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St. John of the Cross Episcopal Church, Bristol, Indiana
St. John of the Cross Episcopal Church was founded in 1843 and originally called "St. John's." Its name was changed in the 1960s because there was another St. John's in Elkhart County, and Bishop Klein felt that the two similar names were confusing. St. John's is the only parish in the diocese founded almost entirely through the efforts of a lay woman, Ann Jennette (Burnham) Judson. Such a role for a woman was an unusual occurrence in the 1840s.
Ann Jennette Burnham was born in Auburn, New York, on 29 April 1807, the daughter of Captain John Burnham and wife Barbara (McCarty). Her father had been an officer in the Continental Army who was imprisoned by the British during the war and later became a sea captain. Jennette married Samuel Parsons Judson, a widower, in Batavia on 28 July 1833. Samuel Judson became interested in purchasing land in the West, and in 1834 settled with his wife in Elkhart County, where he laid out the town of Bristol. The couple was active on the Underground Railroad, helping fugitive slaves escape to Michigan. In 1847, a group of slave catchers from Kentucky broke down the front door of their home and seized a fugitive named Thomas Harris. When the Judsons confronted them, they were threatened with guns. The Judsons brought charges, and the men were imprisoned while Harris was freed and made a successful escape. In 1849, Samuel formed the Bristol California Mining and Trading Association and launched an expedition to the gold fields of California, dying en route near Fort Laramie of cholera.
During these years Mrs. Judson was determined to establish an Episcopal Church in Bristol, the first of its kind of any denomination in the town. The congregation was organized on 25 April 1843, and land was purchased under the names of her husband, along with Thomas Wheeler, Henry H. Fowler, and Edward A. Lansing as trustees. Plans were drawn up for a church, and Bishop Jackson Kemper arrived to lay the cornerstone on 29 December 1843. The Rev. Richard S. Adams, missionary at Mishawaka, conducted services every third Sunday beginning in July 1843, but he left in April 1846 and was succeeded by another missionary, the Rev. Benjamin Halsted, formerly of Fort Wayne.
Between 1845 and 1851, members of the congregation constructed the small wood-frame church slowly at what is now 601 East Vistula Street. Construction funds were surprisingly tight, and it took great effort to complete it. Mrs. Judson began reaching out for support and enlisted Bishop Kemper for help. After informing him of the planned organization of the parish in 1843, Kemper replied, "I rejoice at your perseverance and pray that it never flag. The divine Head of the Church, in His own good time, will help those efforts which are put forth to the glory of His Holy name."
Kemper wrote a letter of introduction for the fund raising effort in December 1843, and Albert Royce, a vestryman, managed to raise just $12.25. Undeterred, Mrs. Judson made a personal visit East the following year to meet with friends and solicit additional funds, but the building was still not finished in May 1848, when Kemper managed to conduct a service within its open frame. Mrs. Judson embarked on a second trip, and the bishop wrote her another letter of introduction: "The zeal of this lady for the House of God, and her anxiety to receive for her children and neighbors the sacred privileges of the Sanctuary, deserves the approbation and encouragement of all the well wishers of our beloved Zion." Bishop Samuel McCoskry of Michigan also wrote a letter, saying: "I know of no place in which the Church has greater claims upon Churchmen than at Bristol. There is no place of worship of any kind in it, and the possibility is that if Mrs. Judson is successful in her mission, the larger part of the population will be brought into the Church."
Mrs. Judson wrote later that she visited Buffalo and New York City, as well as other intermediate cities and towns. An unidentified priest, writing in the parish register, noted of Mrs. Judson's efforts: "It was new work to her experience, but, as results will show, not beyond her large and generous capacities. It was a work, too, brought with many disappointments and annoyances and must prove especially so to one of her refined sensibilities; all these things she was willing to endure for His sake, for whose honor and glory she was chiefly anxious to have a temple erected." In 1850, after a third trip east, she brought back $2,222, enough to finish the building and purchase a bell for $180.
Bishop George Upfold consecrated the building on 8 May 1851. The wood-frame building resembled a New England church, with painted wood sides and a simple steeple. St. John's first permanent rector, the Rev. Homer Wheeler, had arrived two years earlier in 1849, and since he had a family, he had insisted that the vestry provide him a parsonage near the church, where a cemetery (or "churchyard") was also located. Land was purchased and eventually a Greek Revival house was erected. Mrs. Judson left town about 1855 and lived for many years in New York. She returned in 1875 to see the church one last time and died a decade later in Chicago in the home of her daughter.
