Religion

Waldo elected as new bishop of Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina

A Minnesota rector with Deep South roots was elected Saturday the eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina.

The Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church in Excelsior, Minn., emerged as the winner on the third ballot, defeating five other candidates. Among the six vying for the post were three South Carolinians, including the dean of Columbia's Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, the Very Rev. Philip C. Linder.

"I'm so happy to be returning to the South, and coming to South Carolina," Waldo said by telephone from his Shorewood, Minn., home. He said his first task will be to learn about the diocese in all its joys and struggles.

More than 350 clergy and lay delegates, guided by retiring Bishop Dorsey F. Henderson Jr., spent the day in worship, prayer and reflection as they approached the work of selecting a new leader to preside over the 28,000-member district that encompasses 64 congregations in 22 counties in the Midlands and Upstate.

"Our task in this body is to discern 'call,'" Henderson told delegates as they gathered for a morning eucharistic worship service. "Which of these priests are called to be the bishop of this diocese?"

That was not made clear on the first ballot, which was declared invalid because one vote among the 232 lay votes cast was not properly certified.

As they worked, The Rt. Rev. Charles F. Duvall, a former bishop of the church and chaplain for the convention, urged delegates to be mindful of this central expectation, that "the name Jesus needs to be on the lips of the person we select."

Waldo, who is viewed as a moderate on the most controversial issue facing Episcopalians, the blessing of same-sex gender relationships, was the clear favorite among lay people.

But Linder was the leading candidate among the clergy during the first-round vote. To win, a candidate had to have a clear majority in each group.

In October, Linder had removed his name from consideration when the field was winnowed from nine to five candidates, choosing to remain at Trinity, where he has overseen substantial church growth and a multimillion-dollar renovation of the historic downtown church. But after a petition drive, he agreed to re-submit his name for consideration.

He and the Rev. David F.O. Thompson, rector of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in North Augusta, were the only candidates present.

Waldo steadily gained strength in the second and final ballots, finally emerging with 64 clergy votes and 129 lay votes.

The Rev. Mike Flanagan, pastor of Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Simpsonville, said he was struck by Waldo's sincerity "and his willingness to get to know the diocese" before he embarks on his own plans as bishop.

During interviews in November, "he was very comfortable with himself," Flanagan said.

John Grindley, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church in Chapin, wouldn't reveal his choice but said he "was consistent in my vote."

"There were lots of prayers and consideration for all candidates, and I'm not surprised by his election," Grindley said.

There were grace notes during the day, including the celebration of the 89th birthday of the Rev. Hopkins Weston, who was also ordained at Trinity on the same day in 1943.

Early in the proceedings, Henderson said he hoped the diocese would remain a home for faithful Christians no matter where they stand on the controversies of the day.

"That is what I would pray for," said Henderson, who will retire to Florida in the new year.

Henderson has worked to keep the Upper Diocese within the fold of the more liberal national Episcopal Church, even as the neighboring Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, which represents Lowcountry congregations, has distanced itself because of the gay issue.

Waldo, the son and brother of Episcopal priests, said he admired Henderson's stance on the issue. "I think he has been very wise in that, and I would follow a middle course as well."

He said he spent the day writing a sermon and updating his extended family in Montgomery, Ala., on the vote. He said his siblings and parents were rooting for his election, not only for the diocese, but also because he and his family could relocate closer to them.

Besides, Waldo, Linder and Thompson, the other candidates included the Very Rev. John B. Burwell, rector of Church of the Holy Cross in Sullivan's Island; The Rev. Canon Dr. Neal O. Michell, Canon to the Ordinary, Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, Texas, and the Rev. Jerre Stockton Williams Jr., rector of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Kerrville, Texas.

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