By Douglas LeBlanc
The Diocese of Los Angeles spent eight ballots on Dec. 2-3 deciding between an openly gay priest and a priest who was executive director of the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library for 17 years.
The Rev. Canon John Taylor, 62, was the sole nominee by petition and he won the election. He is the vicar of St. John’s Church and School, Rancho Santa Margarita. Taylor was ordained to the diaconate (2003) and priesthood (2004) by Bishop Bruno.
He was chief of staff to the former president from 1984 to 1990, and directed the presidential library from 1990 to 2007. His weblog bears the jaunty title The Episconixonian: Ecclesiastical and Political Pragmatism, with a Beat.
The diocese began voting with a six-person slate in electing a bishop coadjutor, who will serve alongside the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno and then succeed him when Bruno retires.
“My desire is to be loyal to my bishop and to have a collegial respect for his pastoral oversight,” Fromberg told the Houston Chronicle in 2004, in discussing his life as a gay priest. “I think that it becomes possible for me to maintain that level of loyalty more easily by going to another diocese where there is more of a feeling of acceptance.”
Fromberg told the Chronicle that he had not felt driven out of the Diocese Texas: “I feel like I’m making a choice based on how I understand what God’s call is for me right now.”
Taylor’s years with Nixon notwithstanding, the diocese was not choosing between conservative and liberal nominees on politics or sexuality.
“Hopelessness and anger are consequences of oppressive economic and political systems,” Taylor said in a diocesan profile. “Christians’ hope comes from the Resurrection and our experience of our belovedness. Citizens’ hope is in being treated with justice, including dignified work at a living wage with decent benefits. Other preeminent global issues are climate change and vigilance about the scapegoating of Muslims. The bishop of Los Angeles has a special responsibility to advocate for the homeless, the undocumented, and the inalienable rights of women, ethnic minority groups, and LGBTQ people.”
Taylor led the voting in both orders for the first five ballots, but Fromberg began gaining steadily as of the second ballot. Taylor won a majority of clergy votes on the third ballot but lost it on the fourth ballot. He won a majority of lay votes on the sixth and seventh ballots. Fromberg and Taylor tied on clergy votes on the seventh ballot, three votes shy of winning that order.
On the eighth ballot, Taylor won 122 votes in the clergy order and increased his vote in the lay order to 194 — 53 more than he needed to win among the laity.
The other nominees were:
- The Rev. Rachel Anne Nyback, rector of St. Cross, Hermosa Beach, who has served in ministry in Southern California and Washington. D.C., after teaching in Kuwait. She withdrew from the election after the second ballot.
- The Rev. Anna Olson, rector of St. Mary’s, Los Angeles, who has served in ministry in Southern California, including as Los Angeles director of the nonprofit Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. She withdrew from the election after the fourth ballot.
- The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, Bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, who has served in ministry in Europe, Florida, and Pennsylvania with experience in international, interfaith, and financial initiatives. He withdrew from the election after the third ballot.
- The Rev. Mauricio Wilson, rector of St. Paul’s, Oakland, who has served in ministry in Costa Rica, New York, and California following his career as a banker-auditor beginning with Coopers & Lybrand. Wilson did not withdraw from the election, even as his votes dwindled into single digits.