The Most Reverend John Maury Allin, 1921-1998
A Ministry formed in the South
Born April 22, 1921 in Helena, Arkansas, John Maury Allin attended college and seminary at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1943 and a Master of Divinity in 1945. He was ordained to the diaconate in 1944 and to the priesthood in 1945, both in the Diocese of Arkansas. His first pastoral assignment was at St. Peter's Episcopal Mission in Conway, Arkansas where he also taught psychology at Arkansas State Teachers College. In 1949 Allin married Frances Ann Kelly, also of Helena, Arkansas, with whom he would raise a son and three daughters. The next eight years were spent in Louisiana, first in New Orleans in several roles -- as curate of St. Andrew's Church, chaplain to Episcopal college students, and Institutional Chaplain of New Orleans. He began a term as rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Monroe, Louisiana in 1952. In 1958 Allin agreed to serve as president and headmaster of All Saints School, Vicksburg, Mississippi. His progression within the leadership of the Episcopal Church began with his appointment as Bishop Coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, held from 1961-1966, followed by his consecration in 1966 as the Sixth Bishop of Mississippi. During this time he also earned two additional advanced degrees, a Master of Education and Doctor of Divinity.
In the Midst of Profound Change
Bishop Allin was elected as the twenty-third Presiding Bishop of ECUSA in 1973. His tenure commenced at a time of considerable turbulence and change in the Episcopal Church that began with the episcopate of Presiding Bishop John Hines in 1965. Hines was a social progressive whose advocacy of civil and women's rights and opposition to the Vietnam War caused institutional tremors with far reaching consequences for the relationship among General Convention and the diocesan and parochial jurisdictions of the Church. Chosen as a steadying force for the Church, Allin faced the tumultuous 1970s with a talent for compromise and a resolve to promote reconciliation. While Bishop of Mississippi he had helped to found the Committee of Concern, an ecumenical and civic alliance organized to raise funds to rebuild over 100 black-congregation churches that had been burned by white racist groups.
Perceived as a traditionalist within a liberal Church, John Allin continued to push for the Church to address issues of social justice. His offer to resign after the General Convention voted in 1976 to permit the ordination of women, an issue on which Allin was firmly opposed, was answered with a House of Bishops resolution that respected his, "right to hold a personal conviction on this issue" and that of any church member who opposed women's ordination. Allin stayed on, overseeing yet another major change within the church during his term with the 1979 adoption of a new edition of the Book of Common Prayer for standard use. Allin directed attention from these divisive issues to founding new local and national mission initiatives. Venture in Mission was a major fundraising effort that greatly expanded social justice programs and ministry during the 1970s and a tremendous success in the local dioceses, far outreaching its $100 million goal.
It was under Bishop Allin that the Office of Black Ministries was established at the Episcopal Church headquarters. In addition, he insured more secure funding for the three Episcopal black colleges: St. Augustine’s, St. Paul’s, and Voorhees. He restored a black ministries priest on his staff, and initiated affirmative-action hiring. During his term, Dr. Charles Radford Lawrence was elected President of the House of Deputies, the first African American to hold that post. Lawrence used his appointment power to introduce greater numbers of African Americans and other under represented groups to the Church’s decision making bodies.
Vicar and Trustee
Allin retired as Presiding Bishop in 1985. He remained active in the Church as "winter" chaplain at Christ Memorial Chapel on Jupiter Island, Hobe Sound, Florida and during the summer as vicar of St. Ann's Church, Kennebunkport, Maine. Allin's ties to his alma mater remained strong throughout his life. From 1961 onward he served as a Trustee of the University of the South, served two six-year terms as one of its Regents, and was its 17th chancellor from 1973-1979.
Allin was diagnosed with lung cancer in late 1997. On March 6, 1998 the Most Reverend John Maury Allin died in Jackson, Mississippi of complications from a stroke suffered the month before. Memorial services were held at the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew in Jackson on March 9 and on March 14 at All Saints Chapel in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he was buried. [Sources]