RIP: Bishop Edmond Lee Browning, 24th Presiding Bishop

The Rt. Rev. Edmond Lee Browning was installed Jan. 11, 1986 as the 24th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. Photo: Episcopal News Service via the Episcopal Archives

The Rt. Rev. Edmond Lee Browning was installed Jan. 11, 1986 as the 24th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. Photo: Episcopal News Service via the Episcopal Archives

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs, Episcopal News Service] Bishop Edmond Lee Browning, the 24th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, died on July 11, 2016. He was 87 years old and was living in Oregon.

Browning served as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church from 1986-1997. Browning’s election as presiding bishop in 1986 was seen as a reflection of the church’s broadening diversity due to his extensive international and multicultural experience.

Browning hoped to encourage a growing awareness of diversity in the church. He was well-known for his quote, “no outcasts in the church.”

“The Episcopal Church is faithfully seeking to truly become, ‘a house of prayer for all people,’ as Jesus said quoting the Hebrew prophets, and that is greatly the case because Presiding Bishop Browning taught us that the church must be a place where there are no outcasts,” said Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, the 27th presiding bishop. “That enduring legacy is still helping to set many a captive free. It is evidence that God is not finished with us yet, for every once and a while spiritual giants still walk among us as living reminders. And one of those reminders was Edmond Lee Browning, 24th presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church. Well done good and faithful servant. May you rest in peace and rise in glory.”

In August 2015, when he was still presiding bishop-elect, Bishop Michael Curry traveled to Oregon to visit Bishop Edmond Browning on his farm in the Hood River Valley. Photo: Mary Lujan

In August 2015, when he was still presiding bishop-elect, Bishop Michael Curry traveled to Oregon to visit Bishop Edmond Browning on his farm in the Hood River Valley. Photo: Mary Lujan

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the 26th presiding bishop, said: “Edmond Browning brought vast experience to his role as presiding bishop, from his early ministry in Texas, to his labors as a missionary in Okinawa, his love of the ‘Ohana of Hawai’i, and his pastoral care of the Convocation of Churches in Europe. His ministry was marked by care of the outsider and marginalized wherever he went. He stewarded the union of Okinawa with the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, he insisted there would be ‘no outcasts’ in the Episcopal Church, he drew Hawaiian and European congregations closer to their contexts, and he maintained a passionate care for the plight of Christians in the Land of the Holy One. He gave his all, and it cost him dearly. We can only echo what he is nearing now: Well done, good and faithful servant. You have loved all those entrusted to your care with a passion like that of Jesus. Rest from your labors in the arms of the One who loves you beyond imagining.”

“Bishop Browning was very much ‘My Presiding Bishop,’” said Bishop Frank Griswold, 25th presiding bishop. “I was ordained a bishop the same year he was elected presiding bishop. During the 12 years that followed, I had the opportunity to work closely with him, particularly as a member of the committee that planned the twice-a-year-meetings of the House of Bishops. What particularly struck me in all aspects of his ministry was his trusting and compassionate heart open to all. For him, the mission of the church was to uphold the dignity and worth of each person within the reconciling embrace of God’s inexhaustible love. He did so not without great personal cost. As his successor, on visits to Okinawa and Hawaii where he had served as bishop, I was struck by the enduring affection and gratitude that so many lay people and clergy expressed for the ministry and friendship of Bishop and Patti Browning. In a very real sense, he was still their bishop.”

“Bishop Browning appointed me to my first churchwide position when I was untested and unknown,” said the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies. “He gave me a chance to lead, and I will be forever grateful for the trust and confidence he placed in me. Everything about my churchwide ministry and the gospel witness of our church for the past three decades has been shaped by Ed Browning’s proclamation that ‘there will be no outcasts.’ We all owe him an enormous debt. Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Browning’s theologically liberal stance was admired by some and criticized by others both in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, particularly his views about the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church.

