TEXAS: Dena Harrison consecrated bishop suffragan of Texas

October 8, 2006

As more than 850 worshippers looked on, Dena A. Harrison, 59, was consecrated the ninth bishop suffragan in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

The procession of banners, presenters and bishops entered Camp Allen's chapel October 7, beneath fluttering scarlet ribbons -- tongues of fire -- along the entire length of the 100-foot center aisle.

Harrison is the first woman elected bishop in the state's six dioceses or in Province VII. Harrison will have oversight of the mission and ministry of 64 congregations in the central region of the diocese.

In his charge to Harrison, Texas Bishop Don A. Wimberly said: "Jesus has chosen you for this work. We have chosen you. And, you have chosen us. We are kin. We are family. We are one."

He also challenged her to be a voice for unity and mission within the House of Bishops as she moved into a "new way of being ordained" with a more diverse and complex ministry.

"The atmosphere was electric with joy and celebration today," Wimberly said later. "I am delighted to share this ministry with of Texas, Claude E. Payne and Maurice Benitez, along with Wimberly, Texas suffragan Rayford High and three women bishops: Bishop Chilton Knudson ofDena and look forward to our future in the Diocese of Texas."

"It's been an amazing day," Harrison said, as four grandchildren swirled around her feet during the photo session after the service. "I have to say the power of the spirit was very present, it was a powerful experience."

The gifts of ministry presented to Harrison were steeped in the history of her ministry in the diocese. Her hand-made pastoral staff was made of walnut harvested on the banks of the Colorado River near St. James', La Grange where Harrison served as rector. Within the three sections, the Rev. Murray Powell placed small deposits of soil from St. James' and the other two churches Harrison served -- All Saint's, Austin, and St. James' the Apostle, Conroe.

Harrison's pectoral cross was designed and made by Nancy Denmark who attended Epiphany Church, Houston, the parish that helped discern Harrison's call to ministry. The cross's design represents a living faith of past, present and future "as the Holy Spirit is ever living, moving and breathing new life into the Church," Denmark said.

Even the date of the consecration carried a deep meaning for Harrison. It would have been the 90th birthday of her friend and mentor, Bishop Scott Field Bailey. Bailey's wife, Evelyn, was one of the presenters along with Russell Long, Harrison's high school youth leader.

A former mortgage banker in Houston, Harrison was born in Lufkin and grew up in Orange. She received a BA degree from the University of Texas and graduated from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest (ETSS) in 1987. She was elected as a deputy to General Convention and served as chair of the Texas deputation and chaplain to the House of Deputies.

She is a trustee of St. Luke's Episcopal Health System and ETSS where she is chair of the search committee for a new dean and president.

Western Louisiana Bishop Bruce MacPherson, president of Province VII, was chief consecrator. Co-consecrators included two former bishops Maine, Bishop Suffragan Nedi Rivera of Olympia and Bishop Suffragan Catherine Roskam of New York. Retired Texas Bishop Suffragan Gordon Charlton, who ordained Harrison to the priesthood, also co-consecrator.

Also participating were former Texas assisting bishop and retired Louisiana Bishop Jim Brown, retired West Texas Bishop James Folts; retired West Texas Bishop Suffragan Robert Hibbs; West Texas Bishop Gary Lillibridge; retired West Texas Bishop John MacNaughton; Northwest Texas Bishop Wallace Ohl; Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley; and Dallas Bishop Jim Stanton.

Also present were the Rev. George Bithos, executive director of the Texas Council of Churches, and the Rev. Charles Mesina, the representative of Bishop James Tengatenga, of the Diocese of Southern Malawi, with whom Texas has had a long partnership.

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas has 158 congregations with more than 86,000 members. It is one of six Episcopal diocese's in the state of Texas and is located in the eastern quadrant of the state.

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