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MIAMI, FL: Dean of Denver Cathedral elected Southeast Florida Bishop Coadjutor

MIAMI, FL: Dean of Denver Cathedral elected Southeast Florida Bishop Coadjutor
The Very Rev. Peter Eaton elected on fourth ballot

By David W. Virtue and Mary Ann Mueller
Feb 5, 2015

The Very Rev. Peter David Eaton, 56, has had one single driving ambition -- to be an Episcopal bishop.

So determined was he that he put his name into the selection process in the Diocese of Maryland in 2008; the Diocese of Long Island in 2009; the Diocese of New York in 2011 and then in the Diocese of Southeast Florida in 2015 where, on the fourth ballot, he won.

It has been a long hard run for the multi-lingual dean. If all goes as planned, he will be consecrated on May 9, 2015. He and his wife Kate will relocate to Miami where he will take up the reins of episcopal leadership from Bishop Leopold Frade who is expected to retire January, 2016, a post he has held since 2000.

The new bishop-elect was born in 1959 Washington, DC, but spent most of his childhood overseas where he was educated in the West Indies and the United Kingdom. As a result of his foreign travels and classical Anglican education, he speaks Spanish, French, Italian, modern Greek, Arabic, German, and Russian. He also reads Latin, classical Greek, and Hebrew.

Dean Eaton's theological studies were taken in England where he earned his Associate in Theology at King's College followed by a BA in the Classics. He went on to Queens' College, Cambridge to claim a Bachelor of Arts in Theology followed by a Master of Arts. He did graduate research in early Christian history and literature at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he is currently working on his doctorate in Ecumenical Theology. He also received a seminary Certificate in Theology from Westcott House at Cambridge. His UK education brought him in touch with Archbishop George Carey whom he claims as a friend.

His advanced Spanish Language and Culture studies were taken at the University of Puerto Rico and he has been a Fellow-in-Residence at the School of Theology in Sewanee, TN

He was ordained to the diaconate in 1986 by Bishop Francisco Reus-Froylan (V Puerto Rico) for the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to the Anglican priesthood in 1987 through the Church of England by the Most Rev. & Hon. Robert Runcie (102nd Archbishop of Canterbury). Fr. Eaton transferred his orders to The Episcopal Church in 1991 and was received as a priest by Bishop George Bates (IX Utah). Throughout his ministry, the new bishop coadjutor-elect has been active on the parish, community-wide, diocesan, church-wide, national, communion-wide, and international levels.

He married Kate in 2004, a professional fundraiser, devoted to community development. Rumors have swirled about his sexuality, but his marriage, at the age of 45 seems to have laid that to rest.

He was not an immediate shoe-in in Southeast Florida.

The special convention to elect the IV Bishop of Southeast Florida was held at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral with 162 laity casting their votes and 125 clergy marking their ballots for a field of six candidates including: the Rev. Dr. Michael J. Battle, interim Dean of Students and Community Life for the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, MA; the Very Rev. Dr. Dede Duncan-Probe, rector of St. Peter's-in-the-Woods Episcopal Church, Fairfax Station, VA; the Very Rev. Peter D. Eaton, rector and dean of Episcopal Cathedral of St. John's-in-the-Wilderness, Denver, CO; the Rev. Dr. John C. N. Hall, rector of Saint Boniface Episcopal Church, Sarasota, FL; the Rev. Dr. Allen F. Robinson, rector of St. James Episcopal Church, Baltimore, MD; and the Rev. Canon Dr. Martin W. Zlatic, rector of St. Joseph's Episcopal Church in Boynton Beach, FL.

By the third ballot, Dean Eaton garnered 64 votes in the clerical order -- 63 were needed -- but he was five ballots shy in the lay order. He had 77; 82 were needed. He was steadily pulling ahead of the competition.

By the fourth ballot, it was clear that Eaton would win. He was declared the Bishop Coadjutor-elect with 87 votes from the lay order and another 72 from the clergy.

"Your diocese presents a unique and exciting opportunity for a bishop," Dean Eaton wrote as he answered his essay questions. "While you outline honestly the challenges you see, you are also rightly enthusiastic about all the gifts and energy that you have for bringing people to love Jesus and live the full life that God intends for us all. You place the Gospel mission of love of God, new life, reconciliation, justice, and the care of those most in need as articulated in the Baptismal Covenant at the heart of your identity and longing, and from personal experience both Kate and I know the diocese to be a happy one."

The new bishop-elect is an author and has been published by Oxford University Press, Westminster John Knox Press, Forward Movement, The Living Church, The Anglican Digest, The Anglican Theological Review, Anglican and Episcopal History, The Sewanee Theological Review, as well as numerous other ecclesial and secular publications.

"As a Christian and as a priest I live a disciplined life of prayer, and this daily communion with God is the basis of everything I am and do: we love and serve a faithful God who sustains us," Dean Eaton explained. "I have a pastor's heart, energy and excitement about the Gospel, and a deep knowledge and love of our Anglican tradition, which has the riches and the nimbleness to sustain us in times of change and challenge.

"I have had my share of failures and know that I do not have all the answers," the new bishop-elect explains. "I have always worked in communities of leadership that encourage and support the contributions of all."

Eaton inherits a diocese that was in extreme turmoil under Bishop Frade. In 2009 Frade gained frenetic media attention surrounding telegenic former Roman Catholic priest Fr. Alberto Cutie's flight from his church to The Episcopal Church breaking his vows, the church's rule of celibacy by marrying his divorced girlfriend.

Cutie's sudden reception into The Episcopal Church by the ultra-liberal Episcopal Bishop of Southeast Florida was the real scandal. That Cutie was immediately laicized before climbing into the Episcopal pansexual bed prevented Frade from violating any canon, but as one orthodox Episcopal bishop told VOL, Frade's actions may not have violated any canon except that of morality and good taste.

Frade's background throws light on his dealings with Cutie. Frade was consecrated Bishop of Honduras on January 25, 1984. For almost 17 years, he helped to grow the diocese, making it the fastest growing diocese in the Episcopal Church at the time. He was involved in social and justice issues as well as having a strong commitment to evangelism. Frade was elected Bishop of Southeast Florida on May 6, 2000.

Frade is a Latino. His journey from that impoverished part of the world to the Episcopal Church raised eyebrows, at the time, with many believing that Frade's flight had more to do with his desire for a better pension than for any desire to convert Latinos to the Lord in southeast Florida.

As a newly minted Episcopal bishop, Frade soon abandoned whatever vestige of evangelical orthodoxy he had left by quickly rolling over into the pansexual zeitgeist of TEC's House of Bishops. He soon become a player in the liberal HOB with such notable plays as his declaration that heterosexual marriage is discriminatory and urging fellow Floridians to oppose Amendment 2 to Florida's Constitution, which would define marriage as only between a man and a woman. When he marched with Anglican Primates and bishops through the streets of London during a Lambeth Conference promotion of the Anglican Communion's Millennium Development Goals, he wrapped himself in a rainbow flag declaring, "when we talk about justice and mercy, we need to remember that gay and lesbian persons are discriminated against by the church and the government."

He also voted to depose two godly orthodox bishops for failing to conform to the doctrine and discipline of The Episcopal Church.

Eaton will inherit a culturally diverse 45-year-old Episcopal diocese which was originally carved out of the now defunct Episcopal Diocese of South Florida. There are 32,700 baptized members for him to shepherd worshipping in 77 congregations served by more than 160 clergy stretching from Key West north to Jensen Beach and west to Clewiston. Diocesan 2013 stats show there are 26,019 communicants with an ASA of 12,442 down from 12,832.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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