Then-Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning talks with Pamela Chinnis, the then-president of the House of Deputies. Photo: Episcopal Archives via Episcopal News Service

Then-Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning talks with Pamela Chinnis, the then-president of the House of Deputies. Photo: Episcopal Archives via Episcopal News Service

Browning was elected at the 68th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Anaheim, California, in September 1985. He was the last presiding bishop to serve a 12-year term.

His was the first installation to take place within the context of the Eucharist. Then primate of Japan,  John M. Watanabe, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was then the archbishop of Cape Town and the primate of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, were in attendance.

During Browning’s tenure, the Episcopal Church experienced a trend toward seeing baptism as a vocation. He was most known for active and faithful leadership in combating institutional racism and all forms of injustice in the Episcopal Church.

As presiding bishop, he was the first to observe a World AIDS day of prayer on Nov. 9, 1986, and established what is now Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Episcopal Church’s refugee resettlement agency, in 1988.

In February 1989, Browning again made history by consecrating the Rev. Barbara Harris of the Diocese of Massachusetts as the first female bishop in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion.

Born March 11, 1929, in Corpus Christi, Texas, Browning was the son of Edmond Lucian Browning and Cora Mae Lee. He attended the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in 1952, a Bachelor of Divinity in 1954, and a Doctor of Divinity in 1970. He also attended Japanese Language School in Kobe, Japan from 1963-65. He also received honorary degrees from Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Episcopal Divinity School, General Theological Seminary, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and Virginia Theological Seminary.

Newly installed Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning is congratulated by his wife, Patti. Sons John (far 1.) and Mark look on, as does son Philip (c., partially blocked, between and behind them) during the service at Washington Cathedral. Photo: Episcopal News Service via Episcopal Archives

Newly installed 24th Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning is congratulated by his wife, Patti. Sons John (far 1.) and Mark look on, as does son Philip (c., partially blocked, between and behind them) during the service at Washington Cathedral. Photo: Episcopal News Service via Episcopal Archives

Browning was ordained a deacon on July 2, 1954, and a priest on May 23, 1955. He served as assistant rector, Good Shepherd, Corpus Christi, Texas, 1954-56; rector, Church of the Redeemer, Eagle Pass, Texas, 1956-59; rector, All Souls, Okinawa, 1959-63; priest-in-charge, St. Matthew’s, Oroku, 1965-67; archdeacon of Okinawa, 1965-67; bishop of Okinawa, 1968-71; bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, 1971-74 (now the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe); executive of National and World Mission, Episcopal Church Center, New York, New York, 1974-1976; bishop of Hawaii, 1976-1985; and 24th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, 1986-1997.

Browning served as last bishop of the Missionary Diocese of Okinawa before it became part of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Anglican Church in Japan). The transfer of the Okinawa diocese to the Japanese church was approved by the General Convention in October 1972.

Browning was the sixth bishop of Hawaii, and the second bishop since the Missionary District of Honolulu was granted status as a diocese in 1969. As bishop of Hawaii, Browning was a member of the sixth Anglican Consultative Council in Badagry, Nigeria in 1984. After he was elected presiding bishop, he served on the seventh Anglican Consultative Council in Singapore in 1987 and eighth Anglican Consultative Council in Wales in 1990.

Browning was married to Patricia Alline Sparks in 1953 and the couple had five children, Mark, Philip, Paige, Peter and John.

Funeral Liturgies will be held on July 17 at 1 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Hood River, Oregon; and on July 19 at 2 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Portland, Oregon. A service is also planned at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Honolulu, Hawaii – date to be announced.

Comments

  1. Curt Zimmerman says:

    Ed Browning was a friend and mentor during our years together in Hawaii and later. He was respectful and respected and told the truth as he understood it. Ed Browning had a wonderful sense of humor and cared deeply for those with whom he shared ministry. We are all better people because he passed our way.

