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Douglas Everett Sparks, Eighth Bishop
Bishop Douglas Everett Sparks, the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, is the current incumbent. Born on 8 January 1956, he studied Philosophy at St. Mary's Seminary College, graduating with a Bachelor's degree in 1980. Subsequently, he received a Master's degree from De Andreis Institute of Theology in 1984. Ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church in 1984, he served parishes in Missouri, Colorado, and Illinois. In 1989 he was received as a priest into the Episcopal Church, serving as rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Whitewater, Wisconsin, from 1990 to 1995. He also married Dana Wirth and had three children: Christina, Graham, and Gavin.
Sparks later served at St. Matthias Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin, then went to New Zealand to become Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in Wellington. On returning to the United States, he became rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Rochester, Minnesota. From here he was elected bishop on 6 February 2016. He was consecrated at Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, on 25 June 2016 by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
Bishop Sparks has adopted a five-point plan of mission that will guide his episcopate:
1. Tell the Good News of the Kingdom.
2. Teach, Baptize, and Nurture new believers.
3. Tend to human need with loving service.
4. Transform unjust structures of society.
5. Treasure God's Creation and renew the Earth.
Bishop Sparks has reversed previous diocesan policy and approved same-sex marriages being performed in the diocese with the consent of individual parishes. He was personally present for the wedding of South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg to Chasten Glezman on 16 June 2018 in a ceremony at the Cathedral of St. James in South Bend. He has also formed a strong pastoral partnership with Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of the Diocese of Indianapolis, marching for social justice issues, against gun violence, and in favor of greater acceptance of all marginalized groups in the Church. He is an "activist bishop" and comfortable in that role, but he is always careful to ground that advocacy in his faith.
On a national level, the Episcopal Church began an initiative under Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to become a "Beloved Community" to promote racial reconciliation. Part of that process involved studying and apologizing for sins committed against minority groups throughout its history. During his sabbatical in 2022, Bishop Sparks walked the Potawatomi Trail of Death, traveling on foot from Plymouth, Indiana, to Kansas. He left an account of his pilgrimage. It symbolized the work of the Diocese of Northern Indiana to account for acts of racism in its past.
Episcopal News Service:
Consecration of Bishop Douglas Sparks, 25 June 2016, Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne
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St. George Episcopal Church, Berne
St, George Episcopal Church in Berne, Adams County, began as a mission of Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Wayne, in 1982. Earlier, an unorganized mission in Bluffton, Wells County, had attracted as many as 50 people, but after the closing of the Corning plant, the number dropped to just six. Fr. Cory Randall of Trinity made the decision to explore a different venue. The first service in Berne was held at the First Bank of Berne on February 5, 1982, when five people responded to a newspaper advertisement. These early services, held initially only monthly, were later moved to Cross United Church of Christ in November 1982 and were led by Dr. Larry Smith, a veterinarian who at the time was reading for holy orders under Bishop William Sheridan. In June 1983, with the help of Trinity, the Cross United wood-framed church was purchased at auction. The first Eucharist was held in August in a grove of trees by the Rev. Paul W. Smith of Trinity. The Rev. Richard Leggett, a doctoral student at the University of Notre Dame, also assisted with services that summer. In September, Bishop Sheridan formally dedicated the church. Parishioners came from a fifteen-mile radius, including Portland, Decatur, Bluffton, and Celina, Ohio. Missionary oversight of the church was later transferred to Gethsemane Episcopal Church, Marion.
In June 1992, the congregation constructed a new building at 1195 Hendricks Street in Berne. Since that time, the congregation has worshiped in this larger facility. Father Smith retired as vicar in 2018.
Larry Smith, 1983-2018
Daniel Layden, 2019-