After the vestry bought and sold two different lots for the rectory, they constructed a more permanent building about 1875 during the rectorate of the Rev. Wellington Forgus. A series of rectors, all of relatively short duration, served the parish in the ensuing years until the arrival of the Rev. Henry Streeter and his family in 1907. He had formerly served at Gas City but left because of his growing deafness. He remained at his post as a resident priest for 10 years, and his hearing problems did not hamper his ministry. His family would remain members of the parish. During the 1950s, the Rev. Bruce Mosier served as a part-time priest, moving back and forth between St. James Goshen (where he served as its full-time rector) and Bristol. Mosier was a native of Bristol and had grown up as a member of St. John's.
The Rev. Donald D. Dunn arrived in 1966 and remained five years. An English professor, he taught at Ball State University during the week and conducted services on Sundays. During his successful rectorate, the parish expanded its classroom buildings, the money for which was given as a memorial to the Rev. Henry Streeter. The addition allowed room for a Sunday school that attracted many new families, including some from the Elkhart area. In 1980, during the rectorate of the Rev. John Henry Morgan, a resident priest, the parish was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and received a visit from Bishop Tinsley of Bristol, England.
In 1994, during the rectorate of the Rev. Shelby Scott, the church was renovated and enlarged, changing it in some respects from its original appearance but making it more accommodating for modern liturgy. Scott also led the parish on a mission trip to Honduras, prior to the renovation, where they built a church for a local congregation. In more recent times the parish has been served by two women, the Rev. Carol Fleming and the Rev. Jennifer Coe Fulton.
Richard Samuel Adams, 1843-1846
Benjamin Halsted, 1846-1848
Homer Wheeler, 1849-1853
Albert Bingham, 1855
Almon Gregory, 1858
William Henry Stoy, 1858-1859
Henry M. Thompson, 1859-1862
Joseph Adderly, 1863-1866
Henry M. Thompson, 1867-1871
Wellington Forgus, 1871-1876
Moses Clement Stanley, 1877-1881
Sherwood Rosevelt, 1881-1885
Joseph Gorton Miller, 1885-1888
Franklin White Adams, 1889
Charles Turner, 1889-1892
Sherwood Rosevelt, 1892
Walter Scott, 1894-1900
Addison Alvord Ewing, 1900-1901
Clarence Estelle Brandt, 1901-1907
Henry Stephen Streeter, 1907-1917
Elton Hoyt (deacon), 1919-1920
Edwin Ellsworth Smith, 1920-1921
Walter Jay Lockton, 1921-1933
Lawrence Cecil Ferguson, 1935-1937
Virgil Pierce Stewart, 1937-1939
Harvey Livermore Woolverton, 1939-1941
Dom Leo Kenneth Douglas Patterson, 1941-1945
John Peterson, 1945
Bruce Bickel Mosier, 1945-1948
Charles Ray Boswell, 1950-1951
Bruce Bickel Mosier, 1953-1965
Donald Duane Dunn, 1966-1971
Robert Manning Maxwell, 1971-1973
Hugh Steiner Hostetler (assistant) 1972-1973
Paul Menzies Ross, 1973-1976
William Evans Martin, 1976-1978
Richard Joseph Brown, 1978-1979
John Henry Morgan, 1979-1990
Shelby Hudson Scott, 1990-1996
Timothy Merle Ljunggren, 1997-2004
Richard Wineland, 2005-2010
Carol Fleming, 2011-2014
Jennifer Coe Fulton, 2014-
Ron Kaser, St. John's, Bristol: A Parish History. Bristol, Indiana: Bristol Banner Books, 1989.
Papers and Letters Concerning the Founding of St. John of the Cross Episcopal Church (formerly St. John's Episcopal Church), Bristol, Indiana, 1842-1855, Consisting Chiefly of the Papers of Mrs. Ann Jennette (Burnham) Judson (1807-1885). Fort Wayne: Allen County Public Library, undated.