    • Very Reverend John Crean, Obl.S.B., Ph.D. says:

      Curt,
      So good to see a post from you. You and I were the last two priests whom +Lani ordained before he passed in 1975 and then +Ed came in 1976. Weren’t we blessed to have had Bp Browning as our Ordinary for those early years in our priesthood?

  2. Charles L. Keyser says:

    Dear Patti, As you well know the Brownings and Keysers have shared many years of our lives together. From years at Sewanee to being in each other’s wedding. The Browning ministry was truly a gift from God to our Church. Please know that you are in my prayers for strength and peace and Ed for joy that he is with our Lord. God Bless and I will be in touch later. Charles

  3. Rev. Steven Hagerman says:

    A great Bishop and servant of Christ. His spirit will continue to be a positive influence in The Episcopal Church.

  4. Edna Johnston says:

    RIP kind sir.
    Thank you for your work and the care that you showed to all of us.
    Will try always to follow your example and your faith.

  5. Phillip Ayers says:

    May you, dear Ed, rest in peace and rise in glory!
    I first met the Bishop at the consecration of our Suffragan (Jeffery Rowthorn) in Connecticut in 1987, and was immediately impressed with his “down-to-earth-ness” in the midst of all the liturgical and ecclesiastical hoopla. Again, in 1989, at another consecration of a Suffragan (Sandy Hampton) in Minnesota, I was privileged to be an MC for the Bishops present and showed Bp Browning to his vesting-space, at the end of a long, winding corridor. His remark? “Mercy!”
    On of the perks of living in Oregon is our nearness to Hood River where he and Patti lived. When I supplied at St. Mark’s there in 2009, there they were in the congregation and I was immediately nervous. I needn’t have been – he chatted after the service as though we’d known each other all our lives.
    We were lucky to snag him for a clergy association retreat when I arrived here in 1999. He was terrific! I was privileged to go on a walk with him at Triangle Lake camp then: unforgettable.
    He an Patti maintained an apartment here in Portland, not far from where we live. We even shared the same barber for awhile! He will be dearly missed.
    Fr Phillip Ayers

  6. Talmage G Bandy says:

    Rest in peace dear child of God.

  7. He was a native son of my home, Diocese of West Texas, and was the PB when I became an Episcopalian in 1990. I was so proud that he was from my diocese and that he was so committed to inclusion of all people. I recall a Diocesan Council where some clergy were so angry at him for his support of the LGBTQ community that they wanted to shun him when he came to our gathering. I wanted to bop them on the head! I was even more proud of him when I learned how he courageously stood for the outsiders even at the cost of his own safety. Rest in Peace, good and faithful servant.

  8. Alda Morgan says:

    I was at the General Convention in Anaheim when Bishop Browning was elected Presiding Bishop and have been very fortunate to have worked with him from time to time over the years since then. His death leaves me feeling both grateful and bereaved…and thinking how much we need him and his witness of love and respect for all of us. This nation is torn by division and mistrust and fear. Perhaps the best way we can honor his memory and give thanks for his presence and ministry among us is to continue his witness of respect for all peoples.

  9. Evelyn Green says:

    My deepest condolences to the family of this wonderful man, I remember his beautiful wife and children. Ed Browning became the Rector of the Church of Reedemer in Eagle Pass, Texas when Earl Dicus became Suffrigan Bishop of West Texas. Ed Browning confirmed me and I have always said that I had the best Episcopal Mentors because of these two wonderful men. My heart is heavy as I remember how dedicated he was to The Church of Reedemer. He was an inspiring man, one who made you love God without question. Ed Browning was one of a kind, a gentle man and one who had a heart of gold. The Episcopal Church has lost a great man and the God’s Heaven has gained an Angel. Rest in peace my mentor and friend.

