Francis Eric Bloy, bishop of the eight-county Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles for 26 years, has died. He was 88.
Bloy died May 23 at Scripps Nursing Home in Altadena after suffering a fall a few weeks earlier, the diocese reported during the weekend.
When he was consecrated April 21, 1948, as the third bishop of the church's largest diocese, the British-born Bloy was one of the youngest bishops in the world.
During his tenure from 1948 until his retirement in 1974, his flock of 70,000 Episcopalians doubled, the number of churches grew from 144 to 186 and the budget of the diocese quadrupled. Bloy founded the Episcopal Theological School at Claremont, known as Bloy House, as a weekend seminary for working adults in order to train more clergy to handle the massive growth.
After the Watts riots of 1965, Bishop Bloy met regularly with youths in South-Central Los Angeles and provided funds for some of them to start an automobile repair shop. He earned their fond nickname "top cat."
"I went there because I was concerned for them as people," he told The Times. "I think burning and looting and all that is senseless. I wanted as best I could to help them realize that. Perhaps my visits helped."
Throughout his ministry, Bloy urged Episcopalians to follow his twofold image of Jesus Christ, by trying to solve community problems like the riots but also adhering to religious duties.
"Our Lord . . . was where the action was," he told The Times, "but He also was on the mountain, praying to God. We lose something if we emphasize the one at the expense of the other."
The descendant of five generations of Episcopal clergymen, Bloy was born in Birchington, England, on Dec. 17, 1904, and moved to the United States with his family when he was 7. After graduation from the University of Missouri, he went to the Jesuit-sponsored Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Washington to study for a diplomatic career.
Specializing in the Far East, he taught himself Sanskrit and began to study original Oriental literature.
"Then one day--and this is a strange thing--in the Library of Congress reading the Bhagavad Gita, the important expression of Hinduism, the thought struck me that what the Eastern religions lacked was the principle of the Cross, and I think that changed my whole life," he told The Times in 1971.
Bloy graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary and was ordained a priest in 1929, the same year he married Frances Forbes Cox. Mrs. Bloy died in 1974, 10 days after her husband's retirement.
From 1929 to 1933, Bloy was rector of All Saints Church at Reisterstown, Md. He then joined St. James-by-the-Sea Church at La Jolla, and remained there until 1937 when he became the youngest dean in North America as head of Los Angeles' now-razed St. Paul's Cathedral.
He remained dean of St. Paul's until his election as bishop 11 years later, and in 1946 served as president of the interfaith Church Federation of Los Angeles. Bloy was also a trustee of Occidental College and General Theological College.
An avid trout fisherman and a flier, Bloy was also an astronomer and enjoyed discussing space exploration with friends at Caltech. He believed strongly that the United States should direct resources toward both the inner city and outer space.
One of Bloy's retirement projects was to write about theological humor.
"I think God has a rich sense of humor," Bloy told The Times. "I think He must laugh as well as weep."
At Bloy's request, funeral services were private. He is survived by one sister.