RIP: Former Long Island Bishop Orris G. Walker, Jr.

Posted Mar 2, 2015

ens_030215_orrisWalker[Episcopal Diocese of Long Island] The Rt. Rev. Orris G. Walker, Jr., died on Feb. 28 at the age of 72. He was the seventh bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, serving from 1991 to 2009.

“His episcopate championed the cause of full inclusion of women in the ordained ministry of the diocese,” Long Island Bishop Lawrence Provenzano said of Walker. “He was the first to ordain women in the diocese and was responsible for facilitating the full inclusion and participation of women in all aspects of diocesan life.”

Provenzano, who succeeded Walker in November 2009, noted that Walker was also responsible for “widening the participation and full representation of laity in the ministry of the diocese — especially their serving on diocesan boards and commissions.”

“Bishop Walker’s episcopacy covered a difficult and sometimes controversial period in the history of the diocese. Nevertheless, his dedication to the people of the Diocese of Long Island will forever stand as a testament to his love for Jesus Christ and his dedication to the ministry of the Church,” Provenzano wrote in a letter to the diocese.

A Requiem Mass for Bishop Walker will be held March 7 at 1:30 p.m. at Christ Church in Detroit, Michigan.

Walker was born Nov. 5, 1942 in Baltimore, Maryland. He received his early education in Baltimore public schools, graduating from Baltimore City College in 1960.

In 1964, he graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Political Science and Philosophy. In 1968, he received a Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree from the General Theological Seminary in New York.

In 1980, he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and in 1984 a Master of Arts in Religious Studies degree from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. In 1993, he received an MBA in Church Administration from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

Honorary doctorates in canon law and divinity were conferred by Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University and the General Theological Seminary, respectively, in the fall of 1988. An honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree was conferred by St. Paul’s College, Lawrenceville, Virginia, in 2000.

Walker was ordained to the diaconate in 1968 by the Rt. Rev. Harry Lee Doll. Later that year, Walker was called to serve in St. Mark’s Ecumenical Church in Kansas City, Missouri, as director of program and education.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1969 by the Rt. Rev. Edward R. Welles on the Vigil of Pentecost. In 1971, he was invited to serve as associate rector of the newly merged churches of St. Matthew’s and St. Joseph’s, Detroit. After the election of its rector, Quintin E. Primo, as bishop suffragan of Chicago, Walker was elected rector, at age 29.

While in the Diocese of Michigan, Walker served as a member of Executive Council, the Trustees, the Urban Affairs Committee, dean of convocation, as a board member, and associate professor of contemporary society at the Whitaker School of Theology. He represented the diocese at the provincial synod for 10 years, serving as chair of the Urban Task Force and a member of the Court of Review. He was elected five times to serve as a deputy to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention.

Walker has chaired the Episcopal Church Committee on Canons and was a member of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice. He also served as chair of the Episcopal Commission on Black Ministries and as a member of the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons.

In other churchwide service, he chaired the Committee on Canons in the House of Bishops, was a member of the Joint Committee on Nominations, and served as vice president of Province II. In addition, he chaired the Task Force for the Recruitment, Training and Deployment of Black Clergy for the Episcopal Church’s Commission on Black Ministries.

In Detroit, Walker was a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, president of the Cathedral Terrace, a senior citizen housing complex, the Highland Park Community Relations Board and the Black Family Development Board.

As bishop of Long Island, Walker served as chairman of the board of managers of Episcopal Health Services and board chairman of the Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn. He was president of the Trustees of the Estate belonging to the Diocese of Long Island. In addition, he served as president of Episcopal Charities of Long Island and the George Mercer Memorial School of Theology.

He taught Canon Law and Theology & Contemporary Society at The Mercer School and at the General Theological Seminary. And, he also served as president of the Cathedral Chapter of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, New York.


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Comments (4)

  1. When my late wife Katrina Martha Swanson was ordained as one of the “Philadelphia Eleven” in 1974, “Jay” Walker was one of the very few clergymen in Kansas City who didn’t want to help Arthur Anton Vogel, our bishop, burn Katrina and me at the stake. Katrina admired Jay as a priest and modeled her ministry on his vibrant work. Years later Katrina and I visited his inner-city parish in Detroit. We were impressed to see the work of a wise and imaginative priest. Later in the 1980s when Bishop John Shelby Spong tried to take my frock, Bishop Walker tried to support me by attending my ecclesiastical trial in Newark. Rest in peace, dear Jay. Rise in the love of the dear God.

  2. Bob McCloskey says:

    I think I speak for all of Ja’s GTS classmates in offering our respect, admiration and fortitude for his ministry. He and I were part of a seminarian team including the late Bishop Herb Thompson in a Newark ghetto parish. His intellect and humor was a blessed gift. He served the Diocese of Long Island with those gifts and I was privileged to serve as one of his clergy towards the end of my tenure there. Over the years he bore several afflictions with courage and acceptance. Well done, good and faithful servant. Rest in peace and rise in glory.

  3. Raleigh Daniel Hairston, D.Min. says:

    I remember well the Rt. Rev. Orris George Walker, Jr. from his time, and our service together in the Diocese of Michigan. My deepest sympathy is extended to his wife, children, family, friends and fellow clergy colleagues. “May his soul and all those of the faithful departed rest in peace, and some day rise in glory with our Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.

  4. Angela Walker says:

    I love you daddy
    I miss you

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