  10. Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel says:

    A truly inspirational, gentle yet spirited leader – a Bishop well loved and deeply respected way beyond his beloved Episcopal Church – the Communion grieves with his loved ones even as we celebrate the most abundant memories – the extraordinary legacy of this beautiful righteous holy man of God . . . Arohanui – Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel

  11. The Rev Dr Malcolm Naea Chun says:

    He was more than a prophet for Native Americans, because he did something. He gave authority to the Native missionary Owanah Anderson and fielderly officer the rev Dr Carole Hampton as well to the Indian Commission, positons and councle now relinquished or unfilled. He championed the recognition and role of native hawaiians rememberin us from being our bishop and his last act as pb was to sign the new Jamestown covenant with episcopal native americans, native alaskans and aleuts and native hawaiians in a new relationship that is yet to be fulfilled. He encouraged the establishment of the Anglican Indigenous Network. His leadership is inscribed in the hearts and spirit of those of us wwho survive and still remember.

  12. John Kitagawa says:

    Ed Browning was an inspirational leader. His “no outcasts” declaration meant so much to those who for one reason or another felt marginalized in the Church. Welcoming our participation and leadership enriched us and I think the Church. Ed was my uncle’s bishop in Hawaii. I can testify that he was not only a prophetic leader, but also a compassionate pastor. Like so many, I am sad, but feel deeply blessed by being touched and inspired by Ed Browning. May he rest in peace.

  13. The Rev. Charles H. Morris, D. Min. says:

    A cherished friend since our early days in the Diocese of West Texas, Ed Browning was in Eagle Pass when I was in another small town in Texas. I saw him infrequently since those days, but followed his onward and upward and varied paths in ministry and service to our Church and the wider church. His courage and yet gentleness took I believe a heavy toll on him, and I greatly admired his stand on such issues as accepting the marginalized as full members of our Church. We lost a great man today. May he go “from strength to strength” in God’s nearer service and presence, and may God’s grace and peace be with Patti and all the family.

  14. Barbara Reynolds says:

    Patti, I can appreciate how much you have lost. I can imagine that Ed was your soul mate just as (Bishop) George Reynolds was mine. Ed was a humble man, a characteristic so important to a Bishop and servant leader.

  15. tom Chapman says:

    The world and the religious community is a far better place for Ed Browning’s having lived and witnessed among us. I am so proud to be an Episcopalian! May his memory be eternal! Chaplain Tom Chapman FSJ

  16. Kevin Miller says:

    “I am the Resurrection and the Life” saith the Lord. “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” -St. John 11:25

    May you Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory.

  17. Richard Bidwell says:

    May we continue to be the church with no outcasts.

  18. Very Reverend John Crean, Obl.S.B., Ph.D. says:

    Loved him as my bishop in Hawaii. As a young priest, ordained only two years, Ed took over the Diocese of Hawaii and literally put it on the map. He was an outstanding pastor to me through some difficult times and walked with me through all of them. He was truly bishop as teacher. I learned so much. My outlook on matters theological changed fir the better because of his gentle leadership. Rest well, beloved bishop and brother priest!

  19. Jean Kegler says:

    Bishop Browning was one of my husband Bill Kegler’s closest friends. They both grew up in Corpus Christi, active youth in the Episcopal Church – and stayed in touch through their years in the ministry. He was, indeed, a very special priest and bishop – and will be missed.

  20. Dr. Erna Lund says:

    In 1991 I had the Honor of being introduced to then PB Edmond Browning by our late Bishop Robert Cochrane at St.Mark’s Cathedral,Seattle. We made an instant connection as described by others; and we subsequently exchanged notes/letters especially when he and Patti retired to the NW(Oregon)… A special occasion arose upon publication of his autobiography “The Heart of a Pastor: A Life of Edmond Lee Browning” and another memorable connection ensued thusly per his handwritten note: “Dear Erna, It was really wonderful to talk with you today…you sounded great and a wonderful help in telling about Lei and Hartwell(Lee Loy, St.Andrew’s Cathedral,Honolulu). Please give them my best wishes. I told Patti about the four Palestinian women visiting in Seattle. She was thrilled. Patti joins me in sending you the cards. With Best Wishes, Ed ” Both he and Patti were dedicated to peace and justice for Palestinian Christians and all Palestinians as they made multiple trips to Jerusalem during their tenure. Much of his book focuses on the Middle East and their personal experiences. We can recall when he met w/former President George H.W.Bush (Episcopalian) in 1988 to stop U.S.aid to Israel unless Israel stopped settlement building in West Bank… Indeed we Episcopalians and all peace-loving people in this world may never know another truly spiritual leader as we all had the honor to love and appreciate. Our heartrending thoughts and prayers are with Patti and all the family in this Great Loss yet so Blessed with enduring Life!

