Episcopalians Consecrate Bishop with Call to Mix Religion, politics.(PAGE ONE)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 2, 2002 | Go to article overview

Episcopalians Consecrate Bishop with Call to Mix Religion, politics.(PAGE ONE)


Byline: Julia Duin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

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.

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