Drawing the circle Wider

Bishop of Atlanta announces plans to leave in 2012

by Nan Ross

The Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander has announced his plans to step aside next year after 11 years as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.

He said he will join the faculty of Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta in the fall of 2012.
On Feb. 7 Alexander informed the diocese’s Standing Committee of his intentions, stating that his resignation will become effective upon the ordination of his successor. He also informed clergy of the diocese in a letter mailed Monday.

He has asked the Standing Committee to initiate the process to elect the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta. “I believe it is reasonable to expect an election in the spring of 2012 and the ordination of the next bishop of Atlanta late that summer or early in the fall,” he wrote in a letter to clergy of the diocese.

When Alexander, 57, was elected 10 years ago as the ninth bishop of Atlanta, he left behind an extensive career in theological education, including service at two Episcopal seminaries.  “I am richly blessed,” he said. “These years in the Diocese of Atlanta have been a wonderful season in my vocation.”

At Emory, his primary duties will be as a professor of liturgy, focusing on the practical disciplines of ministry: liturgy, preaching and pastoral theology. In addition to teaching, he will also provide direction to Candler’s Anglican-Episcopal Studies program.

Alexander has informed Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of his plans. He said he expects the diocesan Standing Committee to meet soon with Bishop Clay Matthews of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Pastoral Development to begin the transition process.

The Rev. Dena Bearl, rector of Grace-Calvary Church, Clarkesville, is president of the Standing Committee this year. She said, “We give thanks to God for having provided this diocese with such a capable and dedicated bishop. Bishop Alexander has fulfilled his vows as bishop with great devotion to the church.”

Alexander has served the wider church in a variety of capacities. He was one of five bishops named by an Episcopal Church nominating committee for the election of the 26th presiding bishop. He presently serves as president of the Board of Directors of the College for Bishops, as a regent of the University of the South, and as a member of the board of the Archives of the Episcopal Church. He also is vice chair of the newly formed Church Investment Group.

In 2009 Alexander was elected to a six-year term as the 23rd chancellor of Sewanee: The University of the South by the university’s board of trustees. He will continue in that post through the board’s October 2012 annual meeting.

Nan Ross is director of communication for the Diocese of Atlanta.