  21. Dr. Erna Lund says:

    In 1991 I had the Honor of being introduced to then PB Edmond Browning by our late Bishop Robert Cochrane at St.Mark’s Cathedral,Seattle. We made an instant connection as described by others; and we subsequently exchanged notes/letters especially when he and Patti retired to the NW(Oregon)… A special occasion arose upon publication of his autobiography “The Heart of a Pastor: A Life of Edmond Lee Browning” and another memorable connection ensued thusly per his handwritten note: “Dear Erna, It was really wonderful to talk with you today…you sounded great and a wonderful help in telling about Lei and Hartwell(Lee Loy, St.Andrew’s Cathedral,Honolulu).
    Please give them my best wishes. I told Patti about the four Palestinian women visiting in Seattle. She was thrilled. Patti joins me in sending you the cards. With Best Wishes, Ed ” Both he and Patti were dedicated to peace and justice for Palestinian Christians and all Palestinians as they made multiple trips to Jerusalem during their tenure. Much of his book focuses on the Middle East and their personal experiences. We can recall when he met w/former President George H.W.Bush (Episcopalian) in 1988 to stop U.S.aid to Israel unless Israel stopped settlement building in West Bank… Indeed we Episcopalians and all peace-loving people in this world may never know another truly spiritual leader as we all had the honor to love and appreciate. Our heartrending thoughts and prayers are with Patti and all the family in this Great Loss yet so Blessed with enduring Life!

  22. Joe W.King, Vocational Deacon says:

    I was ordained into the Holy Order of Deacons in 1996 in the Diocese of Oklahoma. During my pre-formation years and during those four years, I was deeply appreciative of Bishop Browning’s position that “the Church should be a place of worship for all people” and that, “the Church should have no outcasts”. I flunked out of the Baptist Church prior to becoming an Episcopalian after several troubling experiences not the least of which being when a dear friend and Presbyterian Minister was denied Communion during a Baptist Service in Dallas. Although I only had one very superficial contact with Presiding Bishop Browning, I am an example of how far-reaching the beliefs and teachings of this blessed and inspirational man became in the Episcopal Church and beyond. He is a very key reason I am very proud to be an Episcopalian. Rest well Servant of God and Peace to his family>

  23. Warren A. Carlson says:

    “In this church of ours, there will be no outcasts.” Through the leadership of Bishop Browning and General Convention, major, positive changes within ECUSA for the LGBT community are now widespread and common. But Bishop Browning wept as he stood at the pulpit. “I hear what you are saying, but I can’t believe members of the Body of Christ are treated like this in our church.”

    Bishop Browning was attending Integrity’s national convention in Houston, and he asked for examples of LGBT experiences. I was asked to speak, as convener of the Integrity chapter, sub-deacon at the cathedral, and Integrity vice-president for the Southeast Region.

    I cited examples to him and the 500 delegates of reality for LGBT individuals: how members of a coterie got up and walked away from the communion rail when they were approached with the Blood of Christ, of servers being labeled a divisive force at the altar and the LEM license rescinded. Many LGBT communicants became exiles and many left ECUSA. Integrity meetings and Eucharist were forbidden in all parishes, but courageous priests offered to celebrate, so we always received God’s grace at our monthly Eucharist.

    We are grateful for Bishop Browning’s courage to advocate against such odds.

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