Parish Register (History Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages, Burials), 1843-1966
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Francis Campbell Gray, Sixth Bishop
Francis Campbell Gray, Jr., the sixth bishop of the diocese, was the grandson of the second bishop, Campbell Gray. He was born in a Japanese prison camp in Manilla, the Philippines, to missionary parents, the Rev. Francis Campbell Gray and wife Jane. Growing up in the Midwest, he spent his teen years in Florida, graduating from Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, and serving a three-year stint in the U.S. Marine Corps. He attended Nashotah House in Wisconsin, where he received his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1969. Ten years later he also received his Master's degree from there. Gray was ordained a deacon by Bishop Henry Louttit on 20 June 1969, and a priest by Bishop William Hargrave on 20 December 1969. On 19 February 1965, he had married Karen Brumbaugh of Orlando, and the couple had three children, Katherine, Elizabeth, and Timothy.
After becoming a priest, Gray served several parishes in Florida, including assistant at St. Wilfred's in Sarasota from 1969 to 1970; chaplain of Manatee Junior College in Bradenton from 1970 to 1974; rector of St. John's Church, Melbourne, from 1974 to 1979; and rector of Emmanuel Church, Orlando, from 1979 to 1986. He was elected Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of Northern Indiana on the fourteenth ballot on 10 May 1986. The choice of more progressive delegates, Gray had signaled his willingness to accept women priests. The Rev. Richard Martin of Washington, D.C., the choice of conservatives, had said emphatically that he would never ordain a woman. The proceedings seemed deadlocked, and for a time a group of clergy came to the Rev. Corydon Randall of Trinity, Fort Wayne, as a potential compromise candidate, but he declined the offer without having the laity's clear support. Gray's victory by the progressives was a transformative moment in the history of the diocese and showed that the majority of the laity supported at least the prospect of change in Northern Indiana's liturgical and theological outlook.
Gray was consecrated in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame on 31 October 1986, with the Presiding Bishop, Edmund Browning, as chief consecrator. Browning's presence marked the first time a presiding bishop had ever consecrated a bishop in the diocese, and it opened a period of greater interest and cooperation with the national church in which Northern Indiana emerged from decades of isolation. When Bishop Sheridan retired on 10 January 1987, Gray officially became the new diocesan. He wrote in the diocesan newspaper, "As I approach consecration, I am consciously and constantly aware that the Bishop is to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church. The gathering of the assembled Bishops, Clergy, and Lay People are visible signs to me that this responsibility is never to be carried out alone. I thank God for calling me to this ministry."
From the inception of his episcopate Gray sought to kindle a new sense of piety throughout the diocese. He suggested that vestries open their meetings with short Bible study and prayer. He also urged vestries and rectors to have clean slates, analyzing strengths, defining expectations, and developing strong pastoral relationships. To that end, when vacancies occurred, he sought to improve the way vestries called priests to their parishes and how they were nourished once there. He insisted that parishes undertake a formal search process in preparation for calling a new rector, and he believed strongly in the use of interim rectors. Congregations should have search committees that carefully studied their members and prepare written profiles as part of a formal rector search. Once a new rector was installed, the bishop insisted that he or she be given opportunities for education and sabbatical for their continuing spiritual nourishment. Vestries and rectors should also take regular spiritual retreats together.
Evangelism and stewardship remained perennial issues and became the centerpieces of Gray's early ministry. The diocese had suffered a loss of 50 percent of its membership over the previous 22 years from when Gray was consecrated. Part of that decline had fallen on the Baby Boom generation that had grown up in the church in the 1950s and 1960s, but who had not sought to retain that affiliation after reaching adulthood. As the national church declared the so-called Decade of Evangelism in 1990, Gray asked the diocese some pointed questions directed at the appeal of the Episcopal Church. "Is our faith the kind that attracts converts? Is the vitality of belief and practice what makes undecided people want to identify with us? Are we stewards of the mysteries of Christ, or are we custodians of buildings and guardians of the status quo?"
With the decline in membership, stewardship had also fallen off, and many parishes continued to suffer shortages of both money and talent. "Evangelism," he wrote, "is the response of stewardship toward the world in which we live... [Both] are inextricably tied together ...Unless we are stewards of grace, who live and exhibit the Christian life ... we have nothing to evangelize. When we show forth Christian community, our lives become evangelistic by their very essence."
To help counter the decline, the new bishop instituted a series of preaching and teaching evenings in parishes across the diocese to help renew energy and spirit. He attracted a number of new, younger clergy to the diocese to join in the building up of parishes, Dabney Smith and Shelby Scott among them. He also brought to life diocesan youth camp programs, was often personally present at the camps, and hired Brian Grantz, a full-time diocesan ministries youth coordinator. Grantz would go on to become an ordained priest. In addition, the bishop established summer service projects in urban areas of the diocese.
