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Episcopal Bishop Dead In Apparent Suicide

January 16, 1995

BOSTON (AP) _ Bishop David E. Johnson, bishop of the nation’s largest Episcopal diocese, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

``This devastating time is filled with pain, anger and questioning for all of us who knew, worked with, loved and were loved by Bishop Johnson,″ said his successor, M. Thomas Shaw, who is to take over on June 5.

Johnson, 61, committed suicide, apparently on Saturday, diocesan spokesman Jay Cormier confirmed. He had died of a single rifle shot, according to Jill Reilly, spokeswoman for the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office.

A friend discovered the body Sunday in Johnson’s suburban Framingham apartment. Johnson had moved there last summer after selling his home. He announced his retirement in November.

Johnson succeeded Bishop John B. Coburn in 1986 as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, the nation’s largest with 193 congregations and 95,000 baptized members.

He had planned to take a sabbatical beginning Feb. 1 to help other dioceses set up programs for children, a particular interest. He had established DoveMass, a program that recruits volunteers to work in public schools.

``He was a very warm, loving person, very committed to the ministry with people and with a particular interest in the well-being of children,″ said Suffragan Bishop Barbara Harris, who had assisted Johnson for six years.

Born in Newark, N.J., Johnson received a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College in 1955. He served for three years as a pilot in the Strategic Air Command, where he rose to the rank of captain.

Johnson received his master’s of divinity degree in 1961 from the Virginia Theological Seminary. He was ordained in 1962 and served as rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Little Rock, Ark.; St. Martin’s Church in Fayetteville, Ark.; Calvary Church in Columbia, Mo.; and St. Boniface Church in Sarasota, Fla., before being elected vicar coadjutor of the Massachusetts diocese in October 1985.

Johnson is survived by his wife, Joyce, who is known as Jodie; three children, Stephanie, Elizabeth and Scott; and several grandchildren.

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