Hines was committed to racial and social justice and led the Episcopal Church into an era of social activism in the 1960s. He was supportive of ordaining women bishops, priests, and deacons, although that did not happen during his tenure as presiding bishop.
Clergyman, civil rights advocate. Hines is the only South Carolina native to serve as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the denomination’s top leadership position. He was born in Seneca on October 3, 1910. Hines received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of the South in 1930, and his bachelor of divinity degree from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1933. He was ordained deacon on August 31, 1933, and priest on October 28, 1934. Hines was assistant rector of St. Michael and St. George Church, St. Louis, Missouri, from 1933 to 1935; rector of Holy Trinity Church, Hannibal, Missouri, from 1935 to 1937; rector of St. Paul’s Church, Augusta, Georgia, from 1937 until 1941; and was rector of Christ Church, Houston, Texas, from 1941 to 1945. On October 18, 1945, Hines was consecrated bishop coadjutor of Texas. He became the fourth bishop of Texas on November 1, 1955, and served until December 31, 1964. He was one of the founders of the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest at Austin, which opened in 1951. He was elected the twenty-second presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church by the 1964 General Convention and served from January 1, 1965, until May 31, 1974. Just fifty-four when elected, Hines was the youngest presiding bishop in the history of the church.
Hines was committed to racial and social justice and led the Episcopal Church into an era of social activism in the 1960s. He was supportive of ordaining women bishops, priests, and deacons, although that did not happen during his tenure as presiding bishop. Convinced that the church must engage realities of the world around it, the onset of urban rioting in Los Angeles in 1965 spurred Hines to personal involvement. He toured sections of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn where rioting had occurred. He also made trips to troubled black neighborhoods in Newark and Detroit, questioning leaders there as to how church resources might best be used. Armed with this information and his own convictions, Hines stepped into the pulpit at the sixty-seventh General Convention at Seattle in September 1967 and preached a sermon calling the Episcopal Church to social justice. This sermon became the genesis of the General Convention Special Program (GCSP). In response to Hines’s sermon and leadership, the 1967 General Convention adopted a $9 million fund and set up the GCSP. It was given top priority for the church’s use of personnel, time, and money from 1968 to 1970. Some grants were made to organizations outside the Episcopal Church, some of which were perceived by some Episcopalians as supporters of violence. By 1969 some Episcopal clergy and laity were calling for the end of the GCSP, and the 1973 General Convention ended it. A successor program, the Commission on Community Action and Human Development, continued the principles of the GCSP, albeit on a smaller scale.
Hines was also a leader in the ecumenical movement and supported the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States and the Consultation on Church Union (COCU). He died in Austin, Texas, on July 19, 1997.
Kesselus, Kenneth. John E. Hines: Granite on Fire. Austin, Tex.: Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, 1995.