RIP: Former Diocese of Eastern Oregon Bishop Rustin R. Kimsey

Posted Apr 13, 2015

[Episcopal Diocese of Easter Oregon] A sixth generation Oregonian, the Rt. Rev. Rustin R. “Rusty” Kimsey was born on June 20, 1935 in Bend, Oregon, to Lauren Chamness Kimsey and Lois Elena (Moorhead) Kimsey. He died at home on April 10 at the age of 79.


The Rt. Rev. Rustin R. Kimsey, the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Oregon, spoke at the Aug. 4, 2014 memorial service for the Rev. Tish Croom. Photo: Angela Gorham/Diocese of Eastern Oregon

Educated in Bend and Hermiston public schools and the University of Oregon (B.S. 1957), Kimsey’s Christian formation was secured from boyhood at Ascension School and Conference Center in Cove, Oregon. Kimsey attended the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, receiving a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1960.

Ordained a deacon and priest that same year, Kimsey served churches in Redmond, Baker City and The Dalles. In 1969 he was appointed to the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, the governing body of the Episcopal Church between triennial meetings of General Convention. He was re-elected to the council twice and served a total of thirteen years.

During that time he was appointed to serve as the Episcopal Church’s priest representative on the Anglican Consultative Council, an international council representing 85 million Anglicans worldwide. In 1977 he served as the Episcopal Church’s chair of the first Partners in Mission Consultation, in which Anglican and ecumenical partners from around the world listened, critiqued and helped shape the ministry and mission of the Episcopal Church.

Active in community and regional concerns, Kimsey helped establish mental health programs for all ages, volunteered at the Regional Training Center for those with disabilities, served on the advisory board of Haven and was appointed by then-Gov. Victor Atiyeh to the Columbia River Gorge Commission.

In 1980 Kimsey was elected as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Oregon, and on Aug. 4 he was consecrated at The Dalles High School Kurtz Gymnasium, followed by a gala procession to historic St. Paul’s Chapel on Union Street. “Old St. Paul’s” was soon to be the spiritual home and administrative center for the diocese. For 20 years, 59,000 square miles of the sacred turf east of the Cascades was “home” for Kimsey’s ministry to others in the name of Christ. He established and strengthened communities of faith to be more open and inclusive, waged battle with inappropriate leadership and abusive authority, enhanced ecumenical and interfaith relationships, encouraged congregations to become involved in their towns and villages as partners in responding to human need and social justice issues, reflecting the hospitality of Christ.

Kimsey served on several boards and commissions for the House of Bishops. The highlight was his chairmanship of the Episcopal Church’s Commission on Ecumenical Relations from 1994-2000.  During those years the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church forged an agreement, Called to Common Mission, which brought these two faith communities into full communion.

Kimsey retired as bishop of Eastern Oregon in 2000. In 2005 he accepted an appointment as assisting bishop of Navajoland, retiring from that sacred duty in July 2006. Kimsey was appointed assisting bishop of the Diocese of Alaska in 2009 until Alaska chose its current bishop in 2010.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Gretchen (Rinehart) Kimsey; their children, Sean Kimsey of The Dalles and Bangkok, Thailand (Khing); Megan Jarman of Seattle, Wshington (Mark); Larry Parlin of Lyons, Oregon (Leisa); grandchildren, William and Lauren Jarman; an older brother, Lloyd Kimsey of Carlsbad, California; an aunt, Margaret Troedson of Pendleton, Oregon and several cousins, nieces and nephews.

A public service of Compline and Vigil will be held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on April 24 with the Rev. Patrick Bell officiating. A service of thanksgiving for Kimsey’s life and ministry will be held on April 25 at Calvary Baptist Church in The Dalles with diocese of Eastern Oregon Bishop Provisional Bavi “Nedi” Rivera officiating. Following a luncheon, the burial will take place at the Dufur Cemetery.

Memorials may be given to Ascension School Camp and Conference Center, Box 278, Cove, OR 97824, St. Paul’s Memorial Fund, 1805 Minnesota St., The Dalles, OR 97058, Episcopal Relief and Development Fund, Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058, or Mid-Columbia Health  Foundation,  1700 E. 19th St., The Dalles, OR 97058.

Editor’s note: A letter to the Diocese of Eastern Oregon from Gretchen Kimsey following the death of her husband is here. The Kimsey family kept the diocese updated about Kimsey’s health, including this last one posted March 16.


Comments (14)

  1. Ann Fontaine says:

    What a great guy — we were on Executive Council together.

  2. Helen P Netos says:

    I was privileged to serve with Rustin as his assistant for mission and ministry development from 1985-1997. His wisdom and integrity have been important examples for me ever since. He saw the beauty and value of the small and ordinary — in congregational life and in everyday life around town, in the surrounding orchards and in the tiny communities and ranches that make up Eastern Oregon. I learned from my time with him that God is everywhere and in every person and thing; we need only look. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

  3. Alda Morgan says:

    Rusty was “one of the good ones”, a priest rooted in and deeply committed to his native land, a fine bishop (and worthy successor to Bill Spofford), and a dependable, wise colleague in the Church’s wider ministries. With all this, he was a good man, good in all those basic, old-fashioned ways–kind, compassionate, humble but knowing his gifts and a faithful steward of them. I am so grateful to have known him and had chances to work with him. Thank God for Rusty!

