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William Cockburn Russell Sheridan, Fifth Bishop
William Cockburn Russell Sheridan was elected the fifth bishop of Northern Indiana on 15 April 1972, and he called the event the "most terrifying experience of my life." He had expected another candidate to be elected, and he had not prepared himself for the experience. Sheridan was the first, and to date only, bishop to be elected from its own fold of priests and was consecrated on the Feast of St. John the Baptist, 24 June 1972, in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Church on the University of Notre Dame campus. The gift came because of his close friendship with Notre Dame president Theodore Hesburgh and Bishop Leo Pursley of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Among the consecrans were Bishop Francis C. Rowinski of the Polish National Catholic Church whose orders are considered valid by the Vatican. Following the tenures of two bishops who were not considered pastoral and were not well liked, Sheridan proved himself to be both a pastoral and beloved bishop.
Sheridan was born in New York City on 25 March 1917. His mother was English-born and a devout Anglican; his Irish-born father was a Roman Catholic and an alcoholic. William grew up in Baltimore and attended St. Paul's School in Brooklandville, Maryland; then he spent a year at the University of Virginia before the Great Depression forced him to drop out for lack of funds. He later was accepted into a baccalaureate program at Nashotah House Seminary, receiving a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1939 and a liberal arts degree from Carroll College in Wisconsin in 1943. Many years later Nashotah granted him honorary Master's and Doctor's degrees. He was ordained to the diaconate in 1943 by Bishop Noble Powell of Maryland and the same year married Rudith "Trudy" Treder of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. They would have five children, including twin sons.
After ordination, Sheridan served briefly at Mt. Calvary Church, Baltimore, and as curate at St. Paul's Church, Chicago. He was also briefly a priest at Emmanuel Episcopal Mission, in Garrett, Indiana. In 1944, he became rector of Gethsemane Episcopal Church, Marion, and vicar of St. Paul's Gas City. In 1947, Bishop Reginald Mallett ordered him to St. Thomas Church, Plymouth, where he served a long rectorate of 25 years. For ten years he was also chaplain of Culver Military Academy.
Sheridan was a strong Anglo-Catholic and a conservative at a time of profound change in the national Church. He set out to be a pastoral bishop after years of cold formality from his predecessor. In this regard he brought several innovations to his episcopate. One was his decision to rotate the diocesan convention to various parts of the diocese, with every third year held at the cathedral in South Bend. A second was to build relationships among the priests of the diocese by having them and their wives to dinner at the residence. He had planned for clergy across the diocese to get to know one another better, and as many as two or three suppers were served weekly.
Third, Sheridan instituted the bishop's pastoral weekend when making visitations, spending two days meeting with vestries, ECW chapters, guilds, and the ill in hospitals. "As I look back at those years," he later wrote, "the 'Pastoral Weekends' were an arduous undertaking, but I felt they were absolutely necessary." He held approximately 35 such weekends each year, traveling between 27,000 and 33,000 miles a year and sleeping annually in some 60-70 motels. He regarded the liturgical and theological unity of the diocese, still strongly conservative and Anglo-Catholic, as its greatest asset, echoing what Bishop Klein before him had believed. In particular he relished the compliments of a fellow bishop who, in observing a diocesan convention, commended Sheridan for the harmony and spiritual warmth that existed among the priests with no apparent competing interests or jealousies.
Sheridan remained steadfastly opposed to the ordination of women and refused to allow women priests to serve in the diocese. He also led the opposition in the House of Bishops and was frequently quoted in the press at the time. He did allow the Rev. Sarah Tracy to serve as deacon in 1985, and he made a distinction of women serving in the diaconate and those in the priesthood. He also blasted Bishop John Shelby Spong for his series of books that questioned the traditional teachings of the Anglican faith and called him the "great heretic of our time."
As a strong ecumenist with ties to many local Catholics and Protetants, Sheridan felt that the ordination of women challenged the historical nature of the priesthood and rendered it impossible for Anglican orders ever to be recognized by Roman Catholics, a long-desired goal. It also strained much of the ecumenical dialogue that he had worked decades to cultivate. "I could almost literally weep at the anguish of hundreds of priests and thousands of lay people," he wrote, "as the contemplate the possibility of the future ordination of women priests and bishops being forced...As your Chief Pastor, I see the possibility of the sheer, tragic, unnecessary WASTE OF SOULS."
