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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
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Grace Episcopal Church, Fort Wayne (formerly St. Philip and St. James Episcopal Church)
St. Philip and St. James began as a mission of Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Wayne, in 1969. The Rev. George B. Wood, rector of Trinity Church in downtown Fort Wayne, joined a group of vestry in seeking a mission in the southern side of the city. In 1966, Nellie B. Wood Hillsmier donated seven acres at the corner of Tillman and Hessen Cassel roads with the stipulation that the church be named for her late husband, James J. Wood, a prominent local inventor for General Electric. She had also stipulated that if a church was not constructed within a proscribed period of time, the land would revert to her and she would sell it to another developer. Father Wood negotiated an agreement that the church be named St. Philip and St. James, incorporating the names of two of her husbands. "She was a character," Wood later recalled, "sharp as a tack, rough as a cob, and I treated her the same way."
The Rev. Geoffrey Ashworth, was hired to be its first vicar and began holding services for 35 families in a barn on the property and later in a gymnasium at Village Woods Elementary School. The congregation searched for money to fund the building. Early architectural plans proved too expensive for the parish, but two parishioners, Tony Bada and Don Stinson, devised a plan to construct a utility building at a cost of about $63,000 in 1970. Wood called them a "godsend." The first service was held on November 1, 1970, at which time the church was officially incorporated.
After a series of vicars that included George Davis, William Gibson, and Ronald Poston, the church became an independent parish in 1988, receiving parish status at the diocesan convention. The Rev. Robert Fitzpatrick became rector in 1990, and three years later the vestry made the decision to sell the Tillman property and make plans for a new building in Aboite Township. Several years followed with the congregation meeting in local schools. In 1996 the congregation decided to change the parish name to Grace Episcopal Church in order to reflect the low liturgical style of services the parish had adapted. Local architect John Shoaff devised plans in 1998 for a traditionally-styled frame church at a location at 10010 Aurora Place, located on a hill off Liberty Mills Road. Funding challenges continued, and a church with an adapted design opened and was dedicated on 10 September 1999 by Bishop Edward Jones of Indianapolis. Fitzpatrick left the parish to become Bishop of Hawaii in 2000.
After Fitzpatrick left and a year of interim ministry by the Rev. Theron Lansford, the parish called the Rev. Isaac Ihiasota, but the congregation became divided over his leadership style, and he left in April 2003. From 2003 to 2007, Grace was led under the interim pastorate of the Rev. Barbara Schmitz. In September 2008, the parish called the Rev. Kathy Thomas, who was installed in November. She remained rector until her retirement at the end of 2017. Thomas P. Hansen, the recently-retired rector of Trinity Fort Wayne, became its supply priest as the congregation began a search for a new rector. Plans were made in 2019 for a shared position with St. Alban's.
Geoffrey Ward Ashworth, 1969-1972
George Miller Davis, 1972-1973
John Wesley Inman Jr., 1973-1974
William Gibson, 1974-1986
Ronald G. Poston, 1987-1989
Robert Fitzpatrick, 1990-2000
Theron Lansford (interim supply), 2000-2001
Isaac Ihiasota, 2001-2003
Barbara G. Schmitz, 2003-2007
Kathryn Pauline Thomas, 2008-2017
Thomas Parker Hansen (interim supply), 2017-
Phyllis Markoetter, Grace Episcopal Church: A People's Story of Faith. Fort Wayne: Grace Episcopal Church, 2002.
Kathy Thomas, "Top 30 Events in the 20 Years of Grace Episcopal Church 'on the Hill.'" Information sheet.
Interview with Rev. George B. Wood, 1989, on Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Wayne, and the Founding of St Philip and St. James