Robert C. Wright ordained Atlanta’s 10th bishop

Bishop of San Joaquin Chester Talton, the Wright family, Jordan; Emmanuel, Selah, Beth-Sarah, Noah, Moses-Daniel and Bishop Wright; ELCA Bishop Julian Gordy (of the Southeast Synod) and Georgia Bishop Scott Benhase. Photo/C Brown photo

[Diocese of Atlanta] The ordination Oct. 13 of the 10th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta drew some 2,500 church members, clergy, bishops and choristers.

The service was steeped in tradition, with chanting, anthems and Holy Communion.

Held at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College, the service featured a choir of more than 300 voices and some 25 Episcopal bishops. Among the ecumenical guests was Atlanta’s Roman Catholic Archbishop Wilton Gregory.

Robert Christopher Wright, former rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta, who was elected bishop in June by priests and laity, was met at the chapel door by outgoing Bishop J. Neil Alexander.

The two men then followed hundreds of church members processing with church banners emblazoned with vibrant colors and clergy vested in brilliant red, white and purple. The banners represented the 96 congregations throughout middle and north Georgia that comprise the diocese.

A 350-voice combined choir from 52 Episcopal churches and schools sang a variety of hymns, anthems and gospel and spiritual music.

Scripture passages during the service were read in Spanish, Haitian-Creole, English and Karen, a Burmese dialect, reflecting the diverse communities in the Diocese of Atlanta.

The sermon was delivered by the Rev. Andrew Young, who praised Wright and his wife, Beth-Sarah, saying, “God blessed you to minister together to a world in need of love.”

Young spoke of his civil rights work first in Birmingham and later South Africa, remarking that “reason guided by faith can take on any challenge. We can have justice and mercy together.”

The civil rights worker, former Atlanta mayor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, noted that Wright was becoming bishop in a time of great turmoil.

“And in times like these, I refer to this—and I pass it on to you,” he said, quoting from one of his favorite hymns. “On Christ, the solid rock, I stand,” he recited. “All other ground is sinking sand.?All other ground is sinking sand.”

While the congregation sang “Come Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire,” bishops encircled and touched Wright while he knelt.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to head the Episcopal Church, led the other bishops as chief-consecrator.

After the consecration, more than 2,200 worshipers were served bread and wine by priests at multiple communion stations.

One dignitary who traveled to Atlanta for Saturday’s ceremony was the Rt. Rev. Jane Dixon of Virginia, who ordained Wright to the priesthood in 1999. Asked about the qualities that would stand Wright in good stead as a bishop, she said, “He’s a faithful believer.”

Wright earned a master of divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1998. He is currently working on a doctor of ministry in preaching at the School of Theology at the University of the South.

He and his wife have a daughter and three sons who are students at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, where Wright is a member of the school’s board of trustees. Another daughter attends college in Virginia.

Wright preached for the first time as bishop Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta after being escorted to the cathedra (bishop’s chair) by the Dean Sam Candler.

His sermon was interrupted three times by applause. “There is a challenge here for the church this morning,” he said. “And, by church, I mean you and me. Stop apologizing for being Christians, and be apologists for Jesus Christ.

“This is not about talking points, not about denominations or even church. But, in your own way, in your own idiom, with the same ease you recommend a restaurant or a movie, ‘Comfort others with the comfort we ourselves are being comforted with.’” As he ended his sermon, the cathedral congregation gave the new bishop a standing ovation.

As bishop, Wright will be visiting and preaching at a different parish every Sunday. Among the first parishes he will visit are Church of the Good Shepherd, Covington, and Church of the Mediator in Washington, Georgia.

Contributors to this story include Peggy J. Shaw, Don Plummer and Nan Ross.

Comments

  1. “[S]erved bread and wine….” Ugh. Nan, was that you, God forbid?

  2. Thomas Orr says:

    The Episcopal church has become a “play-church.” Women priests, abandoning the 1928 Prayer book for a “prayer book for dummies,” incorporating vastly inferior music into its services, abolishing the traditional and civilized service of Morning Prayer and making communion mandatory at virtually all services, electing leaders who are weak in the traditions of the Episcopal church, and most likely have no knowledge of the 39 Articles. I am an old-fashioned Episcopalian, and by that I mean that I do not go to church. I readily admit that I much preferred Morning Prayer to communion. Nowadays, with communion the required service, I would feel like an Aztec – all that emphasis on blood and sacrifice, and the disfiguring of what was a meal in the home to a superstitious ritual. It is any wonder that membership in the Episcopal church is at its lowest level and is continuing to decline? Maybe it is time for the church to pass out of existence and be replaced with something else. A sad time, nonetheless. I must also ask why the new Bishop did not choose to be consecrated in the Cathedral Church. I know, I know, there were too many people on his “list.” If the Queen of England can accommodate a number of people in Westminster Abbey for a great service, finding it necessary to omit some people, surely the Bishop of Atlanta could have done the same and been consecrated in a holy place rather than an assembly hall. It is all a matter of taste, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say a matter of no taste.

