DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Newly elected Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick was congratulated yesterday by Cecilia Fordham after the announcement that he had won the vote.
Isle Episcopalians pick new bishop
A diocese mediator is chosen over a priest popular with the laity in a cliffhanger vote
The Episcopal Church in Hawaii chose a new bishop yesterday, electing a priest who has been a troubleshooter and mediator in controversies in the local diocese for the past six years.
Delegates to the denomination's state convention chose the Rev. Robert Fitzpatrick, 47, in balloting at St. Andrew's Cathedral that took more than six hours. A priest for more than 20 years, Fitzpatrick came to Hawaii in 2000 and has held the position of canon to the ordinary, functioning as executive officer to Hawaii Bishop Richard Chang.
He taught at a seminary in Nigeria and served in parishes in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Morristown, N.J., before moving to Hawaii.
Fitzpatrick said the challenge ahead for the local church is to reach out beyond its own doors to meet community needs. "With the economic transition going on ... there are people who need housing, people who are hungry, people who are lost and alone. We want people to come to know that Jesus feeds the poor. We want to take the Gospel to the world."
He will be installed March 10 as the fifth elected bishop of the diocese, which includes about 8,000 members in 39 parishes. He will succeed Chang, who will retire after 10 years as bishop.
The Rev. Ann McElligott, dean of St. Andrew's Cathedral, said Fitzpatrick has served as "pastor to the clergy" in his position as canon. "He is someone who knows us ... we trust his pastoral sense. I respect his willingness to say hard things that need to be said. Hawaii is a very unique diocese. It would take three years for someone (from outside) to know us."
There were six candidates for the position, but the balloting quickly sorted out the two top contenders. The other was the Rev. Howard Anderson, dean of the Cathedral College at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., who has island ties. He earned a master's degree and doctorate at the University of Hawaii and formerly taught at Mid-Pacific Institute.
The balloting process yesterday was a continuing cliff-hanger drama for the 233 delegates who voted as two separate entities, 68 priests in the House of Clergy and 165 people in the House of Laity. Fitzpatrick had the necessary majority among the clergy from the third ballot on. Anderson had the required majority among lay persons until the ninth ballot, which Fitzpatrick won with the support of 87 lay people and 42 clergy.
Lay delegate Willis Moore said Anderson met with church members on five islands earlier this month. "He impressed lay people as a man with a vision, a man who says, 'Let's do it.' Lay people want someone who will build a fire. Anderson came across as that guy."
Moore said Fitzpatrick "has carefully, patiently worked with churches in trouble, with disputes with clergy, or with financial issues. His big thing is relationships within the church."