Episcopalians in the Diocese of Missouri have elected a man in a same-sex union as bishop. If The Rev. Deon K. Johnson gains the necessary consents, he will be consecrated in April 2020.
Johnson’s consecration will be prior to the decennial Lambeth Conference of Anglican Communion bishops. He will be invited by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to attend as a diocesan along with partnered gay bishops from the dioceses of Maine and Michigan, in addition to a gay bishop from the Diocese of Toronto in the Anglican Church of Canada and Assisting Bishop Mary Glasspool of New York.
Traditionalist bishops from several large Global South churches have vowed to boycott the conference over the invitation of non-celibate gay bishops, whose consecration contravenes the 1998 Lambeth Conference statement “rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture.” Those traditionalist bishops plan to assemble at an alternate bishops’ gathering scheduled in Kigali, Rwanda for June 2020 and sponsored by the theologically conservative Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON).
Johnson has served as rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brighton, Michigan, since 2006. He easily won election in the first round of voting, receiving 71 votes from lay delegates and 42 votes from clergy out of 164 total voting delegates. His Michigan congregation reports an average Sunday attendance of approximately 90 persons, which has only had minor fluctuations since 2008.
This is not Johnson’s first nomination to the episcopacy. In June, he was one of five candidates for bishop in the Diocese of El Camino Real (Central California coast). The diocesan convention ultimately selected The Rev. Lucinda Ashby, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Idaho, as its next bishop.
The bishop-elect, a native of Barbados, is a graduate of the Episcopal Church’s General Theological Seminary and is married to Jhovanny Osorio-Vázquez Johnson. Both are foster parents.
“Deon’s passion for inclusion, welcome, and worship geekiness has led him to be trained as a Liturgical Consultant, helping communities of faith re-envision their worship and worship spaces to better reflect the beauty, mystery, and all-around awesomeness of following Jesus,” Johnson’s biography reads.
In those years in which an Episcopal General Convention does not occur, a bishop-elect must obtain consent to election from a majority of diocesan standing committees as well as a majority of “bishops of jurisdiction” (diocesan bishops).
If he obtains those consents, Johnson will be consecrated by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at a service scheduled to take place at St. Stanislaus Polish Catholic Church of St. Louis, Missouri. The host congregation, which split from the Roman Catholic Church, was in conversation with the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri about becoming an Episcopal parish, but recently decided to remain independent.
The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri has declined significantly during the past decade. According to statistics made available by the Office of the General Convention, the diocese has declined from 13,485 members in 2008 to 10,065 in 2018 (-25%) while average Sunday attendance has declined from 4,551 in 2008 to 3,247 in 2018 (-29%). Three parishes have been shuttered during that time, while the number of marriages performed has dropped from 85 to 33 (-61%). Baptisms have declined from 178 to 125 (-30%).