For this opposition, Sheridan has endured some criticism in more recent historiography, which has compared him unfavorably to Bishop John Pares Craine of Indianapolis, who was among the first to support women priests and was a strong advocate for civil rights. Jason Lantzer has observed in an article for Anglican and Episcopal History that opposition to women priests remained in the Diocese of Northern Indiana even after Sheridan's successor, Francis Gray, assented to the ordination of women in 1989. In the late 1970s, during Sheridan's episcopate, the Rev Jackie Means of the Diocese of Indianapolis, ordained by Bishop Craine, came to Gethsemane Church in Marion to preach at the invitation of the rector. Her sermon so distressed the congregation - as did the news of it upon reaching the diocese - that the congregation formally voted not to recognize women's ordination. However, in 1997, little more than a decade later, the parish called the Rev. Megan Traquair, who had a successful rectorate.
The diocese suffered economically for most of Sheridan's episcopate due to a national recession in 1973. Many parishes were in arrears in paying their diocesan assessments, and many could barely afford to keep their rectors and vicars. Sheridan recalled, It was a severe blow to the finances of the Diocese of Northern Indiana. One parish was once $6,000 in arrears of its assessment... That recession, of course, destroyed any plans for a capital funds drive in the diocese. Somehow we never defaulted on our fair share quota to the National Church, but often at the cost of trimming many diocesan projects." An Episcopal Church-wide initiative called Venture in Ministry (VIM) sought to raise funds across the national church for missionary use in parishes and dioceses. Each diocese formed a VIM committee to design a plan that best suited its needs.
Sheridan worked to establish a strong, caring pastoral presence, but he was not, by his own admission, an administrator. Instead, he relied on his Canon to the Ordinary, the Rev. Bradley McCormick, to assist with many tasks. That included editorship of the diocesan newspaper, The Beacon, which Sheridan regarded as an essential tool of communication. Some in the diocese considered the bishop somewhat comical and noted that he sometimes got lost in the liturgy of services he conducted. But Sheridan saw McCormick as invaluable and "made it possible to try to be a 'pastoral bishop.'"
Of the new prayerbook, which was introduced in several trial versions in the 1970s, Sheridan became an enthusiastic supporter. The trial liturgies allowed for the celebration of daily offices, encouraged weekly communion and greater congregational participation, all of which appealed to the High Church wing of the Episcopal Church. The roll-out came with much experimentation and varying degrees of success. At Trinity Fort Wayne, the new prayerbook with modern language was used at the 9 and 11 o'clock services, with Rite I reserved for 7:30. A small group continued to keep the 1928 prayerbook alive at special services on Saturdays. St. Paul's, La Porte, and Gethsemane, Marion, both resisted the new prayerbook and were reluctant to implement its use. At Trinity Michigan City, the new book was used at the main Mass, together with musical experimentation. Fr. Robert Center, its rector, also taught classes on the history of Eucharistic liturgy. In the end, the transition to the new prayerbook proved successful and varied celebrations of the Eucharist became commonplace.
As a deeply traditional Anglican for whom the symbols of faith were very important, Sheridan took a romanticized view of the episcopate. He enjoyed being photographed in his cope and miter, and he was frequently shown clutching his pectoral cross. Yet he was quick to point out that they were only symbols of the office and not the office itself. "A bishop is, or ought to be, a servant of Christ Jesus our Lord, a servant with many responsibilities to his Savior and King. He is called to that office. God have mercy on him if he has sought after the Episcopate - or even lusted after it. He is to 'share' that servanthood. The work share cannot be stressed too much. He is to share both in the happiness and the pain of the Diocesan family. A Father-in-God is to have a special love for priests and deacons in his care...in addition to the lay people. A Father-in-God must be quick to try and inspire others - in order that they will also carry the opportunities and burdens of the Holy Gospel and the Church into life itself as witnesses for our Blessed Lord. There is a saying: No bishop, no church; no church, no sacraments; no sacraments, no certain grace; no grace, no salvation."
Although Sheridan was born with a Baltimore accent, it morphed into something more mid-Atlantic or even English-sounding after becoming a bishop, which some regarded as an affectation but was actually a way for him to overcome a stuttering problem. Once, a woman at Trinity Fort Wayne stooped down to kiss his ring, and he exclaimed, "Oh, ma'lady!" in a way that generated smiles. He was at ease with both pastoral conversations and small talk. On another occasion, while processing in his cope and miter, Sheridan heard a little boy call out, "There goes the king!" He stopped and turned and said, "No, there goes the king's servant." The bishop also had a most welcome lighter side. He was known to State Police for speeding on U.S. 30 and was frequently given warnings but with a sense of humor. On another occasion, he was in a diner wearing his magenta shirt and a waitress came up and said, "How are you, robin red-breast?" He found the story funny and often told it with great relish. If he regarded the symbols of the episcopate a bit too seriously in some ways, his capacity for laughter and self-effacing humor won him many friends and was a marked contrast from his predecessors.
