We lost another colleague from the House of Bishops yesterday. I guess at my age, I should expect that to happen with increasing regularity as the years roll on. Ed Salmon was the 13th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. We served together for over 25 years as bishops, he was elected two years after me and at an older age, having served as a parish priest longer than I ever did.
In fact, the first time I met Ed we were visiting his large parish — the Church of St. Michael’s and St. George’s in St. Louis (I used to wonder why they didn’t just call it All Saints’ and be done with it!). I was serving, as a new bishop, on the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Evangelism and we were visiting ‘happening’ places to see how evangelism was best being done around the church in preparation for what we were calling “A Decade of Evangelism” planned for the 1990s.
I arrived at the church early one weekday morning and found Ed Salmon in a powder blue jump suit, happily preparing scrambled eggs and sausage singe-handedly for a group of about twenty-five youngish businessmen who would shortly arrive for an early morning Bible study before heading off to work.
I remember Ed preparing the breakfast which others would then help him serve before he moved into conducting a lively Bible study and discussion with this men’s group. It was only one of many successful programs in this large parish which continues today to be a leading light in Episcopal evangelical circles in the Midwest and beyond.
Bishop Salmon was a more conservative bishop than I and we often disagreed on trends and directions of the Episcopal Church in the 1990s and early 2000s. Episcopal bishops sit at round tables of eight or so when we meet so that we can get to know one another better in a small group rather than (as used to happen) sitting in legislative rows where it is easier to make speeches than it is to listen to one another.
On more than one occasion, Ed and I shared such a small group experience and I always found him to be a gentle soul and a man of integrity. He was a bridge builder who fought hard to keep his conservative Diocese of South Carolina in the Episcopal Church even when he himself disagreed with some of the decision we made in General Convention.
He was grieved when his successor Mark Lawrence successfully led the diocese out of the Episcopal Church and yet, throughout his remaining ministry as a bishop and while serving in retirement as a seminary dean, sought to build bridges and relationships with the breakaway Episcopalians (who persist in calling themselves “Anglicans” of one stripe or another even though they are not members of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church is).
While I served as ecumenical officer for the Episcopal Church, Ed and I worked together to find ways for clergy ordained in the breakaway bodies who wished to return to the Episcopal Church (of which there were quite a number) find their way back with a minimum of difficulty and red tape. He also attempted to work with the Reformed Episcopal Church, an previous breakaway from an earlier era over, actually, more substantive issues.
In a day of vitriol, harsh rhetoric, and demonizing those with whom one disagrees, I always found Ed Salmon someone with whom I could “disagree agreeably” and I never heard him demean or denigrate an opponent, even though he had a droll sense of humor and could more than hold his own in the debates in which we were often engaged in those days. Today’s morning psalm, to my mind, describes my friend and colleague about as well as could be done:
“O LORD, I am not proud; I have no haughty looks.
I do not occupy myself with great matters, or with things that are too hard for me.
But I still my soul and make it quiet, like a child upon its mother’s breast; my soul is quieted within me.
O Israel, wait upon the LORD, from this time forth, for evermore.” (Psalm 131)
Rest in peace, Ed. And rise in glory!