During Gray's episcopate, three capital campaigns were launched. The Wawasee Episcopal Center Fund raised money to rebuild the lakeside conference and retreat center at Lake Wawasee in Kosciusko County. The All Saints Syracuse Fund led to the replacement of the original chapel at the lake built by Bishop White. The third, the Forward in Faith campaign, raised money for diocesan missions and for the diocesan endowment. Three new missions were begun in 1994: Church of the Resurrection in Wabash, Christ Church in South Bend, and St. Mary's Fellowship in Monticello. Ultimately, all three would fail, but Christ Church's membership was folded into St. Paul's in Mishawaka. The experience of mission-planting enriched the diocese and gave its leadership many insights into the challenges of missionary growth.
Gray also took a strong interest in the world mission of the church. In the early 1960s, the diocese under Bishop Klein had entered into a companion relationship with the Diocese of Costa Rica. Under Bishop Sheridan, that relationship ended and another begun with the Diocese of Enugu in Nigeria. Gray breathed new life into that relationship. Several articles in the diocesan newspaper, The Beacon, featured the missionary activities in Enugu and its continuing needs, and Gray and his wife Karen later made a visit there. Later in 1998, the diocese would enter into another companion relationship with the Diocese of Honduras and invited its bishop, Leo Frade, to address a diocesan convention. Several parishes became actively involved with missionary work there. St. John of the Cross in Bristol sent a team with building materials to construct a waterfront church in a ghetto community. Other congregations contributed to two schools, Nuestra Pequenas Rosas for girls and El Hogar for boys. A delegation from St. Thomas, Plymouth, visited Honduras for the dedication of two churches. In September 1998, after Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras and devastated many of its churches, Gray and a group of concerned parishioners organized a massive relief project with medical supplies, food, clothing, and building materials.
At home, Northern Indiana remained deeply divided over the ordination of women, exacerbated by years of sustained opposition from Bishop Sheridan. Many of the old Anglo-Catholic guard agreed with the ban in the diocese, but an increasing number of younger members, mostly from the Baby Boom generation, began quietly advocating for change. In 1989, Gray had opposed the consecration of Barbara Harris as Bishop of Massachusetts, but he did so not because of her gender but because she lacked the necessary education and training. Even so, the new bishop was determined to bring Northern Indiana into the fold of the national church by embracing the priesthood of women, though he did so quietly without much fanfare.
On 27 July 1989, Gray sent a letter to all priests, deacons, and senior wardens. In it, he said that his original mandate to only ordain a woman who was raised up in the diocese would place too great a burden on her. Several vestries had wanted to call a woman, but he had denied their requests in violation of their rights under canon law. He added: "My own thinking on this matter has changed. When I was elected, I knew only one woman priest. I was willing to follow the canons, but I was not overly enthusiastic about women priests. Since that time I have met several women who are very effective priests. I have spoken with numerous bishops who attest to the vitality of ministry in areas where both men and women serve as priests. After thirteen years, I think it is time for our own diocese to be brought into conformity with our national canon law." While conceding that his decision would bring pain to some people and joy to others, he hoped that "Christian charity will continue to prevail in our diocese as this change takes place." He would not push candidates of either gender onto vestries, but the goal of the deployment process was to bring the best priests for each congregation.
The first female deacon to serve a parish in the diocese was the Rev. Sarah Tracy, who had held the post when Sheridan was still bishop. Sheridan had made a distinction between women in the priesthood versus those in the diaconate, having no problem with women in the latter. Tracy had come to the diocese from Idaho in the spring of 1985 to work at the Cathedral and at St. Peter's, Rensselaer. Though she had received an anonymous death threat, she was formally installed deacon in August 1986, just as Gray was about to be consecrated. As the new diocesan archdeacon, she became the prime mover for the establishment of St. Margaret's House, a daytime shelter for women that opened in a building adjoining the Cathedral in June 1990.
Gray ordained two other women to the perpetual diaconate soon after his consecration: Gloria Taylor at St. Paul's, Munster, on 12 June 1989, and Mary Finster at St. Andrew's, Kokomo, on 8 May 1990. The perpetual diaconate did not entail eventual ordination to the priesthood. It was a stand-alone, non-stipendiary ministry of pastoral care that those ordained to this office could offer a larger parish as a means of assisting the rector. Gray encouraged this ministry but would not allow deacons to celebrate a Deacon's Mass with pre-consecrated host. He also remained cautious initially in support of women priests, stating that he would accept one if she were raised up in the diocese.
