Barbadian ordained as first openly gay Black bishop in Episcopal Diocese of Missouri’s 179-yr history

Francis Akhalbey Jun 18, 2020 at 09:00am

June 18, 2020 at 09:00 am | News

Francis Akhalbey

Francis Akhalbey | Staff Writer

June 18, 2020 at 09:00 am | News

The Rt. Rev. Deon Kevin Johnson (right) with his husband. He is the first openly gay Black bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri’s 179-year history -- Photo Credit: Diocese of Missouri

The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri has ordained and consecrated its first openly gay Black bishop since its establishment 179 years ago, in the person of The Rt. Rev. Deon Kevin Johnson, Episcopal News Service reports. Johnson is officially the 11th bishop of the Diocese of Missouri.

The event, which was held at the Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis on June 13, was witnessed by a select clergy and a few of Johnson’s immediate family, including his husband he shares two kids with. The chief consecrator of the ceremony was the 10th bishop of Missouri, The Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith.

“To find ourselves in this moment, the [descendant] of a slave, to be called to be the bishop of Missouri – God is good!” Johnson said during his ordination. “To the people of Missouri, we have a whole new story to tell and a whole new boldness to tell it with. So I look forward to the adventure.”

Born and raised in Barbados, Johnson, who credits his faith as well as his “love of worship and prayer” to his grandmother, immigrated to the United States at the age of 14, according to his bio. He has been serving as a priest in The Episcopal Church since 2003. After graduating from The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church, he began serving as the Associate Rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

“This vibrant, multicultural and multiethnic community ignited my passion for social justice and inclusion for those on the margins of the church and society,” Johnson said.

Recently serving as the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brighton, Michigan, Johnson partook in protests against police brutality and racial discrimination after the death of George Floyd, the 46-year-old Black man who died after a white Minneapolis cop was filmed kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes.

After non-violent protesters at St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C. were dispersed by police on June 1 to make way for President Trump to head over to the premises for a photo-op, Johnson attended and spoke at a solidarity rally at St. John’s Episcopal Church in St. Louis, Episcopal News Service reports.

“I have marched with clergy of our diocese to call for justice and I have lamented the countless men, women, and children whose names and lives have been sacrificed to racial inequity. We have been here before,” he said in a statement after the rally.

“While I do not condone the use of violence, I know that at the heart of the protest and acts of vandalism lives the festering sins of racism and white supremacy, the legacies of chattel slavery. At the core of racism and white supremacy, lives fear,” he continued. “Fear often masquerades as conviction and certainty. Fear would tell us that dignity belongs to some and not to others. As followers of Jesus, we must live and know that perfect love casts out fear. We must, in the words of the Prophet Micah, ‘do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.’”

He added: “As we see through the glass of this time dimly, we as followers of Christ are called to defend the rights and dignity of all God’s children, seeking and serving Christ in all people, even those with whom we disagree. We must be about the mission of working for justice and showing God’s love in this time and place. We must be about the mission of speaking truth to power and making no peace with oppression.”

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