  3. Jan Robitscher says:

    “Served bread and wine”? Who proofread this article?

  4. Rara Avis says:

    It’s a meal, correct?

  5. I attended both the ordination and the seating of the Bishop at St. Phillips Cathedral in Atlanta over this past weekend, and I can tell you, for me there was nothing like it. “It is a good day to be the Church” declared Bishop Wright in concluding his sermon that Sunday. But my priest back home said it ever better: “The Church is not an institution, but a movement.” A “Paradigm Shift”, perhaps? But perhaps the Church experiences exactly that every time a new generation of persons in community come to our doors. The Gospel must speak and reach out to them the good news of Jesus Christ with all its simplicity and glory, through a Liturgy that not only transforms us in time but through our actions the world around and beyond us.

  6. The Rev. Dr. Steven A. Scarcia says:

    In this day and age, I can well understand Mr. Orr’s harkening back to a quieter time and place in a Church that seemed to exist in the minds and hearts of people in times past. The reality however is that Church has never existed or has it ever been stuck in a vacuum in the “Swamplands of Never Change.” I wish that I could speak with the priest and Sunday School teachers who taught Mr. Orr the history of Anglicanism. I particular I would have pointed out how it was planted and learned to survive the harsh realities of being “The Official Church” of England and finding itself in a new country where the King was no longer ruler and clergy didn’t have to swear allegiance. Some clergy went back to England and others escaped to Canada, yet others took their 1662 Books of Common Prayer and crossed out King and replaced it with President and so on. Some Parishes were left for many, many years with no clergy at all and thus the “norm” in many Parishes became Morning Prayer. Still to this day in many of the Early American Historic Episcopal Churches, though Holy Communion was celebrated weekly on early Sunday mornings, the traditional main Service of Morning Prayer is still paramount to the worship of the Episcopal Church. Yet even at the time of the American Revolution the Anglican Church had slipped into, more of less, a Morning Prayer tradition as a norm for later Sunday Worship. In looking back to the History of the Church, including the Reformation in England, Holy Communion was and thank God still is “THE” worship of the Church. The Church saw the Last Supper as the “norm” for worship in the Church on Sunday. Jesus didn’t say Take, eat, this is my Morning Prayer, did He? Especially when He said to His disciples “Do this often!” As to Bishop Wright’s Consecration, it was still celebrated in a Chapel, though at Morehouse College. How does a Chapel constitute an “Assembly Hall?” The point is that “People” gathered and where Baptized Christians gather in worship, there is the Church, be it in the grandest of Cathedrals or in a log cabin Church in the Adirondack Mountains. Though I empathize with Mr. Orr’s yearnings for the Episcopal Church past, it would be better served if as an “Old Fashioned Episcopalian,” that he starts going to Church like his parents and priest taught him – that what makes a practicing Christian, who just so happens to be an Episcopalian. As a Rector of a parish for the past 35 years, I keep reminding my flock that our faith, presence at Mass, support/pledging and witness to Jesus Christ are what makes for the start of our walk as followers of Jesus Christ. We really “Play Church” when we don’t attend, don’t support and don’t do anything about the Church, but complain.

    • I believe that history is always open to convenient interpretations, and while the church is evolving always, I find myself uninteretsed in the ,mediocre church of the 21st century. I know that it sees itself as “relevant,” which imples, of course, that it can be irrelevant. It is certainly that for me.

  7. The Book of Common Prayer states that the Eucharist is the principal act of Christian worship on Sunday. This merely states the pattern of worship as the Christian Church knew it for about 1500 years and recovered in the Episcopal Church starting with the Oxford Movement in the 19th Century. The overwhelming majority of Episcopal churches have Mass as the chief service on Sunday. In the Diocese of San Diego and the Diocese of Los Angeles (and others) it is 100%. We have a few embarrassments who haven’t gotten the message yet, but they are unfortunate exceptions, not the rule.

  8. The term “mass” seems alien to the Episcopal Church. Regardless, to perpetuate the superstitious ideas inherent in the “mass” or celebration of the Eucharist, or whatever, is comical. The church has taken a simple home meal and laden it down with supernatural nonsense. The whole idea of the “magic” of the Eucharist was for many years a way of controlling the peasant classes and making them believe that the church had something special to offer. Rather like the prize at the bottom of the box of Cracker Jacks.

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