The Diocese of South Dakota elected the Rev. Jonathan H. Folts as its 11th bishop at its special election convention in Pierre on Saturday.

One of four nominees, Folts was elected on the fourth ballot. Folts, the rector of St. Johns Episcopal Church in Essex, Conn., received 40 votes in the clergy order and 103 votes in the lay order. Thirty-eight clergy votes and 96 lay votes were necessary for election on that ballot.

Folts earned his MDiv and his DMin (in missional church development) at Virginia Theological Seminary. He is married to the Rev. Kimberly Folts; they have three children.

Thank you for your perseverance, thank you for your trust, thank you for being so open to the Holy Spirit,” Folts said in addressing the convention via telephone. “Thank you for your generous invitation to serve Christ with you. I am deeply honored, deeply humbled, deeply grateful — and very, very excited for what lies ahead of us!

By the grace of God our Creator, steadfastly following in the footsteps of our Savior Jesus Christ, trusting in the full power of the Holy Spirit, and with the help of all the good people of the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota it is with a humble heart that I accept your invitation to serve and lead as your next bishop,” Folts said in his statement after accepting the election. “I pray and firmly believe that God will equip us all with all things necessary to do His will in this beautiful part of Gods kingdom.

A questionnaire prepared during the diocesan search process asked, “Based on our diocesan profile and your knowledge, what excites you the most and what do you see as your greatest challenge?”

Folts answered:

What excites me most about the Diocese of South Dakota is the value that you place upon your relationships with God and with each other. Bishop Tarrant, in his Living Church article [“Hope on the Ground”], heralded this trait; in conversations with South Dakota friends, this trait is paramount; and its importance resonates strongly throughout your diocesan profile. Indeed, relationships enjoyed in South Dakota come across as being the “glue” through which the Holy Spirit is effectively connecting your diocese together in an environment that appears to be both challenging and invigorating.

The other nominees were:

  • The Rev. John Floberg, rector of St. Luke’s, St. James’ and Church of the Cross on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation;
  • The Rev. Mark Story, rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Edmond, Okla.;
  • The Rev. Robert Two Bulls Jr., missioner of the Department of Indian Work and Multicultural Ministry for the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, and vicar of All Saints Indian Mission, Minneapolis.

Pending consent of a majority of the church’s bishops with jurisdiction and the diocesan standing committees, Folts will be consecrated on Nov. 2, with the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop, as the chief consecrator. Folts will succeed the Rt. Rev. John T. Tarrant, who has served the diocese since 2009 and will retire in July.

Folts, 51, is a life-long Episcopalian who was raised in a clergy family in the Dioceses of West Texas and Northwest Texas. His father, James E. Folts, was Bishop of West Texas from 1994 to 2006.

The Diocese of South Dakota has the largest Native population in the Episcopal Church, with missions on all nine reservations, encompassing 78 congregations.

To read more about the Diocese of South Dakota, read Matthew Townsend’s interview with the diocese’s now retired bishop, the Rt. Rev. John Tarrant, or his in-depth profile of South Dakota’s Sisseton Mission, “A Little Hope on the Prairie.” Townsend’s reporting on the mission recently took first place for feature writing at the Polly Bond Awards of Episcopal Communicators.

Adapted from the Diocese of South Dakota

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