Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Retired Massachusetts Bishop John B. Coburn, former House of Deputies president, dies at 94

From Episcopal Life Online-

The Rt. Rev. John B. Coburn, retired 13th bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, former president of the House of Deputies and former dean of the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, died August 8 in Bedford, Massachusetts. He was 94.
Born September 27, 1914, in Danbury, Connecticut, Coburn graduated from Wooster School in Danbury, an Episcopal independent school founded by his father, and proceeded to Princeton University where he majored in politics and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1936.

Coburn taught biology at Robert College in Istanbul, Turkey, for three years. In Turkey he met Ruth Alvord. The couple married in 1941 in New York City, where Coburn was a student at Union Theological Seminary and on the staff of Grace Church in Manhattan. He received a bachelor's degree in divinity from Union Theological Seminary in 1942. He later joined the U.S. Navy serving as a W.W. II chaplain aboard a destroyer escort in the Pacific Ocean.

After the war, Coburn began a distinguished career in the Episcopal Church, first as rector of Grace Church in Amherst, Massachusetts, a position in which he also served as chaplain at Amherst College (he also established and coached Amherst's first lacrosse team). He served as dean of the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Newark, New Jersey, from 1953-57. He earned a doctorate in divinity from Princeton University in 1955. In 1956 he co-founded the Chapel of Saint James the Fisherman in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, along with James Pike. In 1958 he was elected dean of the Episcopal Theological School, where he served for more than a decade guiding the school through expansion and the inclusion of female students. Coburn became rector of St. James' Church on Madison Avenue in New York City after a year of teaching English in Harlem.

From 1967-1976 he served as president of the House of Deputies, guiding the church through controversial issues of race and social justice, women's ordination and the adoption of a new Book of Common Prayer.

In 1976 he was elected the 13th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and served in that position for ten years. He received honorary degrees from a dozen universities, including Harvard University, the University of Kent in Canterbury and Princeton University, on whose board of trustees he served for 20 years.

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