After his retirement in 1987, Sheridan threw his support to the Episcopal Synod, which worked to oppose women's ordination, even though it had become commonplace throughout the Church. His successor, Francis Campbell Gray, allowed women priests into the diocese in 1990 as he worked to bring Northern Indiana into the greater fold of the national Church. Even though he disagreed with Gray privately, he always publicly voiced his admiration and support. To priests who confided that they wanted to go over to Roman Catholicism, Sheridan consistently advised against it, stating that they had taken an oath to uphold the Church and should be bound by that vow. The Catholic Church, he said, had even greater problems than the Episcopal Church.
Near the end of his life, during the episcopate of the more evangelical Bishop Edward Little, Sheridan saw the Anglo-Catholic identity of the diocese morph into something new as the national Church changed all around him. Nashotah House would no longer wield its ideological influence on the diocese as it once did, and even it began to admit women into its ranks by this time. In June 2005, Sheridan participated in the ordination of the Rev. Susan Bunton Haynes at St. Thomas Plymouth and told Bishop Little, "Indiana has the best women priests." His views about women in the priesthood had softened. He had also told the historian Jason Lantzer in 1999 that the five women priests serving in the diocese at that time were "of superior quality." All had asked him to serve as supply priest, and several asked him to mentor them. He told the Rev. Megan Traquair that because of her long and faithful service at Gethsemane, Marion, she could now consider herself among the "Marian fathers." Within three months of his assisting with Susan Haynes's ordination, on 24 September 2005, Sheridan died at his home near Culver, a former country church he had converted into a residence. Near the end of his life he wrote, "God forgive me for all my failings and failures. God, also, be thanked for all His Grace and Mercy for those things which prospered!"
Even if some aspects of the style of churchmanship that Sheridan practiced had grown out of fashion, he remained a very spiritual priest, enjoyed being called "Father Sheridan," and was inspirational to many for his personal sense of piety and devotional life. As the last old-style Anglo-Catholic bishop, however, he found that his brand of conservatism, the one his predecessors had practiced, was fast disappearing from most quarters of the national Episcopal Church by the twenty-first century.
Jason Lantzer, "Hoosier Episcopalians, the Coming of Women's Ordination, and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer," Anglican and Episcopal History, volume 52 (June 2003): 229-254.
Jason Lantzer, "Tradition, Transition, Turmoil, and Triumph: Indianapolis Episcopalians Confront the 1960s and 1970s." Indiana University thesis, October 1999.
Interview with Bishop William C. R. Sheridan, Audio File, by the Rev. Robert Center, 1989
Interview with Bishop William C. R. Sheridan, 28 February 1998, by Ryan Taylor and John Beatty, Audio File, Part 1
Interview with Bishop William C. R. Sheridan, 28 February 1998, by Ryan Taylor and John Beatty, Audio File, Part 2
Ordination and Consecration of the Rev, William C. R. Sheridan ... 24 June 1972
Ordination and Consecration of the Rt. Rev. William C. R. Sheridan, Commemorative Booklet, 1972
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Edward Stuart Little II, Seventh Bishop
Edward Stuart Little, the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, held office at a time of intense changes in the national church. An outstanding preacher, he brought an evangelical zeal for the Gospel that ushered in a new leadership style for the diocese. As Linda Buskirk has written, Bishop Little personified "the lighthouse on the diocesan seal" and "delivered powerful messages that illuminate priorities for Christ centered living and ministry."
Little was born in New York City on 29 January 1947, the son of a nominally Episcopalian father and Jewish mother. He grew up agnostic and attended school in Manhattan and Norwalk, Connecticut. He received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California in 1968. He credits a college class on the Bible as literature as bringing about his conversion to Christianity and his joining the Episcopal Church. The same year of his graduation he married Sylvia Gardner at Palm Desert, California. They had two children: Gregory and Sharon.
After deciding to enter the Episcopal priesthood, Little received a Master of Divinity degree from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in 1971 and was ordained a deacon and priest that same year in the Diocese of Chicago. He served as a curate in two parishes: St. Matthew's Evanston and St. Michael's, Anaheim, California, before becoming vicar of St. Joseph's Episcopal Church in Buena Park, California. When that church achieved parish status, he became its first rector. Little became rector of All Saints Church in Bakersfield, California, in 1986, and from here he was elected bishop on the first ballot on 5 November 1999.
Little was consecrated bishop at a ceremony in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame on 30 April 2000, with Bishops Gray and Sheridan, his two predecessors, among the consecrators. His sixteen-year episcopate that followed might best be understood as defined by three distinct eras: The Mission and Evangelism era lasting from 2000 to 2003; the Reconciliation Era from 2003 to 2007, and the Congregational Development Era from 2007 to 2016.
