Eastern Michigan’s First Bishop Dies at 83

Edwin M. Leidel Jr. | Photo: Wikipedia

By Mark Michael

The Rt. Rev. Edwin M. Leidel Jr., the first bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Michigan, died June 5, at 83.

“Ed was called to Eastern Michigan for his innovative spirit, his vision for lay empowerment, and his great, great humor,” said the Rt. Rev. Prince Singh, bishop provisional for the Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan.

“Ed was a pioneer, leading us into big questions of identity, structure, and call – questions we’re still mining today across the Episcopal Church.”

A proud son of Milwaukee, Leidel was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Nashotah House, and began his ministry in the Diocese of Milwaukee. He also served St. Timothy’s Church in Indianapolis, and St. Christopher’s in Roseville, Minnesota, and spent a year as acting dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Darwin, Northern Australia. He also served as an officer and chaplain in the U.S. Naval Reserves.

In 1994, the Diocese of Eastern Michigan was created out of the Diocese of Michigan, with a territory comprising the upper two-thirds of the state’s Southern Peninsula, headquartered in Saginaw. Leidel was elected its bishop and consecrated two years later. He focused on congregational development and expanding mutual ministry in the diocese.

In the aftermath of the 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson, six rectors either left the small diocese or the ministry of the Episcopal Church. Leidel’s 2005 decision to depose the Rev. Gene Geromel, whose congregation had withdrawn from the diocese, was censured by 14 conservative bishops.

The Diocese of Eastern Michigan suffered sustained financial challenges in the latter years of Leidel’s episcopate, partly because of the controversy. Since the 2017 departure of Leidel’s successor, the Rt. Rev. S. Todd Ousley, the diocese has been led by provisional bishops — in tandem with the neighboring Diocese of Western Michigan since 2019.

After his retirement as bishop in 2005, Leidel worked as a congregational coach in the Anglican Diocese of Huron in Canada. He served as provisional bishop of the Diocese of Eau Claire from 2010-2013. Leidel is survived by his wife, Ira; two children; and several grandchildren.

The Diocese of Eastern Michigan said that services will be held on a date yet to be announced at Christ Episcopal Church, Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, where Leidel began his ordained ministry.

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