No Outcasts

I spent Friday evening, along with a small group, at the home of Ed and Patti Browning here in Portland, Oregon, where we are for an Executive Council meeting. The last Presiding Bishop to have served a twelve-year term (and one of the few who actually made it for the whole twelve!), the stress and brutal travel schedule had taken its toll on Ed (and Patti) by the end of their time in 1998.

They both look fabulous these days. Ed keeps his hand in by occasional preaching responsibilties (he’ll preach at the consecration of the new Bishop of Hawaii soon) but mostly they enjoy their view of Mount Hood from their country home and enjoy growing and selling blueberries from their one-acre plot. “We made $3500 last year,” Ed said with remarkable seriousness!

He listened intently to our “takes” on the Episcopal Church’s “current difficulties” within the Anglican Communion and early discussions the Executive Council has had on the matter. At the end he said, “I try to keep up as best I can with what’s going on. It’s a very difficult position we’re in right now. I pray for Katharine and for all of you as you provide leadership together. I hope we can find our way through this. However it all sorts out, I hope we will not sacrifice the vision of a church with “No Outcasts” we have grown into over these last decades.”

Ed Browning ordained me as Bishop of Iowa in 1988. I served a six-year term on Executive Council under his leadership and that of Pam Chinnis. I did a good bit of ecumenical work on his behalf, at the invitation of my predecessor,  David Perry, in the 1990’s. In all that time, sitting at Ed’s feet in over 20 Executive Council meetings, as many House of Bishops meeting, and several General Conventions, I always came away from the experiences more committed to, and excited about, this church and my service to her as a bishop — and more hopeful about the possibilities.

There is something about his gentle, compassionate spirit coupled with his fierce commitment to the poor and marginalized for the sake of Christ that is most compelling to me — and to many, if not most, who know him well. This world, and this church, in my opinion, are holier and more just because of the life and witness of the Brownings.      

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