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NORTH CAROLINA: Send in the Clowns (from 1996)

Cover photo of the September 1996 issue of the Christian Challenge.

(NOTE: Gary Gloster announced in a letter on the eve of the 188th NC Convention, that he planned to resign, and thus begin retirement, as Bishop Suffragan as of the 31st of August 2004. The cover of the Challenge had a photo of the bishops wearing a big red clown nose.)

Is Your Church Run By These Guys!? Send in the Clowns?

It had to be the ultimate in liturgical changes.






The solemn rites for the consecration of the Rev James Gary Glosser as suffragan bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina began normally enough in Duke University's chapel July 27, with nine splendidly vested bishops taking part, including Episcopal Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning, Michigan Bishop Stewart Wood, Southern Virginia Bishop Frank Vest, and North Carolina Bishop Robert Johnson. But soon there began to be some indications that the 'fix' was in - apparently with the new suffragran's full cooperation - for an unusual service.

Finally, following the presentation of traditional elements of a bishop's garb - pectoral cross, crozier, mitre, and so forth - a group of clowns and children, 'symbolizing the importance of laughter and play and faith,' came forward to present their gifts. At this point, reports The (Durham) Herald-Sun, a clown put a red nose on the new suffragan, and Gloster, 'who enjoys humor and clowning...turned to the bishops standing behind him and stuck big red noses on many of them, including Browning, who smiled broadly through the unexpected turn of events and seemed to be having as much fun as Gloster, the children and the clowns.

"Applause broke out. The laughing bishops began to congratulate Gloster and clown around ever so slightly. The congregation greeted each other in the passing of the peace."

It was Bishop Johnson who finally recalled the gathering to the sacramental context.

"There's never enough peace," he was quoted as saying, "but that's enough."

The report said Gloster had also clowned around, so to speak, when elected suffragan for the 45,000 member diocese in March. In his speech to the diocesan convention, "he started with references to God's grace and the need to share. But by the end, he was talking about humor and the importance of not taking yourself too seriously." He urged his listeners to 'join together, being fools for Christ.' Then he put on a clown nose.

Presiding Bishop Browning also has taken part in at least one other bit of intra-ritual 'comic relief.' A recent college graduate who attended an Episcopal Youth Event in Missoula, Montana several years ago told TCC that after Browning appeared in full episcopal regalia to celebrate Holy Communion for the gathering, he pulled a 'super-soaker' out from under his cope and squirted the now excited congregation of young people, later reassuring them that they had been 'blessed': reportedly, the super-soaker contained holy water.

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The Christian Challenge
Auburn Traycik, Editor
Christian.Challenge@ecunet.org
http://www.orthodoxAnglican.org/TCC

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