- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2002

Wherever Bishop-elect John Bryson Chane moves, he unpacks an ornate plaster crucifix, a gift from his grandparents that serves as a painful reminder of growing up with religious intolerance.

Mr. Chane, an honorary member of a blues band, also unpacks his drums.

These personal items are finding new resting places in the Episcopal Christ House on the grounds of the National Cathedral in Northwest, where Mr. Chane will be consecrated as the eighth bishop of the 106-year-old Episcopal Diocese of Washington tomorrow.

About 2,000 people clergy, laypersons and Washington dignitaries are expected to attend the 10 a.m. ceremony, replete with all the pomp and circumstance of a coronation.

Mr. Chane, 57, former dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in San Diego, sees his latest spiritual assignment as "unwrapped gifts waiting to be opened."

He undoubtedly will feel comfortable on the streets of Washington as he builds on the social activism and ecumenical partnership founded by the late Bishop John Thomas Walker, the first black Episcopal bishop of Washington, who died in 1989.

This new bishop-elect has established a solid record of community organizing and outreach during 29 years in the ministry, serving in urban areas such as Roxbury and Boston's South End. While working in New Haven, Conn., he helped develop a racial-conflict resolution pact at public schools in neighboring Hamden and Brandford.

In San Diego, Mr. Chane instituted a "Church Without Borders" ministry with Mexicans and was a board member of the Emergency Housing Network, the Center for Urban Ministry and the Monarch High School for homeless young people.

He intends to get involved in similar issues in the District and the surrounding Maryland counties that make up the Washington diocese. "Wherever there is an issue of justice, freedom or peace, I'm going to be there," he said.

Mr. Chane is a native Washingtonian. His father worked at the Pentagon after World War II, and the family lived in Alexandria. He returns to the area with his wife of 34 years, Karen Albright Chane. The couple has two grown sons and three grandchildren.

Mr. Chane is decidedly a New Englander, having grown up in Winchester, Mass. He graduated from Boston University and Yale Divinity School. His New England accent is prevalent, especially when he says "God" and "love" which he utters often.

"Unconditional love," to be exact. Mr. Chane's theological philosophy centers on his favorite Gospel passage, "God so loved this broken world that He gave his only Son out of an act of love, which is God's profound, profound gift."

God's love, Mr. Chane says, makes room for all God's children, because Jesus said "in my Father's house are many mansions." Therefore, "there are no outcasts."

In a sermon last July in San Diego, Mr. Chane used the theme of unconditional love to offer his perspective on the controversy involving the leadership of Christ Episcopal Church in Accokeek.

"There will always be the possibility of schism in the institutional church that is willing to unconditionally love and accept those who have been marginalized and labeled as outcast by orthodox standards of the religious establishment and culture," he preached.

Mr. Chane will need to draw on that theme as bishop.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled last week that outgoing Bishop Jane Dixon acted correctly in ousting the Rev. Samuel Edwards, who opposes the ordination of women, as a rural church's rector.

"The [court] decision opens up the door for real opportunities of healing and real pastoral care for people who have been beaten up," Mr. Chane said. "How that healing is going to occur, I can't understand yet."

On Wednesday, he spoke with a group of representatives on one side of the issue. He wouldn't say which. He plans to meet with others soon to "understand and listen to people on both sides."

A prolific theological writer, Mr. Chane is concerned with making Christianity and the Episcopal Church relevant by providing answers to people's basic questions about life, the church and their children's future. When he speaks, Mr. Chane coolly reflects on his parents' influence on his faith and theological journey.

He says the best theology he ever learned was "taught at my mother's knee, defined in a clearly Baptist household."

"I learned basic values of respect for the dignity of everybody, an awareness that you are not in charge, because there is a God, and the responsibility that you have to the human family."

His family kept a jar that was labeled "God's money" into which he and his siblings were required to contribute 10 percent of their earnings or allowance. The money was then used help neighbors. "I could always see that money working," he says.

He was a child of a "mixed marriage" in that his father was a "rigid Roman Catholic" and his Canadian mother was Baptist. As a compromise, the family went to an Episcopal church. His father's conversion was kept secret from his grandparents until Mr. Chane became an Episcopal apostolate.

Living with that "double life" brings to mind "the pain of that journey lifts up this vision of diversity and what can happen with separation." He adds, "I don't think God intended for us to live separate."

That is why "differences without division" and "the great gift of diversity" are key to his ministry. "The inclusion of all persons in the life of the Episcopal church is at the core of my ministry," he says.

Mr. Chane said his No. 1 priority is "to uphold the unity of the church through this office." The diocese needs a bishop who is "a sensible and available pastor, a solid teacher, a decisive and visionary leader and a passionate and prophetic preacher."

About those drums: He's looking for "somewhere in Christ House" to practice for his annual gig with the 1201 Blues Band out of Boston. He already is planning next spring's jam session, which will benefit the youth ministries and the college chaplaincies here.


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