Admiral of Morality: Archbishop Tutu Preaches as Nathan Baxter Consecrated Bishop of Central Pennsylvania

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Archbishop Tutu Preaches as Nathan Baxter Consecrated Bishop of Central Pennsylvania

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa was on hand with nearly 5,000 other lay and clergy as the Rev. Nathan Baxter, a third generation clergyman, was consecrated the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold was the chief consecrator at the October 21 event; 25 other bishops from around the Anglican Communion, and representatives from ecumenical partners, also attended.

Baxter has been rector of St. James, the largest parish in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, since October 2003. The diocese has more than 16,000 Episcopalians in 71 congregations and one mission.

A native of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the seat of the diocese, Baxter was graduated in 1976 from the Lancaster Theological Seminary. After canonical studies at the Diocesan School of Christian Studies, he was ordained deacon in June 1977 and priest the following December by Bishop Dean T. Stevenson.

From 1991 to 2003, Baxter was the dean of Washington National Cathedral. During that time, he led the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance Service following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and officiated at the memorial service for the crew of the space shuttle, Columbia. He presided over the funerals and memorial services of many prominent Americans including Thurgood Marshall, William Colby, William Fulbright, Clark Clifford, Pamela Harriman, Ron Brown and Katherine Graham, as well as the American memorial service for Princess Diana.

Bishop Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and a family friend of Bishop Baxter, preached that like the good shepherd in the Gospel John, the bishop is one "who lays down his life for his flock," especially sheltering the vulnerable, the hungry, the poor, the abused, and anyone else "with no clout."

NB: It is difficult to disagree with nearly anything Bishop Tutu says or preaches. He was Archbishop of Cape Town during some of the worst abuses of the apartheid system and at every turn disarmed this evil system and its proponents with the clear power of the transformative and liberating truth of the Word. Throughout his life he has reminded us all of the reality of the living God and that He demands justice and mercy.

Those Anglican bishops and clergy in Africa, who sadly too often seem to be little more than extensions of their (often corrupt) political establishments or who spend their energies condemning other Christians and scapegoating the most vulnerable of their populations, should feel humiliated when they compare themselves to Bishop Tutu.

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