Dan Edwards’ path to becoming the new bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada may not seem conventional to some. But even when he was a lawyer, he was committed to social justice, representing “unpopular causes” such as migrant workers and American Indians. Raised a Baptist, he moved through a cycle of faith that included boredom, disenchantment, agnosticism that bordered on atheism, Buddhism and, in his 30s, a return to faith and a call to serve the Episcopal Church.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal profiles the new bishop, noting that Edwards is a good fit for the 6,000-member diocese and its frontier sensibilities.
Deacon Sandy Oetjen of All Saints Episcopal Church in Las Vegas, a member of the diocesan search committee, says Edwards brings “a broad range of experience” to the diocese. And, because of his work with American Indians and migrants in Colorado and Idaho, he also “has some familiarity with the kind of Western way of approaching things.”
“We’re a very different kind of diocese, and that was important to us: That somebody would recognize the differences between us and one of these very large dioceses
About his spiritual journey, Edwards offers:
…”the religion part of it came to seem superfluous. So the religion dropped away and my mind really became about social action and advocacy. And that was essentially an atheist period or, at least, an agnostic-leaning-toward-atheistic period.”
However, during law school, Edwards began meditating, “simply for the purpose of stress management. But in the course of meditation, I discovered something much deeper and wider than stress management.”
“That was an experience of what I would now call ‘God’ and I didn’t have much of a word for it then,” he says. “But that sent me off on a path of searching Eastern religions.”
During the early years of his law practice, Edwards was a practicing Buddhist. But, he says, “there came a point when that was no longer adequate for me.”
Christianity again called, in part because the message of Jesus meshes so well with Edwards’ own interest in social justice and advocacy on behalf of the poor and suffering. In addition, Edwards says his law practice “brought me into encounters with depths of evil I had not experienced before,” including the case of an alleged contract killing that took place amid “a larger network of deceit and malevolence (that) was pretty discouraging.”
“It was a very dark chapter,” Edwards recalls, “and I was looking for a story big enough to have such a dark chapter in it and still come out with a good ending. And Christianity offered me that.”
It was then that Edwards “kind of came to the Episcopal church without believing in it. But I decided I would do it as an experiment.”
He attended worship regularly. He committed prayers from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer to memory, and recited the prayers throughout the day, saying them “whether I believed them or not.”
“And, sometimes, it was painful to say the prayers,” Edwards says. “But, as uncomfortable as it was, I kept feeling, sensing, intuiting that there was something to it.”
And, little by little, Edwards felt something changing.
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