Monday, July 11, 2016

Edmond Lee Browning

Former Presiding Bishop Edmond Lee Browning (PB from 1985 to 1997) died this morning. Twenty years ago he and Patti retired to a blueberry farm in Easter Oregon, where once I had the privilege of spending a day with him along with the Integrity Board. I remember the Browning's as more than gracious hosts, who clearly delighted in our company.

I presented Bishop Browning with the Louie Crew award on behalf of Integirty,
assisted by The Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton (l) and The Rev. Susan Russell (r.)
When he was installed as Presiding Bishop at Washington Cathedral, I was living in suburban Chicago, Illinois, during the time I stepped back from seminary, having done 1984-1985 at Nashotah House in Wisconsin. I was contemplating heading back into the process, but truly unsure whether or not I wanted to run the gauntlet of the ordination process as an openly gay man and someone living with clinical depression.I knew I was called to be a priest, but I did not know if I could pursue that call in the church I had come to love, The Episcopal Church.

After his election at the 1985 General Convention, Bishop Browning said these now famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) words, "This church of ours will be open to all; there will be no outcasts."

Those words gave me courage. Those words gave me hope.  Those words kept me in the church and shaped any ministry in which I have been engaged. My gratitude for them has no bounds, and for the man. He wasn't perfect and there were some difficult times during his tenure, and many of us were disappointed that he did not help the church go faster on gay and lesbian inclusion. On the other hand, we absolutely would not be where we are today without him and his partner in ministry, Pamela Chinnis, President of the House of Deputies.

Bishop Browning after consecrating Bishop Harris.
I watched him ordain and consecrate Barbara Harris as a bishop, the first women to be so consecrated anywhere in the Anglican Communion. That took courage.  At his last General Convention, I watched him preside at the Integrity Eucharist, for which he took a good bit of criticism.

His heart was open to so many.  The church's heart opened a great deal during his time with us. It was painful at times, and I have never been able to imagine how costly to him, but he bore it and helped us bear it.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

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