He will enter the diocese at perhaps its most turbulent point, wrestling to bring reconciliation to liberals and conservatives uneasy with each other.
The controversy centers around a small parish in Accokeek, Md., which called a former leader of the church's right wing as its pastor in late 2000. As bishop, Dixon held veto power over the Rev. Samuel Edwards' call and rejected it when he would not promise to obey her as bishop; Edwards does not believe in women's ordination. When Edwards would not leave his pulpit, Dixon sued in federal court to evict him and won, but the case is currently on appeal. Ecclessial charges filed against her by Edwards' supporters were dismissed, while one church charge filed against Edwards is pending before a church court.
Officials in the diocese said they had no "checklist" or "litmus test" for a new bishop, but were looking for a reconciler who could help heal the diocese. The Rev. Thomas Andrews, chairman of the diocese's governing body, said Chane was clear--but flexible--on the Edwards controversy. "I can't speak for John Chane, but all six nominees were asked if they would accept someone who represents Father Edwards' position, and all of them were very clear that as long as a priest agreed to obey his bishop and agreed to follow the discipline of the Episcopal Church they would be OK for service here," Andrews said.
Chane is said to favor the ordination of openly gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions -- practices that are already quietly permitted in the Washington diocese of 40,000 members. He and his wife of 34 years, Karen, routinely march in San Diego's annual gay pride parade and are members of Integrity, a group supporting gay Episcopalians.
Friends in San Diego describe him as easy-going, accessible and fun-loving--evidenced by his drumming for a blues band called the Chane Gang. "We're grieving a lot at losing him, which tells you a lot," said the Rev. Joan Butler Ford, communications director for the San Diego cathedral.
In a statement posted during the search process, Chane said he wants to recruit more minority clergy, as well as reverse several years of declining church membership in the growing Washington area. "More and more people seek good teaching, yet too often, we still think inside the box when it comes to studying and teaching Scripture and theology," he wrote. "We can and must do a better job."