  4. John C Matthew says:

    As Executive Presbyter of Eastern Oregon Presbytery during the time Rusty and Bill Spofford served the Diocese of Eastern Oregon, I was greatly supported by their ecumenicity both personally and in developing joint parishes. Rusty and Bill were my models of who Episcopal bishops should be and they both influenced my own leadership style.

  5. A giant in mission, ecumenical relationships, and social justice. Rest in peace, dear friend!

  6. Suzanne Krull says:

    We pray for the repose of the soul of our dear brother and friend in Christ. Bishop Rusty was blessing to Alaska. We are forever grateful for his ministry of presence, guidance, love and care during our time without a diocesan Bishop. Rusty’s willingness to be with us, laugh with us, worship and pray with us, even ride snow-go (snow mobile) in the middle of winter on the side of a mountain to attend a burial in one of our villages has earned him a very special place in the hearts of many Alaskans. Our love and prayers go to Gretchen and family.

  7. Carter Kerns says:

    Rusty was a loyal, lifelong friend and a true Eastern Oregon Episcopalian. I will always miss him, yet I will always look for him to appear horseback, riding out of the endless sea of sagebrush in our Great Basin, tending and leading his faithful.

  8. Robin Moore says:

    I went to Cove (church camp) with Rusty as a young girl living in Bend, Or. It was a sign of God’s good grace that we were able in our adult lives to reconnect at Province and other meetings around our shared commitment to Mutual Ministry or Total Ministry — emphasizing baptismal ministry as the root and juice of the life of the church. Rusty always had a good plain story, often self deprecatory, which seemed to just fit the situation. I am grateful for Gretchen’s reflections during these “in between months” as she gave feminine voice to the shared wisdom of their love.

  9. Terry and Diana Bristow says:

    We knew Rusty as our Bishop in Eastern Oregon for many years. He ministered to our broken hearts through divorces and our re-marriage. He ministered to our five (blended family) children on the grounds of Cove Ascension School camps. He ministered to those adults who braved the waters of the Cursillo experience at Cove. He allowed us to relax, read, laugh, and share Family Camp with he and his family. He confirmed us both and we still feel the strong hand and seal of Bishop Rustin Kimsey on our cheeks and our hearts. Rest well and dance like the winds of Eastern Oregon. Your grateful friends, Terry and Diana

  10. Amy Marshall says:

    I know Gretchen and Rusty Kimsey for about 20 long years starting from the time when i had Gretchen as my prekindergarten teacher. Rusty was a kind and intelligent man…he had a wonderful smile that was filled with warmth!! From time to time he would drive Gretchen and myself down to the Habitat For Humanity Re-Store Store…we would talk and laugh. When I heard about his passing…I was really sad, then all of a sudden my body felt all tingly, and my heart felt empty. But now that I know he is in heaven with god i feel a little better. Gretchen loved her husband Rusty very much and i could tell by the way she used to talk about him! She is a very dedicated woman who loves to volunteer for this community and loves everyone in it! I am so thankful to have her as a dear close friend!!! I will miss Rusty very much!! I am also thankful for having known him for these many long years!!
    India Zenker

  11. donna mccoy says:

    Rusty was like a member of the family. Although both of my parents and numerous aunts are gone he blessed us with his love and guidance for years. RIP and know heaven awaits your presence.

  12. Bradley Johnson says:

    I’ve had the privilege of knowing Rusty and his wonderful wife Gretchen my entire life. Not only were we neighbor for 20+ years,, he was friends with my grandparents Margaret and Allen Roberts, he married my parents, performed my babtism, and would have my sister house sit for them when they would travel. Even after I moved away from The Dalles whenever I went home to visit and would see Rusty, I would always stop for a chat. As someone who is admittedly not religious, Rusty never pushed the issue, he only ever showed love and kindness and i know without a doubt he will continue to watch over me from heaven. The world has lost an amazing voice, kind heart and dedicated soul.

  13. Norman Elliott says:

    A true bishop and a treasured friend.

  14. John Romans says:

    As I look out my window on this raining Friday, I’m preoccupied with the impact Rusty has had on my family. While I did not personally know Rusty, he was a lifelong friend of my father, John Cusick, and has indirectly had a profound impact on my life. Whether the conversation was regarding social justice or spiritual development, Rusty was routinely referenced by my parents in a way that was eye opening and grounding. Thank you Rusty for your passion, vision, tolerance, and commitment to those in need. Your friendship with my parents has had a permanent impact on the fabric of our family. Our hearts and prayers are with Gretchen and your family. You will certainly be missed. Love John

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