Thomas James Brown, the newly ordained bishop of the Episcopal Church in Maine, greets well-wishers Saturday as he leaves St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Hundreds of Maine Episcopalians celebrated the ordination and consecration of Bishop Thomas James Brown at the Cathedral of St. Luke in Portland on Saturday.

Brown, who was elected during a convention of clergy and laypeople in Bangor in February, is the first openly gay bishop in the church’s 200-year history in Maine and only the third for the church in the United States.

He replaces Bishop Stephen Lane, who is retiring after leading the church for 11 years. During the ceremony, Brown thanked Lane for his friendship and mentoring as they worked together during the transition from one bishop to the next.

“I promised him I would give him 30 days for retirement and then on July 22, I will be calling him every day,” Brown said to laughter and applause.

Bishop Thomas James Brown prostrates himself before the altar Saturday during his ordination at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

He also thanked his family, including his husband, Thomas Mousin, who is also an ordained priest in the church.

Those in attendance Saturday had traveled from places near and far, including California, the Palestinian territories, Israel and Scotland.

“If you are from Maine,” Brown told those gathered, “I want you to know that I am ready, I am ready to love you, to serve you and learn from you and I look forward to the years ahead.”

Brown had been the rector for the Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester, Massachusetts, since 2009. Before that he spent nine years as a rector for a parish in Brattleboro, Vermont, and was the director of alumni and church relations at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California, after receiving his master’s of divinity at the school. Brown was ordained as a priest in 1998. The service Saturday included a live video feed to some of those other parishes.

The Episcopal Church supports LGBTQ issues. It affirmed full and equal claim to the care of the church for homosexual people in 1976, and transgender people are also assured access to the church’s ministry. The church allowed its priests to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies in 2015 and expanded same-sex marriage rites to all dioceses last year, so that people could get married even in places where local church leadership opposed the practice.

In 2003, Gene Robinson became the first openly gay Episcopal bishop to be elected, taking the position in the New Hampshire Diocese. Robinson retired in 2013. The Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese elected an openly lesbian priest, the Rev. Mary Glasspool, as its suffragan bishop in 2009.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, left, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, was chief consecrator at the ordination Saturday of Bishop Thomas James Brown at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

The Episcopal Diocese of Maine includes about 10,000 people in 59 churches and ministries across the state.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, was the principal celebrant at Saturday’s service. Last year, he delivered a sermon at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding and presided over the funeral of President George H.W. Bush.

The two-hour service Saturday was rich in Episcopal tradition and ceremony, including religious hymns, a communion service and the ceremony of laying on of hands with dozens of other Episcopal bishops from around New England and the U.S. participating.

But the service was also highlighted with humor at times, including in parts of the sermon offered by the Rev. Barbara Lundbald, a Lutheran pastor from Minnesota, who spoke of the cooperation between the two sects of Christianity and a compact that has allowed the churches to share resources, including pastors and priests in congregations where they are needed.

“You may be wondering why the bishop let, who but a Lutheran from Minnesota, to preach at an Episcopal service in Maine. Surely there must be fine preachers in the Episcopal Church,” Lundbald said, drawing a round of laughter from the crowd. But she went on to say how committed Brown was to serving the church and to opening hearts and minds.

Episcopalians make up about 3 percent of Maine’s Christian population, according to 2014 data from the Pew Research Center.


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