Southwest Florida Elects Dabney Smith as Bishop Coadjutor

Episcopal News Service. December 9, 2006 [120906-1-A]

Mary Frances Schjonberg

The Rev. Dabney Smith was elected on the first ballot December 9 as the bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida.

Smith, 53, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, New Orleans, was elected out of a field of six nominees at St. Peter's Cathedral in downtown St. Petersburg. Smith was elected with 133 lay votes and 50 clergy votes. An election on that ballot required 107 votes in the lay order and 45 in the clergy order. A total of 301 votes were cast.

Smith will become the fifth bishop of the diocese when Bishop John Lipscomb, 56, retires. Lipscomb has been bishop since 1997. Church canons (Article II.1) require Lipscomb to retire by 36 months after Smith's consecration, that is by May 2010.

Under the canons the Episcopal Church (III.11.4(a)), a majority of the bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan Standing Committees must consent to Smith’s ordination as bishop.

The complete ballot results are available here.

Smith has been rector of Trinity Church, New Orleans, since January 2005. The church, with about 2,500 members and seven associate clergy, includes Trinity Episcopal School, and a counseling and training center.

Earlier Smith served at Holy Trinity, Melbourne, Florida; St. Michael and All Angels, South Bend, Indiana; and Grace Church, Port Orange, Florida. He earned a B.A. in broadcasting production from the University of South Florida, Tampa (1980); an M. Div. from Nashotah House in Wisconsin, cum laude (1987); and a D. Min. from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, with special focus on congregational development (1999).

Smith grew up in Florida. He and his wife, Mary Ellen, married in 1975 and are the parents of three grown children, two daughters and a son.

More information about Smith is available here.

He was one of three priests nominated by the search committee. The other candidates were:

* the Rev. John S. Adler, 64, vicar, Iona-Hope Church, Fort Myers, Florida (nominated by petition);

* the Rev. Michael P. Durning, 55, canon to the ordinary of the diocese (nominated by petition);

* the Rev. Edward J. Henley Jr., 57, rector, St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Tampa (nominated by petition);

* the Rev. Sharon L. Lewis, 62, rector, Church of the Holy Spirit, Osprey, Florida (nominated by petition); and

* the Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, 49, rector, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Webster Groves, Missouri.

The Rev. Robert Dannals withdrew from consideration on December 4. In a letter to Karen Patterson, president of the Standing Committee, Dannals said he and his wife, Valerie, decided not to continue the process in Southwest Florida after the December 1 meeting of the candidates with the diocese at the Venice, Florida, Community Center.

Dannals, 51, continues to be a finalist in the search for a bishop coadjutor in the Diocese of Virginia, which will hold its election January 27 in Richmond.

When Lipscomb called for a bishop coadjutor in October 2004, he anticipated an election in January 2006. However, the House of Bishops agreed on March 15, 2005 to withhold consent to any episcopal election until the start of the 75th General Convention in June 2006, thus delaying election processes in Southwest Florida and some other dioceses.

The Diocese of Southwest Florida comprises about 37,210 Episcopalians worshipping in 78 congregations.

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