Edmond L. Browning, 1929-2016

Longtime friends and fellow Anglican primates Desmond Tutu and Edmond L. Browning visit in 2015 in Oregon • Dick Snyder

The Rt. Rev. Edmond L. Browning, the 24th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, died early Monday in Hood River, Oregon. He was 87.

In that office, he led the church in welcoming women in the episcopate and gays and lesbians to ordained ministry. “There will be no outcasts in this church,” Browning said in his first sermon as presiding bishop.

Browning, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, served as a missionary in Japan (1959-68) and was Bishop of Okinawa (1968-71), the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe (1971-74), and Hawaii (1976-85) until his election as presiding bishop in 1985.

Through a report released by the Office of Public Affairs, the three successors of Bishop Browning and the president of the House of Deputies praised his ministry:

  • The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, 27th Presiding Bishop — “The Episcopal Church is faithfully seeking to truly become ‘a house of prayer for all people,’ as Jesus said, quoting the Hebrew prophets, and that is greatly the case because Presiding Bishop Browning taught us that the church must be a place where there are no outcasts. That enduring legacy is still helping to set many a captive free. It is evidence that God is not finished with us yet, for every once in a while spiritual giants still walk among us as living reminders. And one of those reminders was Edmond Lee Browning, 24th presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church. Well done good and faithful servant. May you rest in peace and rise in glory.”
  • The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, 26th presiding bishop — “Edmond Browning brought vast experience to his role as Presiding Bishop, from his early ministry in Texas, to his labors as a missionary in Okinawa, his love of the ‘Ohana of Hawai‘i, and his pastoral care of the Convocation of Churches in Europe. His ministry was marked by care of the outsider and marginalized wherever he went. He stewarded the union of Okinawa with the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, he insisted there would be ‘no outcasts’ in the Episcopal Church, he drew Hawaiian and European congregations closer to their contexts, and he maintained a passionate care for the plight of Christians in the Land of the Holy One. He gave his all, and it cost him dearly. We can only echo what he is hearing now: Well done, good and faithful servant. You have loved all those entrusted to your care with a passion like that of Jesus. Rest from your labors in the arms of the One who loves you beyond imagining.”
  • The Rt. Rev. Frank Griswold, 25th presiding bishop — “Bishop Browning was very much ‘My Presiding Bishop.’ I was ordained a bishop the same year he was elected presiding bishop. During the 12 years that followed, I had the opportunity to work closely with him, particularly as a member of the committee that planned the twice-a-year meetings of the House of Bishops. What particularly struck me in all aspects of his ministry was his trusting and compassionate heart open to all. For him, the mission of the church was to uphold the dignity and worth of each person within the reconciling embrace of God’s inexhaustible love. He did so not without great personal cost. As his successor, on visits to Okinawa and Hawaii where he had served as bishop, I was struck by the enduring affection and gratitude that so many lay people and clergy expressed for the ministry and friendship of Bishop and Patti Browning. In a very real sense he was still their bishop.”
  • The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies — “Bishop Browning appointed me to my first churchwide position when I was untested and unknown. He gave me a chance to lead, and I will be forever grateful for the trust and confidence he placed in me. Everything about my churchwide ministry and the gospel witness of our church for the past three decades has been shaped by Ed Browning’s proclamation that ‘there will be no outcasts.’ We all owe him an enormous debt. Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Browning was a graduate of the University of the South and its School of Theology. He was ordained a deacon in 1954 and a priest in 1955.

Bishop Browning is survived by Patricia, his wife of 63 years; a daughter, Paige; sons Mark, Philip, Peter, and John; and multiple grandchildren.

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