SAN DIEGO – The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, announced today that he plans to resign his post to answer a call to serve as associate dean of students at Virginia Theological Seminary. He will be responsible for community formation, admissions and he will serve as the chief chaplain to students. The bishop has a deep passion for teaching and theological formation, as evidenced by the school he founded in Ocean Beach, which trains future Episcopal priests and deacons.
His election in 2004 came at a time when the Episcopal Church was dealing with serious divisions over women’s ordination and same-gender relationships. He became a voice of civility and unity in his diocese and advocated for respectful interaction in the Church and in the wider Anglican Communion. Now entering his twelfth year, he announced today that he plans to step down as bishop in approximately four months’ time.
“Bishop Mathes has steadily guided this Diocese over the last 12 years,” said the Rev. Canon Allisyn Thomas, canon to the ordinary in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego. “Certainly there were times when we were divided, as was the whole church, on issues such as human sexuality, but through it all he continually reminded us to seek the will of God in all things and to be faithful in our witness.”
The standing committee, a governing body composed of eight leaders from throughout the diocese, will retain authority once Bishop Mathes leaves. They will guide the diocese through the process of searching for, and electing, a new bishop, a process which usually takes eighteen months to two years.
“At this moment,” wrote Bishop Mathes in a letter to the diocese, “I want to underscore how grateful I am for the incredible joy it has been to be your bishop. You are now very much a part of me.”
Bishop Mathes will be 58 when he begins his new career. His focus now is on the final four months in this diocese, he said.
Episcopal hierarchy was not in his original plans when he graduated from The University of The South in Sewanee, Tennessee with a mathematics degree in 1982. He was raised in the Episcopal Church and was eventually ordained a priest in 1992. He pastored St. James the Less in Northfield, Illinois from 1994 until 2001. At that time, he accepted a position as second-in-command at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. In 2005, he was consecrated the fourth bishop as the bishop of the Diocese of San Diego.
As bishop, Mathes was responsible for raising up future leaders of the Church, walking with them through their discernment process and seminary experience. Under his leadership the diocese completed a successful capital campaign that established a diocesan school for ministry, created an outreach center serving San Diego’s homeless and working poor, and seeded a clergy development fund. In 2007 he received an honorary doctorate from VTS. In 2014 he received the Mayor George Moscone Humanitarian Award for his support of the LGBTQ community. Last year, the Muslim community recognized him for outstanding service and dedication to furthering solidarity with Muslims.
This decision to leave his position as bishop comes after deep and prayerful consideration by Mathes and his wife, Terri, and they both remain grateful for their friendships and memories.
“He is a great listener,” said the Rev. Canon Nancy Holland, diocesan chief of staff. “He’s a pastoral leader for followers of Jesus Christ with the insight of an historian and the heart of a shepherd.”
The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego is a non-profit, religious organization comprised of 43 congregations in San Diego, Imperial and Riverside Counties, CA and Yuma County, AZ. The Episcopal Church welcomes all who worship Jesus Christ in 109 dioceses and three regional areas in 16 nations. The Episcopal Church is a member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
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