A bishop-elect thanks a passing mentor

Where, and how, is character formed? Some of what makes The Rev. Scott Benhase (bishop-elect in the Diocese of Georgia) tick was formed in a mission experience to Guatemala in 1977 sponsored by The Rev. Fred Lamar, a chaplain in the ’70s at DePauw University who sponsored and nurtured a few thousands students on such trips over a generation.

Lamar died this week, but before he did so, word got out and several of his grateful advisees got to him with thanks for the role he played in their lives. Benhase was one.

[Benhase] remembers two funerals his first week in a Guatemalan village in 1977, both of children who had died of “dysentery and very preventable diseases,” a stone’s throw from corporate banana plantations that shipped produce to the United States and Europe.

“Here I was a 19-year-old kid who came from a middle-class background and never had to face that particular social dilemma and political problem,” Benhase said. “Fred didn’t beat me over the head with any of that. He just said, ‘Okay, what do you think about that?’

“He held up a mirror, and made us look at it. That forever changed me and many of my fellow students.”

Benhase has probably been thinking a lot lately about life’s big transitions. He’s busily preparing to be consecrated Georgia’s 10th bishop on Jan. 23. He’ll be stepping into a diocese that’s seen its share of controversy, including the dust-up at Christ Church, Savannah. Still, everyone seems ready to extend him credit, at least for a brief time.

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