The Diocese of Central Florida celebrated the consecration of the Rev. Gregory O. Brewer as the fourth bishop of Central Florida, March 24, 2012.
Fr. Brewer was elected at a special diocesan convention Nov. 19. Under canons of the Episcopal Church, a majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan standing committees had to consent to the ordination within 120 days of receiving notice of the election. In February, Bishop-elect Brewer gained those "consents."
Fr. Brewer most recently was rector of Calvary-St. George’s Church in New York City.
He was elected on the fourth ballot out of a field of seven nominees. He received 141 votes of 241 cast in the lay order and 110 of 192 cast in the clergy order. An election on that ballot required 125 in the lay order and 95 in the clergy order.
Fr. Brewer succeeds the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, who is retiring.
The ordination and consecration of the Rev. Canon Gregory Orrin Brewer as Bishop in the Church of God and the Diocese of Central Florida took place Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the First Baptist Church, Orlando. The Bishop Presiding was the Right Rev. Clifton Daniel III, Bishop of East Carolina. The co-consecrators were: The Right Reverend John Wadsworth Howe, Bishop of Central Florida; The Right Reverend William Howard Love, Bishop of Albany; The Right Reverend Michael Gene Smith, Bishop of North Dakota; The Right Reverend William Hopkins Folwell, Bishop of Central Florida, Resigned; and The Right Reverend Barry Robert Howe, Bishop of West Missouri, Resigned.
It was an afternoon filled with solemn ceremony and sacraments, majestic music, the poetry and power of the Gospel and, perhaps surprisingly, it was a day filled with laughter and humor. Joy was the message and the gift brought to the Diocese of Central Florida from its newest bishop.
Bishop Gregory Brewer speaks in a conversational, friendly style. After his consecration, he told the crowd gathered a story of his visit to a local Target store to buy a GPS "because my friends don't want me to get lost" and of having such a good time that they danced down the aisles "like Fred Astaire."
Bishop Brewer also shared his vision for the diocese:
“It is an extraordinarily challenging and difficult time to stand as Christians in the Episcopal Church, but my deep desire is that in the midst of genuinely sacrificial mission we never forget eating and drinking, laughter and joy and knowing all that we share, as we literally gather together, even here, as a foretaste of the heavenly banquet of Christ. If we lose that, we've really lost almost everything. So may that never -- ever-- be the case. But may we be known as a diocese that celebrates and laughs together often and heartily.”
He shared with the audience that when he woke up that morning he found himself thinking about how it was the feast of Oscar Romero (the archbishop of San Salvador who was martyred in 1980) and about how Romero would have measured the value of a person’s life and that it “is not wealth, it's not intelligence, it's not any of those things at all. It's just that as we are grafted into Christ, that is, in fact, the measure of our work. It is because of that that we are called to walk the very sacrificial road of what it means to be a follower of Jesus even in very, very, difficult times. So that the joy and the laughter never shirk from the responsibility to servanthood -- just the opposite -- it is what empowers us to do so. May those be our hallmarks, here, in the Diocese of Central Florida.”
The Very Rev. Dr. Justyn Terry, the dean and president of the Trinity School for Ministry, spoke of Brewer’s vision, experience, passion and faith.
“We rejoice because we believe that Greg has been called to this vital work and that he is eminently well-qualified to do it,” he said. “He has led large churches and small churches, he has taught in seminary... and he has engaged in the life of the worldwide church at all levels. He is a man of prayer, vision, pastoral heart, strategic mind. He is a man of the gospel, with a love for the lost and a love for the church. He is a preacher and a teacher of the word of God. But most of all, he knows and loves Jesus Christ and moves in the power of his spirit.”
It is no small matter to achieve this calling and the ordination and consecration ceremony reflects this. It is steeped in deep tradition and history. There is great beauty and joy evident in every step of the process. Music filled the space with the glory of God, from the voices of the choirs to the instrumental piece, "Veni Sancte Spiritus," which was written specially for Bishop Brewer's consecration. The procession displayed the banners of each parish from the diocese, demonstrating the diversity and unique personality of each. The solemn reading of the testimonials verified his election and qualifications to become bishop.
When the Epistle of Timothy 3:1-7 was read, it told all that whoever aspires to the office of bishop must be “above reproach... sensible, respectable, hospitable... not a lover of money… must manage his own household well... for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God's church?”
