Education, Ordination, and Early Priesthood
Bishop Browning received his seminary education from the University of the South, commonly known as Sewanee. While there he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1952, followed by the postgraduate Bachelor of Divinity in 1954. On July 2, 1954, he was ordained to the diaconate, and his ordination to the priesthood took place on May 23, 1955 in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. Browning was married to Patricia Alline Sparks on September 10, 1953. Together they had five children, Mark, Paige, Philip, Peter, and John.
Browning began his career as a priest in Corpus Christi as an assistant at the Church of the Good Shepherd from 1954 to 1956, followed by a period as Rector of Church of the Redeemer in Eagle Pass, Texas from 1956 to 1959.
Japan and Europe
In 1959, Browning and his wife moved to Okinawa and began what would become a 12 year span in Japan. He was priest-in-charge of All Souls Church, Okinawa, until 1963 when he and his wife went to Kobe to study at the Language School; they remained in Kobe until 1965. On returning to Okinawa, Bishop Browning served at St. Matthew's Church in Oruku until 1968. On January 5, 1968, Browning was consecrated the first Missionary Bishop of Okinawa.
He remained in that post until May 16, 1971, when he left Japan for Nice to assume the post of Bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe. At the time of his appointment to the European See by Presiding Bishop John Hines, he was the first active, full-time bishop to be appointed to the post. Previously the position had been occupied by a retired Suffragan bishop. As bishop in Europe, Browning had jurisdiction over Episcopal churches in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy and France. Browning oversaw the closing of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity in Nice, in connection with the withdrawal of U.S. forces from France, before moving to Wiesbaden, another city with a large U.S. troop presence and a lower cost of living than the Riviera. The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, commonly known as the American Cathedral in Paris, did not become the seat of the bishop-in-charge until later.
Return to the United States
Bishop Browning returned to the United States in June 1974 to work at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City as Executive for National and World Mission on the Executive Council of the Church. In 1976, he was elected Bishop of Hawaii, and was installed at the Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew, Honolulu on August 1 of that year. Browning was the second Bishop of Hawaii since the Missionary District of Honolulu was granted status as a diocese in 1969. Overall, he was the sixth bishop since 1862 when Bishop Thomas Nettleship Staley arrived in Honolulu at the invitation of Hawaii's King Kamehameha IV. Browning succeeded the Rt. Rev. E. Lani Hanchett, who had died in office the previous year at the age of 56.
On September 19, 1985, Bishop Browning was elected to succeed the Most Reverend John Maury Allin as Presiding Bishop at the General Convention held in Anaheim, California. His election to the twelve year term came on the fourth ballot of the House of Bishops and was ratified overwhelmingly by a voice vote of the House of Deputies.
Shortly after his election, Bishop Browning said of his vision for the Church, "There are tremendous global issues that face us all. My hope is that the Church can continue to hold these issues before the full membership, as well as society, to bring about some well-being for all. I think the Church has a role in being both prophetic in holding up issues, and using all its influences to try to bring about better conditions for the poor, the hungry, both in this country as well as in the global village." He later added, "there will be no outcasts in the Church."
On January 16, 1986, Bishop Browning was installed in Washington National Cathedral as the 24th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. During his sermon, Browning began to address the deepening rift within the Church over issues such as the ordination of women and homosexuality, by saying, "(do not ask me) to honor one set of views and disregard the other. I may agree with one, but I will respect both...the unity of this church will be maintained not because we agree on everything but because -- hopefully -- we will leave judgment to God."
Bishop Browning's theologically liberal views earned him both admiration from progressives and intense criticism by the conservative wing of the church, and the rift, primarily over whether openly homosexual clergy may be ordained and whether gay and lesbian couples' unions may be blessed by the church, grew during his tenure. The tensions broke into a personal public exchange at the 1991 General Convention in Phoenix, Arizona, during a session of the House of Bishops, between conservative Bishop John MacNaughton of the Diocese of West Texas and Bishop John Spong of the Diocese of Newark, N.J., prompting Browning to call for an unusual closed session of the bishops.
Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning retired on December 31, 1997, and was succeeded by the Most Rev. Frank Tracy Griswold III.
References and External Links
- The Episcopal Church Annual -Morehouse Publishing
- The Electronic Clerical Directory -Church Publishing, Inc.
- Presiding Bishop page on ECUSA website
- The Digital Archives of the Episcopal Church
- The Convocation of American Churches in Europe
- The Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii
E. Lani Hanchett
|6th Bishop of Hawaii|
1976 – 1986
| Succeeded by|
John Maury Allin
|24th Presiding Bishop|
January 1, 1986 – December 31, 1997
| Succeeded by|
Frank Tracy Griswold