Isle Episcopal bishop plans to retire in ’07
The Honolulu native dealt with the issue of same-sex unions during his tenure
The leader of Hawaii's 12,000 Episcopal Church members said yesterday he will retire in 2007.
Bishop Richard Chang, 63, made the announcement at the annual state convention at Makena, Maui, giving the decision-making organizations of the denomination two years to select his successor.
"I believe that I leave the Diocese of Hawaii in a healthier place than when I began my Episcopal ministry in 1996," Chang told the 200 clergy and lay people at the conference at the Maui Prince Hotel.
Chang, who was born in Honolulu and graduated from Iolani School, was selected to be bishop from a field of 25 candidates and five finalists. He returned to Hawaii after 10 years of service at the denomination's national headquarters in New York City as chief operating officer and assistant to Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning.
Under Chang's leadership, the Episcopal Church in Hawaii paid off a $4 million debt tied to a financial debacle that forced his successor, Bishop Donald Hart, to resign.
The church had guaranteed a $4 million loan to the developer of a luxury retirement community. After spending more than $12 million, the project stalled, leaving the diocese responsible for the loan. The repercussions cost jobs, curtailed programs and affected the budgets of the 41 parishes in Hawaii.
The Hawaii bishop has faced the divisive issue over treatment of homosexuals, which threatens to divide the church. He and other Hawaii delegates were in the majority at the 2003 National Convention to approve the ordination of a gay bishop.
Chang later appointed a local task force to study the prospect of blessing same-sex relationships, another issue raised nationally that has led to dissension in some local parishes. The issue has caused branches of the 77 million-member global Anglican Communion to threaten to cut ties with the 2.3 million-member American church.
During his term, Chang appointed the first female dean of St. Andrew's Cathedral, choosing the Rev. Ann McElligott for that post in 2002.
Chang was ordained a priest in 1966 and served as pastor to four congregations before becoming a member of the diocesan staff in 1979. When Browning, a former Hawaii bishop, was chosen to head the national church, he took Chang along to the national headquarters.
"I believe that I have served the church faithfully for these years," Chang told the Maui convention yesterday. "I believe that the time is right for the diocese to move into your future with new Episcopal leadership. More importantly, I believe that the time is right for me and my family."
After his announcement, Cynthia Salley, president of the Diocese Standing Committee, described the process of electing a new bishop. Clergy and lay delegates from local congregations elect the bishop, with their choice requiring confirmation by the national House of Bishops and the standing committees of the other dioceses of the Episcopal Church.
Chang said he intends to remain in office until his successor is consecrated and to turn over ecclesiastical authority directly to the new bishop. That event is expected to happen in the spring of 2007.