Dr. Terry, in his sermon, referred back to those requirements saying that becoming a bishop is “a high calling. It is to be one of the chief pastors of the flock of Christ... caring for the shepherds and their people, under the gracious leadership of the good shepherd himself. It is to guard the faith, unity and discipline of the church. It is to celebrate and provide for the celebration of the sacraments of the covenant. And it is to ordain priests, deacons, and join in the ordaining of bishops as the Book of Common Prayer teaches us. All this demands a great deal... being above approach, sober, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, gentle and well-thought-of by outsiders.”
“These are challenging times to be a bishop in God's church,” Dr. Terry explained. “The church faces the challenge of how to respond to secularism both in its modern and its post-modern forms. Greg knows about these things. He knows about the difficulties of secularism from his time in New York. He has seen its deadening effects. He knows of the despair of life that can be brought about by life without God. And he knows the antidote -- the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Dr. Terry emphasized, “I know that Greg has a great vision for this diocese -- of believers who have compassionate, charismatic character. It’s a beautiful vision, but where do you find compassionate, charismatic character? You find it by this encounter with the risen Jesus Christ and by being filled and empowered by the spirit that was in him and by a life of discipleship in the life of the church.”
“We gather here today as those who are hearing these words of hope -- reminders that God desires for his people joy,” he continued. “He has the power to bring about that transformation by his word and spirit and we hear again the good news that Jesus Christ, the anointed one, as we come to this table of Holy Communion -- the Eucharist -- Thanksgiving -- and to give thanks to our father in heaven who through Jesus Christ has brought us the joy of his Holy Spirit before we are sent out into the world he loves so much to minister in his name.
“Is there anyone living in the Diocese of Central Florida with a heavy and failing spirit? Are there people struggling with poverty? With broken hearts? Or captivity of any form? Is there anyone here with a heavy and failing spirit? Anyone here that does not yet know the joy of the Lord Jesus Christ? The message of Isaiah, the prophet, is that God knows where you are and he doesn't want to leave you there, nor anyone else who does not yet know the joy of Lord. He has made available, even this day, the power of the spirit of God to deliver you and them from the darkness of this world into the light of the world that is to come. He wants us to have life and have it abundantly. The spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is here today and delights to take all who surrender themselves into the arms of God, the nail-pierced hands of Jesus, and to make them new.”
The ordination and consecration of a new bishop is a part of an exciting new time for the Diocese of Central Florida, Dr. Terry said. “Every follower of Jesus Christ has a part to play to bring about this compassionate, charismatic character. The clergy, of course, have a major role in all this. And you have a man here who will pastor you, and who will work with you to lead the mission of God in this place. And every lay person also has a vital role in bringing about the purposes that God has for this diocese -- making every Christian home an embassy of the kingdom of heaven and doing all our work, paid or unpaid, for his glory. Every one of us in our different ways, serving the needy for Christ's sake and sharing our faith as the opportunity arises. ‘Here I am, send me.’ But we must also remember that it is a costly thing that Greg has responded to today. He will need wide support and prayer in order to carry out the call that is before him. He will need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life. This spirit of new life, spirit of joy, spirit of hope, will be invoked upon him just a few moments from now. It is the spirit that Jesus himself breathed upon his disciples on that first Easter day.”
Bishop Brewer spoke of understanding the distinction between his role as “bishop as an office” and being “your brother as a Christian.” He stated firmly, “my commitment to you is to never confuse those two. … We stand together as brothers and sisters in Christ. I lead in the office given to me as a bishop and anything other than that is an invitation either to incompetence or arrogance.”
Many helped to make this ordination and consecration possible. Pastor Jim Henry, Dr. David Uth, Danny de Armas and the entire staff of First Baptist Church Orlando were the hosts for the celebration and provided tremendous assistance. Bishop Brewer emphasized that holding the event at First Baptist was a “very clear, public signal that we, along with the rest of the leadership at the Diocese of Central Florida, regardless of their denominational tradition, can stand together for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Music was, of course, an extremely important part of the celebration. The diocese extends thanks to Kamel Boutros, Minister of Music at Calvary-St. George’s Church in New York City, along with his team: Steve Belvilus, Alexander Nguyen and Tami Yaegashi (members of Calvary-St. George’s) and Doug Mathews of Central Florida, for their contributions.