After sending out a letter announcing his intention to accept the ministry of ordained women priests, Gray received from the Diocese of Western Michigan the Rev. Teunisje "Tina" Velthuizen, on 12 September 1991. Her approval came after the bishop had modified his initial position of only approving a woman priest if she rose up from a congregation in the diocese. The parishioners of Holy Trinity, South Bend, had specifically petitioned the bishop to approve Velthuizen, and she proved herself a trail-blazer, enjoying the warm backing of her parish. The following year Gray ordained to the priesthood the Rev. Susan Jo Blubaugh at St. Peter's Rensselaer on 8 July 1992. More ordinations followed on 9 October 1991 at the Cathedral of St. James, when Gray ordained to the perpetual diaconate Roberta Ring and Leslie Richardson, both of Fort Wayne. In February 1992, the Rev. Robin Thomas arrived from Maine to serve as curate of Trinity, Fort Wayne.
In all, the diocese weathered these changes well. Consternation and hurt feelings existed in some parishes, and a few members left over the changes. The Episcopal Synod of America, a conservative organization opposed to women priests, made some inroads, mostly among older Anglo-Catholic parishioners, but the movement would sputter out by the late 1990s. In some parishes, more traditional-minded laity refused to receive communion from women or even stand for the Gospel when read by a woman, but these protests were remote and widely scattered. Priests who had opposed women's ordination, such as the Rev. Richard Alford of La Porte, quietly left the diocese. A greater loss occurred when the congregation of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Peru, rent by internal divisions, seceded from the diocese in 1990 and joined the Anglican Church of America, a new Anglican province created to preserve the 1928 prayerbook and oppose the ordination of women.
While many in the diocese regarded him as a progressive (when compared with Sheridan), Bishop Gray saw himself as a conservative on many issues of the time, especially on matters of sexuality. When Bishop John Shelby Spong of Newark ordained a gay priest who subsequently announced that monogamy was only an option, Gray wrote a public letter that was critical of the ordination. The New York Times quoted Gray as saying, "Jack, I am angry, not just for what you have done, but for the manner in which you have proceeded. One wonders where is Christ in all of this? How is the Gospel proclaimed?" In later years his position became more moderate and accepting of homosexuality.
Bishop Gray had a close circle of eight other priests in the diocese with whom he shared a weekly lunch. The group included the dean of the cathedral, Fred Mann, as well as Michael Basden, Derek Harbin, Stephen Gerth, Shelby Scott, Martin Lavengood, and several others. They became his close friends and supporters, though other priests were noticeably left out of the group and felt they could never be part of the bishop's close personal network. Unlike the Mallett episcopate, however, there was always cordiality among the bishop and his priests.
After eleven years of being diocesan bishop, Gray decided to take a new assignment. He accepted a call to become the Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia in 1998, assuming his new duties on 1 January 1999. At the time he was touted in Virginia as having wide experience in the world mission of the church. He retired in 2005 and became Commissary to the Episcopal Church in Sudan. He returned to South Bend with his wife Karen and has spent his retirement there, supporting both Bishop Little and Bishop Sparks.
Gray's episcopate is best remembered for "tremendous enthusiasm and initiative." His episcopate saw a profound philosophical turn in the early 1990s that rejected both far-left liberalism and far-right conservatism but embraced the more moderate, mainstream theology of the national Church. Said a promotional brochure of the late 1990s, "the diocese was becoming aware of its mission, both catholic and evangelical." Quite consciously Gray moved the diocese away from the extreme Anglo-Catholicism that had isolated it for much of its history. The old generation was passing away and a new generation of younger priests and laity, more liturgically diversified and either moderate- or liberal-minded, joined the bishop in changing the diocese from within. Many believe that in doing so, the bishop, clergy, and laity, working together, saved Northern Indiana for the Episcopal Church.
Consecration of Bishop Francis Campbell Gray, 31 October 1986, Part 1
Consecration of Bishop Francis Campbell Gray, 31 October 1986, Part 2
Consecration of Bishop Francis Campbell Gray, 31 October 1986, Part 3
Consecration of Bishop Francis Campbell Gray, 31 October 1986, Part 4
Order of Service for the Ordination and Consecration of the Rev. Francis Campbell Gray ... 31 October 1986
Interview with Bishop Francis C. Gray by Rev. Robert C. Center, 28 January 1988
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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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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