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All Saints in Pasadena Appoints New Rector : Religion: The Very Rev. James Edwin Bacon Jr. pledges to continue the outreach ministries and social activism the parish is noted for.

TIMES RELIGION WRITER

Ending a two-year search for a new priest to lead one of the nation’s largest and most socially active Episcopal parishes, All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena has announced the appointment of the Very Rev. James Edwin Bacon Jr. as its new rector.

Bacon, 46, is the dean of St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Jackson, Miss. He is expected to take his post here in July, after the retirement of the Rev. George F. Regas in April.

Bacon is known in Mississippi for his preaching and outreach programs to the poor, the homeless and those afflicted with AIDS. But he acknowledged that he faces a formidable task in following Regas, under whose 28-year leadership the 3,500-member parish has attracted national recognition--and controversy--for the vigor of its pastoral and social ministries.

Under Regas, 65, All Saints became one the first parishes in the United States to launch an AIDS ministry, and to bless same-sex unions, despite protests from many in the 2.5-million-member national church.

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At times, conservative Christians from fundamentalist churches have picketed in front of All Saints during Sunday services, warning that the blessing of homosexual unions is contrary to biblical teaching--a position roundly disputed by Regas.

The parish has a major outreach to the homeless, provides free medical and dental care for uninsured children in public schools, offers services to reduce drug and alcohol abuse, and recently organized the Coalition for a Non-Violent City. Its pulpit and Sunday morning forums have attracted luminaries from the political, religious and business worlds, such as Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, the Anglican Archbishop of South Africa.

Bacon pledged that in assuming the Pasadena pulpit, he will build on All Saints’ outreach and social justice ministries “with a great deal of energy.”

“I feel like I’m about to go on a wonderful adventure. It’s certainly challenging. This is a great parish with a great ministry. . . . It is so faithful to the Gospel and full of risk and courage,” he said in a telephone interview from Mississippi.

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Bacon said that during his first few months in Pasadena, he will stress the “spiritual underpinnings” of such programs “for peace and justice.”

Senior Warden John Sweetland, who heads the parish’s vestry or governing body, said of Bacon, “He will not be a George Regas. There is not another George Regas. He has his own ways. But he is crafted in the mode of George Regas.”

Bacon has been dean, or chief pastor, of the Jackson parish since April, 1989. Prior to that, he was rector of St. Mark’s parish in Macon, Ga., for five years. He also served as director of Christian education and youth ministry at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta, and as dean of students and chaplain at Mercer College, his alma mater, in Macon.

He holds a master’s degree in theological studies from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, where he also did doctoral work in the field of theology and personality at the Graduate School of Religion.

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He and his wife, Hope Hendricks Bacon, were married in 1971 and have two grown children, Alice and Peter. Hope Bacon is Mississippi state coordinator for First Steps, a federally funded intervention program for disabled children up to 3 years old.


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