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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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St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church, Culver
The history of St. Elizabeth's began in 1987 when Virginia Fisher discovered that the Rev. Lloyd Holifeld, a counselor at the Pathfinder House in Culver, was conducting Episcopal services in Peru, Indiana. Bishop Francis Gray was trying to establish an Episcopal Church in each county seat in the Diocese of Northern Indiana. With the closing of the church in Peru, and St. Thomas in Plymouth representing Marshall County, Rochester was chosen as the site of a new mission in 1987. It was called St. Mary's with Holifeld as the vicar, but it did not prove to be successful. The majority of the attending families drove to Rochester from Culver for a mid-day service. Fisher and others from Culver appealed to Bishop Gray to transfer the mission to Culver. After prayerful consideration, the bishop consented to the move so long as the mission could be financially self-sufficient.
Since Culver had a Roman Catholic church named St. Mary’s, it was decided to call the new Culver Episcopal church St. Elizabeth’s. On November 7, 1990, at 9 AM, St. Elizabeth’s held its first service in the east end of the Bick’s Flicks building at 820 Academy Road. In January 1991, St. Elizabeth became an official mission of the Diocese of Northern Indiana. It received financial help from other congregations in the diocese: St. Christopher, Carmel; St. Philip and St. James, Fort Wayne; St. Alban’s, Fort Wayne; St. Andrew's, Kokomo, St. Anne’s, Warsaw, and St. Augustine, Gary. All made contributions of the altar, vestments, chalices, torches, thurible, boat, bells, and a processional cross to help establish the new mission.
The worship space was small, but the mission had a local home and its congregation was happy. After several years St. Elizabeth's had the opportunity to move to the west end of the building that would provide a great deal more space – 4 rooms plus and entrance hall. Father Holifeld continued to take care of the little church family until his sudden death in August 2000. The congregation continued to meet, conducting a Morning Prayer service with an occasional supply priest. In October 2001, retired Bishop William C. R. Sheridan, began making monthly visits to conduct services at St. Elizabeth’s. In May 2002, he was named priest-in-charge with twice monthly communion services.This arrangement continued until his death in September 2005. Again, the church held Morning Prayer services with the occasional supply priest until June 2006, when Deacon Margaret Shaw took charge. During the summer of 2006, the building that had been home to St. Elizabeth’s for sixteen years was sold. With generous help, St. Elizabeth’s purchased a home at 515 State Street, not far from its previous address. The last service at 820 Academy Road was held October 29, 2006. The first service at 515 State St. was held November 5, 2006.
In January 2007, Shaw was ordained to the ministry and became priest-in-charge. Her first service at St. Elizabeth’s as a priest occurred on January 14, 2007. In May 2009, she and her husband, Terry, moved to Essex, New York, to take charge of St. John’s Parish, where she would begin as a full-time priest. On Sunday, May 31, 2009, St. Elizabeth’s welcomed the Rev. Tom Haynes as pastoral leader and minister for the congregation. He was followed by the Rev. Thomas Kincaid and the Rev. Clark Miller. St. Elizabeth continues to be self-supporting, has outreach programs, supports mission work, and conducts Wednesday Bible study. The Brotherhood of St. Andrew of the Episcopal Church is also an active group of men.
Lloyd Holifield, 1987-2000
William C. R. Sheridan, 2001-2005
Margaret Shaw, 2006-2009
Thomas Erskine Haynes, 2009-2013
S. Thomas Kincaid, 2013-2015
Clark S. Miller, 2013-
Adapted from St. Elizabeth's website: http://steculver.org/history.html