Bishop John T. Walker, the runner-up in last month's balloting for presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, has called on local church members to rally behind the man who beat him, Presiding Bishop-elect Edmond Browning.
Walker praised Browning, currently bishop of Hawaii, as "a good man, a true servant of all the people because he is a true servant of Christ," in an article published in the October issue of the Washington Diocese, the church's monthly journal.
Walker said that Browning "deserves the support of all of us" when he begins his 12-year term as presiding bishop next year. As bishop of Washington, Walker will assist in Browning's formal installation at the Washington Cathedral on Jan. 11.
One of four bishops nominated by a committee of priests and lay persons for the post of presiding bishop, Walker would have been the first black man to lead the historic church, had he been chosen.
At the church's General Convention last month in Anaheim, Calif., all bishops, including about 75 men who are retired from active leadership, were bused from the convention center to a nearby church to choose their new national leader in secret conclave.
Although the bishops vowed not to disclose the actual votes, it was learned that Walker led the field on the first two ballots. But the support that fell away from bishops Furman Stough of Alabama and William Frey of Denver went more to Browning than to Walker, with enough to elect him on the fourth ballot.
Writing in the Washington Diocese journal, Walker acknowledged that Browning's election had initially "left me disappointed and let down." But because "a significant number of bishops had given me their support on every ballot," he said he did not feel rejection.
"Nor do I believe that there was anything racial involved in my losing."
Observers familiar with Episcopal affairs have cited Browning's years as executive for World Mission of the national church, before he became bishop of Hawaii, as a factor in his election by increasing his visibility among church leaders.
In his column, Walker praised Browning for "his compassion for the poor, the oppressed, the hungry and downtrodden" and said the new church leader "is committed to seeking the expansion of the roles of women and all minorities within the church."
In electing Browning, Walker said, the convention "gave a signal to the church and the nation that silence in the face of the nuclear arms race, the treatment of the poor and our support of oppression, for whatever reasons, is not acceptable . . . . "
Walker also called the election of Pamela Chinnis of Washington as vice president of the church's House of Deputies "a landmark decision."
Chinnis is the first woman elected to a leadership post in the House of Deputies, which admitted women to membership only 15 years ago.