Washington area Episcopalians voted quickly and overwhelmingly yesterday to make one of their own, Suffragan Bishop Ronald H. Haines, the seventh bishop of Washington.
In what the delegates said was near-record time, Haines, 55, a former engineer, was selected from among six candidates who included a black vicar from New York, a woman rector from Houston, the popular bishop of California, a nationally known theologian from Louisiana and the rector of a cardinal D.C. parish. Haines succeeds Bishop John T. Walker, who died last year.
The position of bishop in Washington is perceived as the second most powerful seat in the Episcopal Church, behind the presiding bishop. The Church Times, an independent newspaper of the mother Church of England, had called this election "the summer's main event in the American church."
Delegates had predicted the race might take four or five ballots until one person received the required majority each of clerical and lay votes. But on the second ballot, speeded up on the motion of a Haines supporter, Haines won 95 clerical votes, three more than required, and 83 lay votes, precisely the number he needed.
Observers said afterward that Haines's position as suffragan, or assistant bishop, for the four years he has been here, gave him an edge in the race.
This was enhanced, they said, by his work as a pastoral troubleshooter in virtually every congregation in the diocese, which embraces the District of Columbia and Montgomery, Prince George's, Charles and St. Mary's counties.
Other candidates may have had a higher national profile, but parishioners felt they had enjoyed such a figure in Walker and now wanted someone more devoted to local needs, according to several delegates.
In a brief news conference after his election, Haines said his first priority in the $125,000-a-year job will be to "see that the diocese address the need for healing in the city."
He said he hopes the Episcopal Church, which claims many of this area's most prominent residents among its 39,000 members, can work with government agencies and other organizations to address Washington's pressing problems of crime, drugs, homelessness and poverty.
"I want to speak to many of you in the next few months to formulate the energy we're going to need . . . to address so many of the needs we see around us," Haines told the nearly 400 delegates packed into the Church of the Epiphany near Metro Center. "We don't have much time."
His consecration is expected to be held in November after his election is confirmed by a majority each of bishops and standing committees from other Episcopal dioceses around the country.
Haines was born in Wilmington, Del., to parents who ran a retail business and were only nominally religious, by his account. It wasn't until he met Mary Elizabeth Terrell at the University of Delaware, he said, that he became involved in religious activities. The two were married upon graduation, in 1956, and joined the Episcopal Church. Haines went to work as an engineer and marketing manager for Reynolds Aluminum Co.
Haines traced his interest in the priesthood to a vacation in New Hampshire when "a priest I don't remember in a church I don't remember preached a sermon I don't remember." He was moved by the service to consider taking a course in seminary and he enrolled in Long Island School of Theology while continuing to work full time.
Haines received his divinity degree from General Theological Seminary in New York in 1967, and was ordained that year. He has served churches in New York City, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Haines and his wife have six grown children, three of whom joined them yesterday as the gathering gave him a standing ovation.
The convention came at the end of a months-long search that cost about $100,000 and involved paring 300 recommendations to 100 to the final six. Before yesterday, the six candidates had spoken at forums around the diocese, preached at different gatherings and had written statements outlining their positions on national church priorities of evangelization and financial stewardship.
All six had been videotaped and copies of the tape had been distributed to all 94 congregations. Yesterday, they were asked to designate three persons each to speak on their behalf.
One of Haines's speakers, the Rev. Anne D. Monahan, of Wheaton, said she puzzled for a long time after Walker's death over who should succeed him. "The answer was here," she said. "We are blessed with a bishop who knows us well."
Yesterday's convention was marked by its decorum and speed. The group of about 180 clergy and 170 laypeople began with a holy communion service in the 100-year-old Gothic sanctuary of the Church of the Epiphany, followed by coffee in the courtyard. At 11 a.m., a young man wearing white gloves walked through the courtyard ringing handbells as a signal for everyone to go inside.
The first ballot gave Haines a lead in both clerical and lay votes but no majority of either, as required for election. The Rev. Lloyd Casson, vicar of Trinity Parish on Wall Street and the only black candidate, was second.
The rules then called for a lunch break. But the Rev. Richard E. Downing, a Capitol Hill pastor who had signed an earlier petition endorsing Haines, moved that the rules be changed to allow the assembled to proceed with a second ballot before lunch.
Results of the second ballot, displayed on an audiovisual screen, showed Haines picking up eight additional lay votes and 22 additional clerical votes, enough to secure the position. A gasp swept through the congregation, and delegates jumped to their feet to applaud the new leader.