ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri will have a new leader for its 10,000 worshippers next year, the first time since 2002 and only the 11th time in its 180-year history.
Rev. Deon Johnson had this reaction when reached by KMOX News on Saturday afternoon, just hours after the announcement, "This has been absolutely an amazing, and in some ways unexpected, but joy-filled weekend."
The current rector at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Brighton, Michigan, Bishop-Elect Johnson will replace the retiring Right Rev. George Wayne Smith next April.
He says he's looking forward to continuing work on social justice issues and ministry to gay and lesbian communities, "It's a bold statement that we are really going to love you no matter who you are, no matter who you love, and no matter where you came from or what you've done. God still loves you deeply. I think that is the heart of who we are as Episcopalians, as followers of Jesus, and as Christians moving into the 21st century."
The bishop-elect says today's churches (regardless of denomination) are facing problems with declines in attendance and giving. He sees that as an exciting time for clergy, "It means that we get to go back to being evangelists. We get to go back to telling people about God's love and reminding them that God loves everybody and calls us to commune with each other."