The initial focus of Little's tenure was mission and evangelism. At the time of his seating as bishop, he articulated four core values for the diocese that he hoped would guide it during his episcopate:
1. A passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ
2. A heart for the lost.
3. A willingness to do whatever it takes.
4. A commitment to one another.
Taking a strongly evangelical and Jesus-centered view of ministry, one of his early actions was to hold a Rally for Mission and Evangelism at Goshen College in 2001 with Bishop Charles Jenkins of Louisiana as the keynote speaker. About 700 attended, and Little intended it as an inspirational kick-off for getting church-goers to invite others to church and help the diocese grow. Bishop Sheridan, the diocese's last tradition Anglo-Catholic bishop, also took part, even though the approaches of the two men to ministry differed significantly.
The second era, Reconciliation, began in 2003, when Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest living in a same-sex relationship, was elected and consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire with the General Convention's consent. The election had occurred against the backdrop at the national level of a church rent by internal divisions over issues of sexuality and same-sex marriage. Robinson's election caused a firestorm within some congregations of the diocese and at the national level, it prompted many conservative Anglicans to leave the Episcopal Church and form the Anglican Church in North America. The election of Katharine Jefferts-Schori as Presiding Bishop in 2006 prompted three dioceses, Quincy, Fort Worth, and San Joaquin, to leave the Episcopal Church. While Little opposed same-sex marriage and forbid them from occurring in the diocese, he remained within the Episcopal fold. As a compromise, he would eventually allow same-sex couples to marry outside the diocese and permit priests in the diocese to perform those rites. He reached out to liberals, even befriending Bishop Robinson, and agreed to provide pastoral care to some congregations who had opposed Robinson's election. Within the diocese, a number of parishes experienced losses as members left the church, but other parishes strongly affirmed gay rights and differed with the bishop's stand on same-sex marriages.
The third era of Little's episcopate, the Congregational Development era, began in 2007. Attendance trends in parishes throughout the diocese followed those of the national church as membership in many parishes decreased and in some, dwindled. Little sought to infuse them with new life through dynamic preaching and encouraging people to tell their own faith stories. He had inherited his first Canon to the Ordinary, David Seger, from his predecessor and acknowledged to Seger his appreciation for the continuity and knowledge he brought with his ministry. After Seger's retirement in 2007, Little called the Rev. SuzeAnne Silla as the new canon, blessing her extensive experience in congregational development with the Diocesan Congregational Development Institute (DCDI). The purpose of DCDI was to give clergy and laity across the diocese more confidence and skill in problem solving, visioning for the future, and conflict management. About 20 congregations took part, and it had the side-benefit of bringing leaders from different parishes together and fostering inter-parish relationships.
In 2013, Little articulated five imperatives for the diocese in using DCDI: Focus on Jesus; Think Biblically; Proclaim Good News; Feed people who are hungry; and Mentor young people. As the vision played out, some parishes began offering bilingual services while others sought new ways of meeting the needs of their communities.
One of the challenges faced by Little's episcopate was the dwindling membership of certain parishes and their inability to support a priest. Many priests were necessarily bi-vocational to support themselves, but the problem of clergy shortage became particularly acute in the Calumet area of the diocese, where some parishes were floundering and in danger of closing. A major success story was the Calumet Episcopal Ministry Partnership (CEMP), which first formed in 2010. Three congregations, St. Barnabas-in-the-Dunes, St. Paul's Munster, and St. Timothy's Griffith, came together in dialogue, and what emerged was a vision of one church in three locations, all sharing the same full-time priest. The program proved successful, and not only was a full-time priest, the Rev. Michael Dwyer, ordained in 2012 for the post, but three other part-time priests also signed on. In June 2015, St. Christopher's Crown Point joined the partnership, followed by two others, St. Stephen's Hobart and St. Augustine Gary, under Little's successor, Bishop Douglas Sparks.
Bishop Little announced his retirement effective 30 June 2016 and served as a consecrator of his successor. He and his wife Sylvia continued to live in Indiana and take up residence in Mishawaka. As his greatest overall goal, Little has said: "When I became bishop, I committed myself to helping the diocese become increasingly Christocentric; to helping every man, woman, and child in the diocese to speak openly of their relationship with Jesus; and to helping parishes to see the world beyond their doors as their mission field." The core values were the guiding principles of his tenure.
Source: Email message of Bishop Edward Little, August 2019.
Holy Eucharist and Ordination of Edward Stuart Little II ...18 March 2000
Pastoral Letter on Same Sex Marriage, 2012
Ceremony Honoring President Theodore Hesburgh of Notre Dame as Honorary Cathedral Canon, 2002