All Are Welcome

For the first time in the 225-year history of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, a priest from outside the diocese has been elected bishop. Ian Douglas ’80, who has been serving as the Angus Dun Professor of Mission and World Christianity at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., will be ordained and installed as the 15th diocesan bishop on April 17 in Hartford, Conn.

Douglas was hesitant to put his name forward for consideration, knowing a bishop had never been chosen from outside the state. But once he had read the profile of the position, he was amazed at what a good fit it was with what he felt he had to offer. He submitted his name.

Events moved quickly. Between the time he read the profile and the time he was publicly nominated, only eight weeks had passed. A few months later he was elected at the October convention. By February 1 he was on the job.

The Connecticut diocese has been changing—rather than focusing mainly on what’s going on internally, there has been a real desire to be more outward-looking—and they found what they were looking for in Douglas. With the profound changes going on within the Episcopal Church, both globally and in America, much of Douglas’s teaching career has been devoted to heralding understanding; as he says, “Helping Christians live into the changing face of global Christianity in a faithful way.” He adds, “Connecticut was about that. My background helps them to interpret that and ask themselves what it means to be faithful given the realities of the new world.”

That new world includes a global Episcopal community that has evolved from a predominantly white male constituency to an enormously diverse one—there are eight times more Episcopalians in Nigeria than the U.S., for instance. It also includes an American Episcopal Church that has elected women and a gay man as bishops and is in upheaval over the vote last July at the General Convention to open any ordained ministry to gay men and lesbians. For over 20 years, Douglas has worked both with leaders in other countries and bishops in the West to help them appreciate and embrace the diversity that exists within the church in this day.

Having worked at the global level for so many years, Douglas is ready for the opportunity to go deeper in a set place.

<listen to Ian Douglas ’80 describe why Connecticut is a good fit for him.

Douglas’s consecration on April 17 will be in the hockey rink at Trinity College—certainly not the typical site for such a ceremony. But the diocese felt it would need a large space for the event given that Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be preaching. Douglas and Tutu became close when Tutu’s daughter, Mpho, was at the Episcopal Divinity School and Douglas was her adviser. During Mpho’s senior year, Desmond Tutu and Douglas taught a class together. When Douglas found out he’d been elected Bishop of Connecticut, one of his first calls was to Tutu. “I said, ‘Hey Arch, could you do it?’ And he said he’d be honored.”

Update: The  Hartford Courant covered Saturday’s ordination and consecration.

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