Powerful preacher, chief evangelism officer, presiding bishop and primate of The Episcopal Church. You call the church to change the world “through the power of love,” to join hands with other Christians, people of other faiths, atheists, agnostics and seekers who want a different world. You call the church to the hard work of evangelism and reconciliation. “The Holy Spirit has done this work before in the Episcopal Church and it can be done again for a new day.”
Son of an Episcopal priest, grandson of a Baptist preacher, you grew up in Buffalo, New York. After graduating from Hobart College with honors in religious studies, you went on to earn a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School. Ordained in 1978, you served churches in North Carolina, Ohio and Maryland before being elected bishop in North Carolina in 2000.
In 2013, you published Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus. You write that the church needs crazy Christians who believe that “the love of God is greater than all the powers of evil and death…that there is a way to lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside.” You call the church to craziness. You call us to develop, recruit and engage “Crazy Christians” to join the Jesus movement, to love, give and forgive like Jesus.
In 2015, you published Songs My Grandma Sang. These are the songs that your ancestors who were former slaves in Alabama and North Carolina, passed down to you. You write, “Their songs and sayings reflected a deep faith and profound wisdom that taught them how to shout ‘glory’ while cooking in ‘sorrow’s kitchen’, as they used to say. In this there was a hidden treasure that saw many of them through, and that is now a spiritual inheritance for those of us who have come after them.”
You are the first African-American to be elected presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, and your landslide election last summer to succeed Katharine Jefferts Schori as presiding bishop was a joyous celebration for the church. When asked by a reporter how you will be different from Bishop Katharine you answered, “Our diet. I’m a carnivore. She’s not…I eat anything.”
You preached the message of love to our graduates in this sanctuary three years ago while you were bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina. Your former chaplain while a student at Hobart & William Smith Colleges in the early 70s was in the congregation that day, Dean Emeritus Dusty McDonald, whom you credit with influencing you to pursue the priesthood.
Seminary of the Southwest is most honored to welcome you back to Texas with affection and with gratitude for the open-hearted leadership that characterizes your ministry and that promises to be the foundation the church’s racial reconciliation and evangelism under your watch, and we are honored to present you with the Doctor of Divinity honoris causa.
Austin, Texas May 24, 2016