Jonathan H. Folts ordained, consecrated 11th bishop of South Dakota

Lauren Stanley
Posted Nov 4, 2019

South Dakota Bishop Jonathan Folts participates in his consecration Nov. 2 at T.F. Riggs High School Theater in Pierre. Photo: Kimberly Folts

[Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota] In a historic service Nov. 2 in Pierre, the Rt. Rev. Jonathan H. Folts was consecrated as the 11th bishop of South Dakota.

Folts, elected in May, was the first bishop of South Dakota to be consecrated in Pierre.

In a rare occurrence in The Episcopal Church, Folts’ father, the Rt. Rev. James E. Folts, retired bishop of West Texas, served as both a co-consecrator and the preacher.

Retired Bishop Folts, who ordained the new bishop as both a deacon and a priest in West Texas, reminded his son that the most important ordination, “the one that changed your life the most, was that first one, the one that made you a deacon. For in that one … you declared your desire, your intention and indeed your willingness, for the rest of your life, to be a servant.”

Ordination to priesthood and the episcopacy “are but subsets of that first ordination,” he said, adding, “I have every reason to believe that you know this great truth, and that you believe this deep in the very core of your being.”

He continued by describing a bishop’s job as being one of casting a vision for the diocese while remembering to never work alone; finding the resources, both human and financial, to accomplish the vision; and holding the people accountable, or, as he said, “maintaining order.”

But, he stressed, the new bishop should “take care never to equate yourself with the office” of bishop, and he reminded his son of the days when they played chess together. “Remember always,” he said, “that when each game of chess is over, the bishops and the pawns all go back into the same box.”

The most poignant moment of the sermon came when the retired bishop delivered the new bishop’s charge: “Jonathan, my son and soon to be my brother (bishop),” he said, his voice cracking with emotion, “would you now please stand.”

He ended his sermon by telling his son: “I love you. God bless you.”

In his first remarks to the diocese, the newly consecrated bishop told the people, “Today is the beginning of a new chapter in diocesan history. … It is not a new story. … The story is still God’s story. Jesus is still the central character of that story. And the Holy Spirit is the editor who walks with us day after day as we live into that story. This is a new chapter, not a new story.”

Nov. 2 also was the 23rd wedding anniversary for Folts and his wife, the Rev. Kimberly Folts. The new bishop thanked everyone for coming out to help them celebrate, and he added, “Apparently what you get for a 23rd anniversary is a big hat and stick!”

The two-hour service, held at T.F. Riggs High School Theater and attended by more than 300 people and live-streamed to the diocese, began with Lakota and English hymns and included the reading of the Gospel in Lakota, Dinka and English. The responses to Gospel acclamation, the Doxology, and several communion hymns were also sung in Lakota. A special offertory anthem, composed by Stephen Yarbrough of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Vermillion, South Dakota, was sung by the consecration choir, with members drawn from across the diocese.

Folts and bishops

Several bishops joined Presiding Bishop Michael Curry for the consecration of South Dakota Bishop Jonathan Folts on Nov. 2. Photo: Diocese of South Dakota

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry was the chief consecrator at the service, and he and Folts’ father were joined by the Rt. Rev. John T. Tarrant, retired bishop of South Dakota, Folts’ predecessor; Connecticut Bishop Ian T. Douglas; West Texas Bishop David M. Reed; and the Rt. Rev. Carlos S. Matsinhe, bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Lebombo, Mozambique.

Curry, in remarks at the offertory, said, “This is a great getting-up morning. South Dakota, we thank God for you, we are proud of you, and we thank God that we are your sisters and brothers and siblings in Jesus Christ. Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations!”

The offering for the service will be divided between scholarships for Thunderhead Episcopal Center, the diocesan camp and conference center, and the new bishop’s discretionary fund.

Tarrant presented his successor with the diocesan crozier with the words: “Jonathan, on behalf of the people and clergy of the Diocese of South Dakota, I give into your hands this pastoral staff. May Christ the good shepherd uphold you and sustain you as you carry it in his name.”

Five other bishops participated in the service: the Rt. Rev. Craig B. Anderson, the eighth bishop of South Dakota; Wyoming Bishop John S. Smylie; Nebraska Bishop J. Scott Barker; Iowa Bishop Alan Scarfe; and the Rt. Rev. Joe Burnett, retired bishop of Nebraska.

The Diocese of South Dakota is comprised of 75 congregations in South Dakota, two in Nebraska, and one in Minnesota. Its cathedral, Calvary Cathedral, is located in Sioux Falls. The Diocese of South Dakota has a unique multicultural membership and history; approximately 60 percent of the 12,000 baptized Episcopalians are either Dakota, Lakota or Nakota Sioux. The diocese also has one congregation composed of Sudanese immigrants in Sioux Falls.

– The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is superintending presbyter of the Rosebud Episcopal Mission-West in South Dakota.