The official records of Presiding Bishop John Maury Allin, already well documented by virtue of his interest in the Church archives, have been augmented by the acquisition of his personal papers. Ann Allin, Bishop Allin's widow, donated the papers for purposes of creating new opportunities for research into a momentous period in the Church's history. The Allin archive represents the first donation of a complete, unfiltered archive of a presiding bishop's papers to the national Church Archives.
The archive stretches from 1931 to his death in1998 and includes artifacts, sermons on audiotape, books, calendars, correspondence, manuscript material, papers, photographic material, publications, and videotapes. The holdings are concentrated in Allin's 1974-1985 term as Presiding Bishop, but they also provide substantial evidence of his other service to the church and of his personal pursuits after his retirement from that post. John Allin's life prior to his election as Presiding Bishop is documented by personal calendars, correspondence, and photographs.
A Ministry Formed in the South
John Maury Allin was born April 22, 1921 in Helena, Arkansas. He attended college and seminary at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1943 and a Master of Divinity in 1945. He was ordained to the diaconate in 1944 and to the priesthood in 1945, both in the Diocese of Arkansas. His first pastoral assignment was at St. Peter's Episcopal Mission in Conway, Arkansas where he also taught psychology at Arkansas State Teachers College. In 1949 he married Frances Ann Kelly, also of Helena, Arkansas, with whom he would raise a son and three daughters. The next eight years were spent in Louisiana, first in New Orleans in several roles -- as curate of St. Andrew's Church, chaplain to Episcopal college students, and Institutional Chaplain of New Orleans. He began a term as rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Monroe, Louisiana in 1952. In 1958 Allin agreed to serve as president and headmaster of All Saints School, Vicksburg, Mississippi after its trustees, of which he was one, could not find another qualified person for the post. His progression within the leadership of the Episcopal Church began with his appointment as Bishop Coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, held from 1961-1966, followed by his consecration in 1966 as the Sixth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi. During this time he also earned two additional advanced degrees, one a Master of Education and the other a Doctor of Divinity.
In the Midst of Profound Change
Allin was elected as the twenty-third Presiding Bishop of ECUSA in 1973. His tenure commenced at a time of considerable turbulence and change in the Episcopal Church that began with the episcopate of Presiding Bishop John Hines. Hines was a social progressive whose advocacy of civil and women's rights and opposition to the Vietnam War caused institutional tremors with far reaching consequences for the relationship between the national and local jurisdictions of the Church. Chosen as a steadying force for the Church, Allin faced the tumultuous 1970s with a talent for compromise and a resolve to promote reconciliation. While Bishop of Mississippi he had helped to found the Committee of Concern, an ecumenical and civic alliance organized to raise funds to rebuild over 100 black-congregation churches that had been burned by white racist groups.
Perceived as a traditionalist within a liberal Church, Allin continued to push for the Church to address issues of social justice. His offer to resign after the General Convention voted in 1976 to permit the ordination of women, an issue on which Allin was firmly opposed, was answered with a House of Bishops resolution that respected his "right to hold a personal conviction on this issue" and that of any church member who opposed women's ordination. Allin stayed on, overseeing yet another major change within the church during his term with the 1979 adoption of a new Book of Common Prayer for standard usage. Allin's support for Venture in Mission, a major fundraising effort for special mission and ministry undertaken during the 1970s, was a tremendous success, far outreaching its $100 million goal. It was also under Allin that the Office of Black Ministries was established at the Episcopal Church headquarters.
Vicar and Trustee
Allin retired as Presiding Bishop in 1985. His activity in the church continued as he served as "winter" chaplain at Christ Memorial Chapel on Jupiter Island, Hobe Sound, Florida and during the summer as vicar of St. Ann's Church, Kennebunkport, Maine, where President George H. W. Bush was a member of the vestry. Allin's ties to his alma mater remained strong throughout his life. From 1961 onward he served as a Trustee of the University of the South, served two six-year terms as one of its Regents, and was its 17th chancellor from 1973-1979.
Allin was diagnosed with lung cancer in late 1997. On March 6, 1998 the Most Reverend John Maury Allin died in Jackson, Mississippi of complications from a stroke suffered the month before. Memorial services were held at the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew in Jackson on March 9 and on March 14 at All Saints Chapel in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he was buried.
The Archives has completed a formal arrangement scheme and preliminary inventory to the Allin Papers (AR1999.032). The archive measures 36 cubic feet and is open to researchers upon receipt of an application and statement of purpose.