Ethnic ministry advisers gather in Missouri after pandemic disruptions

Posted May 17, 2023

[Diocese of Missouri] Nearly three years after the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Deon Johnson as the 11th bishop of the Diocese of Missouri, a group of ethnic leaders from The Episcopal Church finally had the opportunity to lay hands on their friend and offer prayers for his new ministry.

Johnson was ordained and consecrated as a bishop June 13, 2020, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. For everyone’s safety, only a handful of people were allowed to attend the service in St. Louis. Among those who were not able to be in attendance were members of the Ethnic Ministries Joint Councils of Advice, of which Johnson serves as a member.

Now that restrictions have been lifted, the Joint Councils of Advice are again meeting in-person. They came to Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis on May 9-11, 2023, for their annual meeting. During the celebration of Holy Eucharist that ended that gathering, the Rev. Ellis Clifton, Jr., from the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin in the British Virgin Islands, invited Johnson to kneel so they could pray for and with him. It was an event that likely would have happened the evening before his consecration — under more normal circumstances.

“I didn’t know that was going to happen,” Johnson said after the May 11 service. “Oh, wow. That was very powerful!”

More than 30 people from as far as Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the Dakotas gathered around the kneeling bishop. They laid hands on him and each other and then took turns offering prayers in a variety of languages.

“It was deeply moving to hear that many languages being spoken. To me, that really was a glimpse of God’s kingdom breaking into our world,” Johnson said.

The Episcopal Church’s Ethnic Ministries has four offices, focusing on African Descent Ministries (of which Johnson is a member), Asiamerica Ministries, Indigenous Ministries and Latino Ministries. Each office has its own council of advice, made up of lay and clergy members from throughout the world, who meets regularly to review things happening in their specific area and to make plans for future ministry. Members of all four councils come together once each year.

Along with the prayers, the Rev. Ronald Byrd Sr. and the Rt. Rev. Wendell Gibbs Jr. presented Johnson with a trophy of appreciation from the African Descent Ministries. Johnson worked with Byrd and Gibbs during his time as a priest in the Diocese of Michigan.

“That meant a lot,” Johnson said. “They were both instrumental in my ministry in Michigan. It meant a lot to have friends and supporters give thanks for my ministry and for me to give thanks for theirs, also.”