Massachusetts Elects Floridian Coadjutor

Episcopal News Service. May 23, 1985 [85113]

BOSTON, Mass. (DPS, May 23) -- The Rev. David Elliot Johnson, rector of St. Boniface Church, Sarasota, Fla., was elected bishop coadjutor of Massachusetts at a special election convention at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul here on May 18. As such, he will succeed the current Bishop of Massachusetts, the Rt. Rev. John Bowen Coburn, upon Coburn's retirement in September 1986. He will be consecrated bishop on Oct. 5 -- when all the canonical requirements have been met -- and serve with Coburn over the next months.

Johnson was elected from six candidates, three of whom were clergy from Massachusetts. His win came quickly -- on the fourth ballot taken by the 530 clergy and lay delegates.

The new bishop coadjutor has been rector of St. Boniface Church since 1976. Prior to that, he served parishes in Missouri and Arkansas, and as a college chaplain. He is a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford and of the Virginia Theological Seminary.

A former Air Force pilot, Johnson spoke forcefully against the nuclear arms race while in the diocese in early May for a series of forums with the nominees. He declared that it is time for the Church to set the agenda for the world -- rather than the world setting the agenda for the Church.

The convention began on May 17, with five-minute nominating speeches for each of the candidates. In addition to the five persons nominated by the Nominating Committee, the Rev. William B. Lawson, rector of St. Stephen's in Lynn, Mass., was nominated from the floor.

The balloting took place quickly at this convention, which was characterized by a positive spirit and good humor. Johnson was the winner among the laity on the second ballot and was one vote short of winning the clergy vote on the third ballot. The fourth ballot told the tale with the winner taking 160 of the 256 clergy votes -- with 129 needed to win, and 219 of the 276 lay votes -- with 139 needed to win.

A move to make the vote unanimous was met with a resounding Aye and Massachusetts had a bishop coadjutor-elect.

Johnson, age 52, and his wife, the former Joyce Joanne Evans, have three grown children.

The Florida rector is very active in the Diocese of Southwest Florida, serving on a variety of boards and commissions. His parish has approximately 1300 communicants.

Other nominees were: the Rev. John J. Bishop, Epiphany, Winchester, Mass.; the Rev. John Crocker, Jr., Trinity Church in Princeton, N.J.; the Rev. Rudolf Devik, Grace Church in Lawrence, Mass.; and the Rev. Walter H. Taylor, St. Luke's Church in Darien, Conn.

The Diocese of Massachusetts has 182 parishes and 405 clergy. Coburn has served as its bishop since October of 1976.