by Leslie Davis, Editor, OECN
On Tuesday afternoon, the 19th of July, the Diocese of Oregon bid sad farewell to the beloved Edmond Lee Browning, 24th presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church. Browning died on July 11, 2016, at the age of 87 years old. He resided in Hood River, Oregon. A funeral liturgy was held this past Sunday at St. Mark, Hood River, and another service is planned at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Honolulu, HI.
Leaders in The Episcopal Church travelled from around the country to join in celebration of a life that brought profound change to the Church and the world. The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, 27th presiding bishop, closed the service with a resounding blessing of the people. Also present were the Right Rev. Frank T. Griswold, 25th presiding bishop, who delivered the homily, and the Right Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the 26th presiding bishop, who led the post-communion prayer. Griswold’s homily described Browning’s death day as his “birth day” – into eternity. The Rev. Curtis Almquist, SSJE, described his friend “Ed” in terms of the kindness, joy, and humility he brought to every task.
To the remembrances of colleagues were added that of Browning’s oldest son, the Hon. R. Mark Browning, judge of the first circuit court of Oahu, HI. He recounted his own upbringing and the role of his strong mother, Patti Browning, in opening their home and table to all. His parents marriage was a “magnificent love story.” The couple raised five children during a career that included time in Okinawa, Texas, Hawaii, and Europe. The Browning grandchildren led the congregation in prayer.
Browning leaves a legacy of opening the church, making it “a place where there are no outcasts.” Brown was ordained as a deacon on July 2, 1954, and as a priest on May 23, 1955. He was elected as presiding bishop at the 68th General Convention in Anaheim, CA, in September 1985 and served for 12 years. Known for taking theologically liberal stances, he fought institutional racism and other forms of injustice. He worked for full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church. But he had a place in other important milestones. For example, in 1989 he consecrated the Rev. Barbara Harris of the Diocese of Massachusetts as the first female bishop in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion.
Those of us who never knew Ed Browning got a sense of the man – his deep love for family, his open heart, and his unflagging struggle for justice and inclusion. At his installation sermon in 1986, he invoked the spirit of activism and hope: “Let us live out a mission that seeks to rescue the world from its present peril, to save those drowning in a raging river of despair, to rescue those caught in a wasteland of hopelessness. Let us commit ourselves to give the waters of baptism to those who thirst for justice.” His words and deeds live on in all of our hearts.