The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh elected a Georgia pastor Saturday to be its next leader in a landmark election to succeed the retiring Bishop Robert Duncan, who led the diocese’s break with the Episcopal Church eight years ago.
Clergy and lay delegates elected the Rev. James Hobby, who got his start in ministry in Southwestern Pennsylvania a quarter century ago, on the fifth ballot. Six candidates were originally on the ballot at a special convention, held at St. Stephen Anglican Church in Sewickley.
If his election is ratified by other bishops in the Anglican Church in North America at their June meeting, Rev. Hobby would be consecrated as bishop in September.
Rev. Hobby, currently pastor of Trinity Church in Thomasville, Ga., earned his master’s of divinity at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge in 1985 and served at two Mon Valley parishes from 1986 to 1990 before moving on to pulpits in other states.
“I look forward to coming home,” he said afterward.
He made a point of thanking his first two parishes, St. Paul’s in Monongahela and St. John’s in Donora. ”They chipped a lot of sharp edges off a pretty arrogant, idealistic young zealot,” he said. “Those two congregations taught me that the truth has to come through love.”
Through the early ballots, Rev. Hobby polled close to the Rev. Jonathan Millard, rector of the Church of the Ascension in Oakland, who ultimately withdrew his name after the fourth ballot.
In the final ballot, Rev. Hobby received 93 votes from clergy delegates and 75 from lay delegates, ahead of the Rev. Jon Lumanog at 18 and 30, respectively.
Before balloting on Saturday morning, delegates held a closed-door discussion about the ramifications of the candidacy of Rev. Millard. While pastor of a large parish and experienced in administration, he had been divorced last year after an extended separation. Bishop Duncan cautioned that, given the bishops’ emphasis on “the lifelong permanence of holy matrimony,” it would be a challenge for them to confirm such an election.
Rev. Millard said he trusted the discernment of convention delegates on the matter.
Participants afterward said they were encouraged by the positive tone of the balloting.
“It was peaceful, and there was the unity we were praying for,” said Gretchen Peske, a deacon at Christ’s Church in Greensburg.
The candidates were nominated over a process of several months after Bishop Duncan, who presided at the election, announced his pending retirement.
He was originally elected bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1995 and emerged as a spokesman for conservatives disenchanted with liberal trends in the Episcopal Church in theology and sexuality.
After a formal split in 2008, Bishop Duncan served five years as new leader of the Anglican Church in North America.
The Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh says it has at least 50 congregations and missions across much of Pennsylvania as well as some affiliated congregations in other states.
Peter Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1416; Twitter @PG_PeterSmith.