Thursday, February 01, 2007

Local man becomes bishop of largest Episcopal diocese

Muscle Shoals et al. Times Daily:
The Rev. Shannon Johnston figured the application process would help enhance his ability as pastor of All Saints Episcopal Church in Tupelo, Miss.

Otherwise, the Florence native admits he might not have even taken it a step further when he learned his name had been submitted as a candidate for the bishop of the historic Diocese of Virginia -- the largest Episcopal diocese in the United States.

"At first I just balked at the notion," Johnston said. "I thought there was no point in it, because I thought it was be quite presumptuous of me to think I'd be a candidate for the diocese."
Johnston is reluctant to talk about the enormity of the pos-ition. He doesn't want to sound boastful. He acknowledges it's considered one of the top positions in the church because of the size of the diocese and its history.
Johnston's mother, Florence resident Nancy Johnston, said the position carries so much importance that the London Times was on hand to cover the election of the bishop. She said the Washington Post also interviewed her son.

"It's a very big honor," she said. "There were four other impressive candidates, and he ran away with the election."

Johnston was born and raised in Florence, where he attended Trinity Episcopal Church.

He was valedictorian of his Coffee High School class in 1977, and says his teachers at Coffee and the old Appleby schools remain major influences on him.

Johnston graduated from the University of the South at Sewanee in 1981.

He returned to Florence and worked with student cooperative ministry programs at the University of North Alabama's Wesley Foundation.

From there, he moved to Georgia and worked as a program director for the Boys' and Girls' Clubs in Brunswick.
He and his wife, Ellen, have no children. "We married late," Johnston says, adding with a laugh, "I thought 500 people calling me father was enough -- and so did she."
He went to All Saints in 1994, during a time of conflict and stagnation at the parish. Johnston said the parish since has come together and grown from 200 members to 500. It also underwent a major expansion in the city, including facilities for fellowship, youth space, meeting areas, administration and the city's only soup kitchen.

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