- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 2, 2002

The Very Rev. John B. Chane was consecrated bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington yesterday in a ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral marked by a call to mix religion and politics in the name of social justice.
He succeeds the Rt. Rev. Jane Dixon, suffragan bishop of Washington, who has overseen the diocese since the end of 2000 and will retire at the end of July.
The new bishop made it clear that his episcopate would be starkly liberal by selecting a Vietnam-era activist, the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, to give a keynote address that included an oblique criticism of President Bush and his "axis of evil" speech in the war on terrorism.
The true "axis of evil," Mr. Coffin said, is not Iran, Iraq and North Korea, but "environmental degradation, pandemic poverty and a world awash with weapons."
Religion and politics "do mix," he said, "and to claim otherwise is to misunderstand both. I underscore this for the sake of our presently tormented and endangered planet. To survive, it will require of far more religious leaders a politically committed spirituality."
Twenty-nine bishops, dozens of clergy and hundreds of out-of-town visitors and guests made up the crowd of 2,089 people who applauded the ascension of Bishop Chane, the 58-year-old former dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in San Diego, to one of the nation's leading sees.
Mr. Coffin, a former Yale University chaplain who turned 78 yesterday, took implicit aim at the Bush administration as well as American churches in drawing a distinction between charity and justice.
"Charity is a matter of personal attributes, justice a matter of public policy," he said. "Charity seeks to alleviate the effects of justice, justice seeks to eliminate the causes of it."
"Charity in no way affects the status quo, which is why it is very popular" with his political opponents, he said.
"While justice," he continued, "leads inevitably to political confrontation."
In a choice between truth and love, love should win out, he continued.
"It is bad religion to deify doctrines and creeds," Mr. Coffin said. "While indispensible to religious life, doctrines and creeds are only so as signposts. Love alone is the hitching post.
"Doctrines, let us not forget, supported slavery and apartheid. Some still strive to keep women in their places and gays and lesbians in limbo. Moreover, doctrines can divide while compassion can only unite. In other words, we religious folk, all of our lives, have both to recover tradition and to recover from it."
Other liberal icons at the festive ceremony included the retired bishop of Newark, John Shelby Spong, who was seated as one of six co-consecrators of the new bishop. The two men have been friends for years, and then-Dean Chane took some heat from his own bishop for inviting Bishop Spong to speak at St. Paul's Cathedral a year ago.
Bishop Spong has been castigated by many Christians for his disavowal of basic Christian doctrines such as the existence of God, the Resurrection and Christ's death as the atonement for the world's sins. He currently lectures at Harvard University.
"There's a lot of heartburn here; Bishop Spong being up front and all," one conservative Episcopalian commented during the service.
But Bishop Chane, who was elected Jan. 25 on the second ballot by Diocese of Washington clergy and laity, raised similar questions during the Easter sermon he gave at St. Paul's Cathedral on March 31. There he called the Resurrection "conjectural," opining that not until 52 years after Jesus' death was it even mentioned.
Many New Testament scholars estimate the first written recording of Jesus' Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 was within a decade of Christ's death.
Possibly due to questions over his theology, 14 diocesan Episcopal bishops and 16 "standing committees" out of 100 U.S. dioceses refused consent to Bishop Chane's election.
Those that refused included the dioceses such as Pittsburgh; Fort Worth, Florida; Central Florida; Virginia; Colorado; and his own, San Diego, where a majority of its standing committee abstained, producing a "no" vote.
"A lot of people were upset with that," said Canon William Dopp of St. Paul's Cathedral in San Diego. "It was very disappointing."
However, he said, many San Diegans planned to gather at the cathedral from 7-9 a.m. Pacific time yesterday to watch a Webcast of the consecration. About 250 Californians flew in for the ceremony. The new bishop thanked his supporters during a short speech, then singled out his wife, Karen.
"She never thought she'd be married to a priest," he said. "So, she's really in shock today."
The ceremony employed a small army of Washington residents who served as banner bearers, Communion servers, musicians and ushers.
"We are all so thrilled with this," said LuAnn Vaky, who heads up the cathedral docents. "He is such a wonderful man."

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