Washington Episcopal Bishop John B. Chane announced Saturday he will retire in the fall of 2011, saying it was “time to elect a younger person to lead what I consider to be the best and one of the most influential dioceses in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.”
Speaking to about 325 attendees at the annual diocesan convention at the Washington National Cathedral, Bishop Chane, 65, admitted he was stepping down during a time of flagging growth and stagnant giving in the 42,000-member diocese.
“Parochial reports filed by the parishes of our diocese for the most part tell a story of no real measurable growth in membership within the last 12 years,” he said. “Financial giving has been stagnant.”
The budget that supports the missionary work of the diocese to its congregations, schools and our mission outreach beyond our borders has been stagnant as well. Any financial growth has come primarily through the bishop’s annual appeal and from the generosity of individuals, some who are not even Episcopalians.
“There has been no strong upward trend in pledged giving to the diocese by our congregations. And we have not received any large, unexpected financial gifts from those who have remembered the diocese in their wills or in large, unrestricted gifts received from the living to preserve our outreach ministry to our Episcopal schools, our campus ministries and our outreach to an exploding Spanish-speaking community that resides within our geographic boundaries.”
But in “other models” for success, the diocese supplied parishioners and many others with pastoral care and ministry, he said. Plus, the diocese has some of the fastest-growing Spanish-speaking churches in the denomination.
A search committee will be formed in March to start the process of looking for the bishop’s replacement. An election is tentatively slated for June 2011.
Bishop Chane, who got a long standing ovation after he spoke to delegates on Saturday, was elected to his post in January 2002. He has been one of the more liberal leaders in an overwhelmingly liberal denomination that saw an openly gay bishop elected in July 2003, a move Bishop Chane supported.
In 2004, he commissioned a diocesan same-sex marriage rite and openly performed it himself that June. Diocesan clergy are allowed to perform same-sex marriages, and the bishop supports the District’s recent decision to legalize same-sex marriage.
Bishop Chane has retained a high degree of interest in the Middle East, causing a stir in 2006 when he invited Mohamed Khatami to speak. He has since traveled to Iran several times.