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SOUTHWEST FLORIDA: Three men nominated to be next bishop

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

The Rev. Robert S. Dannals  

The Rev. Jacob W. Owensby  

The Rev. Dabney T. Smith  

[Episcopal News Service]  The nominating committee in the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida has chosen three men as nominees for bishop coadjutor.

The election of the coadjutor, who will become the fifth bishop when Bishop John Lipscomb, 56, retires in 2009, will take place December 9 at St. Peter's Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Lipscomb has been bishop since 1997.

The nominees are:

"All of us listened deeply, respected the views of others, and opened our hearts to the work of the Holy Spirit as we discerned the will of God," committee co-chairs the Rev. Michael Basden, Trinity-by-the-Cove in Naples, and Judith A. Stark, a member of the cathedral wrote in announcing the slate October 31.

A meeting with the nominees is set for December 1 at the Venice, Florida, Community Center.

Lipscomb, in a letter posted on the diocese's website, said he had met all three men and was happy with the slate.

"I had the great pleasure of meeting all of them several weeks ago when a larger group of semifinalists came to the diocese for interviews, and I couldn't be happier or more enthusiastic about the work of discernment that the committee has done," he wrote. "These are all fine candidates, any one of whom I will feel blessed and privileged to work with for the next three years. Only one of them will be elected coadjutor on Dec. 9, but I am very confident that all the others will become bishops in the Episcopal Church in the next 10 years."

Lipscomb noted that when he called for a 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.

Lipscomb said the bishops' decision was made "to give us time to sort out the grave concerns in the church about issues of human sexuality and how we make decisions that affect not just ourselves, as the Episcopal Church in the United States, but the entire worldwide Anglican Communion."
He wrote that he prayed that the Anglican Communion "could work together in the same spirit of respect, patience and enthusiasm" that the 28-member nominating committee has worked.

The Diocese of Southwest Florida comprises about 36,000 Episcopalians worshipping in 78 congregations.