The Graciousness Of A Great Leader

Yesterday, I wrote these words on my Facebook status and received nearly 60 “likes” almost immediately: “Ed Browning, who died today, inspired a generation of us as a missionary priest, an international bishop, and Presiding Bishop. When he presided at my Consecration, my only prayer was to follow in his footsteps. His contribution to this church, and to the cause of Christ in incalculable. My his rest this day be in the Paradise of God.”

I shall never forget watching him, by video, in the pulpit of Washington’s National Cathedral on the day of his installation as our 24th Presiding Bishop. It was on the Feast of the Baptism of Christ and he preached a magnificent sermon on Compassion, based on the Proper lessons and theme of the day. It was out of his profound understanding of the Sacrament of Baptism that Ed reiterated his famous declaration on that day, “In this church, there will be no outcasts.”

This was not a “politically correct” or “bleeding heart liberal” statement. This was a conviction borne out of his theological commitment and deep spirituality to the fact that we are all created in the image of God, that we are to respect the dignity of every human being, and that baptism is the great equalizer, the celebration of that radical equality preached and demonstrated by Jesus and lived out, when we are at our best, by the church.

Ed presided at my consecration as the 8th Bishop of Iowa and I served with him on the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council for three of my six years (the latter three being with Frank Griswold). With Ed as the chair and Pam Chinnis as vice chair of the Council, I witnessed the finest example of shared leadership between clergy and lay that I have ever seen in our church. They had the deepest respect, and even love, for one another and they led this church with passion, integrity, and courage during those difficult years.

One of my proudest possessions is an autographed copy, in his beautiful handwriting, of the book No Outcasts, a collection of excerpts from his sermons and essays narrated and edited by The Rev. Brian Grieves, Ed’s dear friend and the Peace and Justice officer for the Episcopal Church during his tenure as PB. Please allow me to share Ed’s words, not because of what they say about me, but because of what they reveal about the graciousness a great leader:

To Chris

With the deepest admiration and gratitude for your ministry — for me you are one of the most articulate statesmen of this Church. It has been a privilege to be both in the House and the Council with you!

+Ed Browning

Executive Council

Hawaii 1997

If these kind words indicate that at least Ed thought I had partially succeeded in walking (far behind) in his prophetic footsteps, they bring me much peace and contentment in retirement. There is no one for whom I have had greater respect.

“Into paradise may the angels lead you. As your coming may the martyrs receive you, and bring you to the holy city Jerusalem.” My dear brother…






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