The Rt. Rev. Morgan Porteus, the XI Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, died peacefully on Sunday, December 15 at his home in Wellfleet, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, surrounded by his family. He was 102 years old.
In 1971, he was elected bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Connecticut. In 1976, he was elected bishop coadjutor, and in 1977 he was ordained diocesan at Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford.
A few weeks later he told the New York Times that he disagreed with his colleague and immediate predecessor, the Rt. Rev. J. Warren Hutchens, on the issue of the ordination of women, which had been approved by the General Convention a year earlier.
“Bishop Hutchens was always opposed to it and I have always favored it,” Porteus said. “This proved that two men could live in the same house even though they have differing views.”
He was opposed at that time to the ordination of gay people. As reported by the Times:
“This is a very complicated issue,” Bishop Porteus said. “I think that the church had taken a big step in ordaining women and we have said that we will not ordain or marry avowed homosexuals. But they are children of God and have to be cared for.
Porteus served as a member of the Standing Liturgical Commission of the Episcopal Church for eight years until the 1979 prayer book was compiled and approved by the General Convention. He acknowledged that some people were unhappy with the new prayer book:
“Yes, the old language is gone and if you’re an Elizabethan person, you’re gone too. But I think there is a clarity of language in the new book and the meaning of the services which speaks very directly to me as a person, and I’m enthusiastic about it. It incorporated a lot of things that many of us wanted for a long, long time.”
Porteus retired in 1981, moved to Cape Cod, and became an assisting bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, a position he held until 2009.
Son of the late Robert William and Ruth Morgan Porteus, he was born August 10, 1917, in Hartford. His paternal grandfather was Robert Porteus, a well-known building contractor in Hartford with the Porteus-Walker Company. His maternal grandfather, Frederick Morgan, was a tobacco merchant in Windsor, Connecticut, and a state representative. Porteus moved with his family to Windsor in 1920 where his mother’s family, the Morgans, have lived since the early 1800s. He was predeceased by his sister, Martha Louise Porteus of Windsor.
As a boy, Porteus attended public schools in Windsor and graduated in 1941 from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. He received honorary doctor of divinity degrees from Trinity College in Hartford and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University in New Haven, both in Connecticut. Having been accepted as a postulant for holy orders in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, he graduated in 1943 from the Episcopal Theological School (a precursor of Episcopal Divinity School) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
He was ordained a deacon in 1943 and an Episcopal priest in 1944 at Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, where as a boy he sang in the choir. He considered the cathedral to be the heart of his life and ministry.
After serving as curate in 1943 at Trinity Church, Torrington, Connecticut, he accepted a call to be rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Cheshire, Connecticut, in 1944, where he served for 27 years.
In 1957, Porteus co-founded the Chapel of St. James the Fisherman in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, where he served as priest-in-charge for 18 years.
He was married in 1944 to Martha A. Walsh of Lowell, Massachusetts, the mother of his three sons. After the dissolution of this relationship, he married the Rev. Joan Cottrel in 1988, and they have since been divorced.
He is survived by his three sons and their families: the Rev. Christopher Porteus and his wife the Rev. Beverly Porteus of Elkton, Maryland; Jonathan Porteus and his wife Nancy of South Wellfleet, Massachusetts; Milton Porteus of Windsor; and seven grandchildren: Emily, Kate, Benjamin, Andrew, Eric, Linsey, and Sarah.
Porteus was an avid fly-fisherman, gardener, and photographer with a deep love of Cape Cod and its natural beauty.
A memorial service and internment will be held in the summer of 2020 at St. James the Fisherman Episcopal Chapel in Wellfleet. An additional graveside memorial and internment will be held at First Church Cemetery in Windsor. Dates are to be determined.