The Diocesan Liturgy and Music Commission arranged for the music, musicians and choirs for the service. Choirs who participated in the celebration came from the following parishes: St Barnabas, Deland; St. Mary’s, Belleview; St. Peter’s, Lake Mary; St. Andrew’s, Ft. Pierce; St. John the Baptist, Orlando; St. George, The Villages; St. Paul’s, New Smyrna Beach; Holy Faith, Port St. Lucie; All Saints’, Lakeland; St. James, Ormond Beach; St. Mary’s, Daytona Beach; All Saints’, Enterprise; Christ the King, Lakeland; Good Shepherd, Maitland; St. Gabriel’s, Titusville; Holy Cross, Sanford; Coventry, Ocala; Holy Trinity, Melbourne; Good Shepherd, Lake Wales; St. Paul’s, Winter Haven; St. Matthias, Clermont; St. Michael’s, Orlando; Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Orlando; All Saints, Winter Park; Corpus Christi, Okahumpka; Holy Spirit, Apopka; Holy Family, Orlando; Church of the Resurrection, Longwood.
The prayer rug used in the service was a gift from the Right Reverend Azad Marshall, the Anglican Bishop of Iran. It was designed by him and woven by Christians in Pakistan.
Anna Mosby Coleman, the Creative Arts Director of Calvary-St. George’s in New York City designed the pectoral cross. The Calvary-St. George’s parish also provided the episcopal ring.
Many other wonderful gifts were provided for this celebration. Thanks goes to Rusty Smith for his design and carving of the pastoral staff; Mako Fujimura for the Gospel Book used in the service; Rev. Andrew W. Faust for the cope; Terri Clifton for the cover design for the service booklet; Rev. Dr. Al Jenkins and All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Lakeland for the garment bag; The Cathedral Church of St. Luke for the use of the jeweled chalice and altar ware, frontal, candles, Bishop’s chair and crozier; Charlie Hamrick for designing and constructing the portable altar; Cheryl Dunning and the Flower Guild of the Cathedral Church of St. Luke for the floral creations; Patricia H. Crane made the small altar linens; Eve Hyatt and Beth Hyatt embroidered the small linens; the Flower Guild of All Saints’ Church in Winter Park for the floral creations for the Bishop’s reception; and Roger Paladino who catered the reception.
The diocese also appreciates the generosity of Kessler Collection Hotels, especially: Brian Py; Traci Bradley and Shameka Allen.
The diocese appreciates the contributions of everyone who donated money, gave of their time and energy and offered their support and prayers.
New Calling, Continued Ministry
Before being called to Central Florida, Bishop Brewer served as rector at Calvary-St. George’s Church, a 500-member, multi- cultural and multiracial, “program-size” parish with landmarked historic buildings in downtown Manhattan.
Before serving there, Fr. Brewer was rector of Church of the Good Samaritan, Paoli, Pa., which had 1,800 members. Good Samaritan is a 150-year-old corporate-size and in an affluent suburban area known as the “Main Line.” Because of its commitment to Biblical orthodoxy and discipleship the congregation was drawn from a large geographic area.
“I’m just very excited to return to Central Florida and will pray for God’s blessings on our work together there,” he said after the election.
Fr. Brewer is married to the former Laura Lee Williams of Orlando. Children are Charles, James, Todd, Lee and Mark.
He received his BA from Lynchburg College, where he received the Hugh M. Burleigh Award for Outstanding Ministerial Student, 1973. He received his M.Div. from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1976. He also is close to completing his doctorate at Fuller Theological Seminary and Trinity School for Ministry.
He was ordained a deacon at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lynchburg VA, with Bishop Henry Marmion presiding. He was ordained priest at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Winter Park, with Bishop William Folwell presiding.
He has published articles in The Anglican Digest, with articles appearing regularly from 1985-2007. Other publications include Bible Reading Fellowship: Journey Through the Word Series. The Coming of the Lord, Second Corinthians, the Pastoral Epistles. First Thessalonians.
Fr. Brewer is an Eagle Scout who also says he loves the beach, sailing, hospitality, friendship, cooking and having people over for dinner.
He enjoys theater, British mystery shows, reading, classical and jazz music, contemporary Christian worship, travel, current events. He considers himself endlessly curious, learning about other cultures, and committed to being a lifelong learner.
Read more about Bishop-Elect Brewer at http://bishopsearch.cfdiocese.org/candidates/rev-canon-gregory-orrin-brewer
The Diocese of Central Florida has 31,000 baptized members at 88 parishes and missions in 15 counties.