The Rt. Rev. Edmond Lee Browning, the 24th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, died on July 11, 2016. He was 87 years old and was living in Oregon.
Bishop Browning served as Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church 1986-1997. Bishop Browning’s election as Presiding Bishop in 1986 was seen as a reflection of the Church’s broadening diversity due to his extensive international and multi-cultural experience.
Bishop Browning hoped to encourage a growing awareness of diversity in the Church. He was well-known for his quote, “no outcasts in the church.”
“The Episcopal Church is faithfully seeking to truly become, ‘a house of prayer for all people,’ as Jesus said quoting the Hebrew prophets, and that is greatly the case because Presiding Bishop Browning taught us that the church must be a place where there are no outcasts,” commented the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, the 27th Presiding Bishop. “That enduring legacy is still helping to set many a captive free. It is evidence that God is not finished with us yet, for every once in a while spiritual giants still walk among us as living reminders. And one of those reminders was Edmund Lee Browning, 24th Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church. Well done good and faithful servant. May you rest in peace and rise in glory.”
The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the 26th Presiding Bishop, commented: “Edmond Browning brought vast experience to his role as Presiding Bishop, from his early ministry in Texas, to his labors as a missionary in Okinawa, his love of the ‘Ohana of Hawai’i, and his pastoral care of the Convocation of Churches in Europe. His ministry was marked by care of the outsider and marginalized wherever he went. He stewarded the union of Okinawa with the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, he insisted there would be ‘no outcasts’ in The Episcopal Church, he drew Hawaiian and European congregations closer to their contexts, and he maintained a passionate care for the plight of Christians in the Land of the Holy One. He gave his all, and it cost him dearly. We can only echo what he is nearing now: Well done, good and faithful servant. You have loved all those entrusted to your care with a passion like that of Jesus. Rest from your labors in the arms of the One who loves you beyond imagining.”
“Bishop Browning was very much ‘My Presiding Bishop,’” noted the Rt. Rev. Frank Griswold, 25th Presiding Bishop. “I was ordained a bishop the same year he was elected Presiding Bishop. During the 12 years that followed, I had the opportunity to work closely with him, particularly as a member of the committee that planned the twice -a-year meetings of the House of Bishops. What particularly struck me in all aspects of his ministry was his trusting and compassionate heart open to all. For him, the mission of the church was to uphold the dignity and worth of each person within the reconciling embrace of God’s inexhaustible love. He did so not without great personal cost. As his successor, on visits to Okinawa and Hawaii where he had served as Bishop, I was struck by the enduring affection and gratitude that so many lay people and clergy expressed for the ministry and friendship of Bishop and Patti Browning. In a very real sense he was still their Bishop.”
“Bishop Browning appointed me to my first churchwide position when I was untested and unknown,” said the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies. “He gave me a chance to lead, and I will be forever grateful for the trust and confidence he placed in me. Everything about my churchwide ministry and the gospel witness of our church for the past three decades has been shaped by Ed Browning’s proclamation that ‘there will be no outcasts.’ We all owe him an enormous debt. Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Bishop Browning was elected at the 68th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Anaheim, CA in September 1985. Bishop Browning was the last Presiding Bishop to serve a twelve-year term.
His was the first installation to take place within the context of the Eucharist. The Most Rev. John M. Watanabe, Primate of Japan and Archbishop Bishop Desmond Tutu, then Archbishop of Cape Town and the primate of the Province of Southern Africa, were in attendance.
During his tenure, The Episcopal Church experienced a growing embrace toward homosexuals and a trend toward seeing baptism as a vocation. He was most known for active and faithful leadership in combatting institutional racism and all forms of injustice in The Episcopal Church
As Presiding Bishop, he was the first to observe an AIDS Day of Prayer on November 9, 1986 and established a Refugee/Migration Ministries unit at the Episcopal Church Center in 1988.
In February 1989, Presiding Bishop Browning again made history by consecrating the Rev. Barbara Harris of the Diocese of Massachusetts as the first female bishop in The Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion.
Born March 11, 1929 in Corpus Christi, TX, Browning was the son of Edmond Lucian Browning and Cora Mae Lee. He attended the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, receiving his Bachelor of Arts in 1952, his Bachelor of Divinity in 1954, and his Doctor of Divinity in 1970. He also attended Japanese Language School in in Kobe, Japan from 1963-65. He also received honorary degrees from Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Episcopal Divinity School, General Theological Seminary, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and Virginia Theological Seminary.
Browning was ordained a deacon on July 2, 1954 and a priest on May 23, 1955. He served as: Assistant Rector, Good Shepherd, Corpus Christi, TX, 1954-56; Rector, Church of the Redeemer, Eagle Pass, TX, 1956-59; Rector, All Souls, Okinawa, 1959-63; Priest-in-charge, St. Matthews, Oroku, 1965-67; Archdeacon of Okinawa, 1965-67; Bishop of Okinawa, 1968-71; Bishop of Convocation of American Churches in Europe, 1971-74 (now the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe); Executive of National and World Mission, Episcopal Church Center, New York, NY, 1974-1976; Bishop of Hawaii, 1976-1985; 24th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, 1986-1997.
Browning served as last bishop of the Missionary Diocese of Okinawa before it became part of the Nippon Sei ko kai (the Anglican Church in Japan). The transfer of the Okinawa diocese to the Japanese Church was approved at the General Convention in October 1972.
Browning was the 6th Bishop of Hawaii, and the second bishop since the Missionary District of Honolulu was granted status as a diocese in 1969. As Bishop of Hawaii, Browning was a member of the 6th Anglican Consultative Council in Badagry Nigeria, 1984. After he was elected Presiding Bishop, he served on the 7th Anglican Consultative Council in Singapore in 1987 and the 8th Anglican Consultative Council in Wales in 1990.
Bishop Browning was married to Patricia Alline Sparks in 1953. They had five children: Mark, Philip, Paige, Peter, John.
Information on services is forthcoming.