New Dio. of Va. bishop faces challenges

Over the weekend, more than 2,000 people attended the consecration of Shannon Johnston, bishop co-adjutor of the Diocese of Virginia, at Washington National Cathedral on Saturday, May 26. A video of the consecration service (requires Windows Media Player) is available from the National Cathedral website. You can access it directly via this link; the Cathedral notes that the prelude music is approximately 50 minutes long in case you want to forward past that to the service.

In the News

While several news outlets have reported on the consecration, an AP story that ran late last week is perhaps most illuminating of the challenges Johnston faces as bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Church’s largest diocese.

The man chosen to lead Virginia Episcopalians will look to the heavens as he shepherds the centuries-old diocese threatened by divisions over homosexuality — and to the 1960s Alabama of his youth.

Then a small boy living in the Jim Crow stronghold, the Very Rev. Shannon Johnston paid close attention to sit-ins and freedom rides unfolding around him, as well as resistance by bristling segregationists.

“I saw how those who stayed in the middle, and tried to keep people together and talk and understand … set a strong example of how to build up community,” said Johnston, 48, who spoke to The Associated Press from the diocese’s Richmond headquarters. “That was a witness I think I’ve never forgotten.”

A report by the Rev. Lauren R. Stanley in a special edition of Virginia Episcopalian notes that:

With the sounds of Rolling Thunder motorcycles filling the streets of the nation’s capital in the background, a different sort of roar rolled through the Washington National Cathedral on Saturday when the Rt. Rev. Shannon Sherwood Johnston was consecrated as the bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Virginia.

Three times during the service – twice in response to liturgical questions from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and once proclaiming “Amen” at the conclusion of the prayer of consecration – the congregation’s roaring approvals echoed throughout the great stone cathedral for six seconds each.

“I am incredibly uplifted,” Bishop Johnston said during the reception that followed. “We were raised by God’s grace and held by an embrace of affection by the people of the Diocese and the bishops. I am so confident of who we are now and what we are going to be and do together.”

We also reported on this article on Saturday, but in case you missed it, you can read the whole thing, including comments from Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori and Bishop Peter J. Lee of the Diocese of Virginia, here.

Some Blog Reactions

Margret Hjalmarson, a/k/a Progressive Pragmatist notes:

We got to the front of a line to get in because we arrived so early and got to talk to Johnston’s cousin while waiting to get in. There were people from all over Virginia, from Mississippi, from Alabama. All here not just for Johnston (though that’s a big event) but also to celebrate the new life of a diocese that has been through a lot of pain and dissent in recent months.

Martha Furniss, writing at Life in the Circle Game, writes:

The one lady had a ticket marked “special.” We moved her to the head of the line. The Harrisonburg folks were very nice. I turned to the “special” lady and asked her what had brought her to the the consecration service. Turns out she is a friend of the Johnston family. She said, “Shannon is very excited about today. Did I say Shannon is excited? Well his mother is positively levitating.” Wow, it must be quite a day to have your son consecrated bishop!

The cathedral was lovely, … and I sat in line with the space window. The procession included lots of familiar faces, the music was uplifting, the sermon was good. The presiding bishop spoke the words of consecration – I love her voice. It was inspiring to hear the words of the creed echoing through the nave. It was good to see so many people in their Sunday best gathered on a Saturday morning to witness the consecration of the 1017th American bishop who, in a few years, will be the 213th bishop of Virginia. The church is strong, we have purpose, we have history, we have future.

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