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The New Bishop Of The Dallas Episcopal Diocese On Adapting To A Changing Culture

Episcopal Diocese of Dallas
The number of Episcopalians in the U.S. droped 16 percent between 2000 and 2010.

The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas has a new leader. George Sumner, the bishop-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, will be consecrated tomorrow.

He’s served from Navajo country to Canada to East Africa. However, he returns to the U.S. at an interesting time for the church.

A recent study from the Pew Research Center shows a drop in the number of religious Americans. Sumner sat down with KERA’s Rick Holter to talk about cultural challenges.

Interview Highlights: George Sumner…

…On the common theme he’s witnessed as a missionary:

“There’s a certain way in which congregations are congregations. They have their own particular struggles, but some of them are universal. There are ways in which very diverse settings actually remind you that human beings have a kind of similar set of challenges and hopes.”

Credit Krystina Martinez / KERA News
George Sumner will be consecrated Nov. 14 as the new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas.

  …On the Dallas diocese choosing not to marry gay couples:

“I would tell that couple, first of all, that the doors of the Episcopal Church are wide open to them. The Christian gospel is for everyone. The Episcopal Church has moved in a more liberal direction on that issue. It is also true that the diocese continues to have a more traditional policy on that question, but I recognize there is a disagreement over our culture in this question.

The church witnesses by what it says and also witnesses by how it deals with disagreements, so my great hope and prayer is that we would communicate charity, conversation and reconciliation amidst an ongoing disagreement.”

…On Millennials as the future of the church and religion as a whole:

“It’s an interesting generation that is quite diverse in terms of their own preferences and what they’re drawn by religiously. I don’t think one size fits all in terms of how you open the doors to the next generation. I think part of it is engaging the culture. Part of it is theological; it’s giving thought to how to communicate the Christian gospel, which doesn’t change in a new era.

Is the church getting grayer demographically as a whole? Yes. I think there is an earnest desire to counteract that at the same time that you appreciate the fact that loyal Episcopalians in the pews matter as well. There is sometimes an idolatry of the young in religion, which can go awry. We want to draw young leaders and train young leaders who can help us do this, who are closer to that age group than someone like me.”

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter is KERA's vice president of news. He oversees news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News has earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.