Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Temple priest nominated for Episcopal bishop

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

Move over, Hillary and Barack. Make room for the Temple priest vying to be bishop.
David Alwine, pastor at Christ Episcopal Church, is one of six people nominated to lead the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. The election is set for May 24 at Christ Cathe dral Church in Houston.
But Alwine's name won't be broadcast in TV commercials or plastered across plastic posters. 'To campaign for bishop is completely different from what you'd think,' Alwine said. 'People learn about you by calling you up and asking questions. They can ask any question they want, and you're obligated to answer them.'
There's about 900 lay and clergy delegates eligible to vote. Just as a handful of delegates represents each state in U.S. political elections, a handful of delegates will represent each of the diocese's 158 congregations.
Episcopalians will have the chance to get to know the candidates for bishop early next month. Meetings are set for May 7 in Austin, May 8 in Tyler and May 10 in Houston. 'The program's for questions and answers. There will be several sessions at about 30 minutes apiece. There'll be six rooms set up, one for each of us,' Alwine said. 'They'll let 20 to 40 people in the room at one time, and they'll be able to direct the conversation.'
Voters can get preliminary information on the nominees from the state diocese's Web site, www.epicenter.org. Biography information is supplied in addition to a series of paragraph answers to platform questions.
There were several steps Alwine had to take to secure his nomination.
'You've got to get three nomination letters. All of them have to be from the diocese,' Alwine said. 'One's got to be from a lay person, one's got to be from a priest, one's got to be from a person in your church and one's got to be from outside the church.'
Those who nominated Alwine include Bill Carberry of Moody, Kerry Hancock of Temple and John Himes, a priest from Marshall.
'He deserves (to be bishop) because he leads by example in his model of daily prayer and Bible study,' said Mrs. Hancock, a member of Christ Episcopal Church in Temple. 'And because he firmly believes that the foundation of our faith lies within Holy Scripture. He is bold about sharing the Gospel from the pulpit and in casual conversation.'
In her nomination letter to the diocese, Mrs. Hancock also addresses Alwine's pastoral skills. In it, she said her church owes its increased membership to her pastor's dedication and enthusiasm.
The bishop-elect will succeed the Rt. Rev. Don Wimberly, who was elected the eighth bishop of Texas in 2004. He faces mandatory retirement in June 2009, as he will reach the maximum age of 72.
Alwine said he's experiencing a myriad of emotions as the election approaches.
'I'm excited but scared,' Alwine said, resting his eyes for a moment. 'So is my wife.'
The new job will require a change of residence. He'll have to relocate to Houston to be near the Diocesan Center, Christ Cathedral Church and St. Luke's Episcopal Health System, one of the diocese's main ministries.
'It'll be a different life than in Temple, Texas,' he said, grinning. 'But if it's something God wants, then it will happen. It'll be a blessing to do His work in that way.'
As bishop, Alwine's duties will include the responsibilities of chief pastor, diocese administrator, chairman of the board for the St. Luke's Episcopal Health System, chief ordainer and clergy trainer.
'I've got good chances to win,' Alwine said. 'Even when compared to (nominee) Dena Harrison.'
Ms. Harrison is already bishop suffragan of Texas, or assistant to the bishop.
'She does have the advantage of already knowing how things work,' Alwine said. 'But compared to the other guys, I'm the one with the most pastoral experience.'
As for the congregation he's led since 2000, they view Alwine's prospect of becoming bishop with ambivalence.
'We think he'd be a wonderful bishop, but he's such a wonderful priest,' said Sally Louth, parishioner. 'We'd be sad to lose him but happy for him.'
Carberry agreed.
'When Father David shared his call to be nominated bishop, it was a bittersweet moment. There was a part of me that did not want to lose a priest who has been so successful at Christ Episcopal Church in Temple, but I also realize that David has gifts that would help him be a great bishop and that it would be irresponsible to ignore his call.'

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