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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Let us now praise famous men

I just noticed this at the end of today's "Episcopal Life Online Daybook"

"Today in History: On this day in 1982, A. Theodore Eastman was ordained and consecrated bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland at the Cathedral Church of Saints Peter and Paul."

My goodness! I can't imagine what it must feel like to read your name after the words "Today in History."

I saw him at General Convention in Columbus and he looked as wonderful and as active as ever. It was, as always, a joy to see him again. As far as I know, he remains very active in ministry in the Diocese of D.C. There is a family in my congregation who are dear friends of the Eastmans so I am able to keep in touch through them.

I don't want this to sound like an early obituary, but I can't resist taking the opportunity to say what a wonderful, patient bishop he was to this newly ordained, full-of-beans-and-herself-ready-to-save-the-church priest. His was not an easy episcopacy, placed smack-dab in the midst of the AIDS epidemic in the City of Baltimore, and during which the social diseases of racism, sexism and homophobia were also at epidemic proportions. He also weathered a highly publicized scandal involving a pornography ring being run by a clergy person out of evangelical church school.

Another context of his episcopacy was in the midst of some of the first conservative "manifestos" which were then being volleyed across the church pews - several of them having originated in the Diocese of Maryland. (As I remember, one of the most rabid among them was prompted by a service of Blessing a Covenant between a couple of the same sex. We HAVE been at this a long, long time.)

Bishop Ted was always, always, always gracious and kind, generous and patient, intelligent and articulate.

I also remember that his wife, Sarah, who has an earned doctorate and is a scientist, gave up a position of some considerable esteem "inside the Beltway" in order to join Ted in this ministry. She did that with a marvelous sense of the unique and particular gifts she brought to the diocese.

While clearly and quietly assisting her husband, which was her way, she also stood out as her own person with her own sense of ministry and call - not an easy thing for a woman to do "back in the day" because there weren't many role models for her among the spouses in the House of Bishops. So, she became her own role model and, ultimately, one for others - male and female - to come.

Congratulations, Bishop Ted, on the anniversary of your ordination and consecration to the episcopacy. You and your beloved Sarah are gifts of and to the church. I, for one, am a better priest today for your wisdom, guidance and model of Christian leadership.

And, may I add, I'm delighted that Episcopal Life remembered you "today in history." It has given me a chance to say things about you BEFORE you change from glory into glory.

Now, how often does THAT happen?

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