Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida Bishop John Lipscomb went on short-term medical leave December 12 because of a "continued decline" in his health due to Parkinson's disease and malaria.
"During my hospitalization in November, my physicians strongly encouraged me to take a short-term disability leave. I have spent much time in prayerful reflection regarding the future. My family and I have decided that I should accept the judgment of my physicians," Lipscomb, 56, wrote in a letter to the diocese posted on the diocese's website December 13. "I pray that I will be able to regain my health and continue to serve our Lord and the Church."
Lipscomb was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2002 and contracted malaria in Africa in 2004, according to his letter.
Lipscomb said that if his health permits a return to work in the next six to 12 months he would attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference and to "affect the transition of jurisdiction to the Fifth Bishop of Southwest Florida in 2009."
The diocese elected the Rev. Dr. Dabney Smith as bishop coadjutor on December 9.
Church canons (Article II.1) require Lipscomb to retire by 36 months after Smith's consecration, which is planned in May 2007.
Lipscomb has been bishop since 1997. When he called for a bishop 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.
The Diocese of Southwest Florida comprises about 37,210 Episcopalians worshipping in 78 congregations.