Ordination of 11 new priests reflects vitality of Atlanta diocese

Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta
Posted Jun 28, 2023

The nave of The Cathedral of St. Philip was nearly full on a recent Saturday as 11 priests took their ordination vows.

It was the largest ordination of priests in The Diocese of Atlanta in decades, reflecting the growth in Holy Orders in the 8th largest of the 110 dioceses of the Episcopal Church.

Atlanta Bishop Rob Wright said it is also important that those ordained are younger than in The Episcopal Church at large and the 20 Southern dioceses.

“We learned from a recent report from the Church Pension Group that our diocese is outperforming The Episcopal Church at large and even Province Four in two very important metrics: in ordaining younger priests and in that pay parity between male and female priests in the Diocese of Atlanta is closing rapidly.” Wright told Connecting News.

Those ordained on June 24 are Jerry Douglas Adkins, Salmoon Bashir, Joshua Drew Hilton, Mark Stewart Johnson, Hannah Jane Kelly, Jennifer Marie McBride, Carmie Jones McDonald, Brandon Michael Nonnemaker, Kaitlyn Victoria Presley, Megan Kathleen Swett, and Raymond Walker III. The 12th member of the postulant cohort, Janelle Hiroshige, was recently ordained in Boston.

The ordination sermon was given by Dr. Jan Love, dean of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. Love, a lay person, said it was her first time delivering an ordination sermon. “And it may be my last,” Love said to laughter from the hundreds packing the Gothic style cathedral.

“Bishop Wright has taken something of a risk here and I’m thrilled as a preacher’s kid. It says a lot about the way he thinks about leadership by inviting me, a lay person in the Methodist Church.”

Love said those being ordained should be proud of their accomplishment and grateful for the support of church leaders, families and friends that encouraged, challenged, and supported their efforts.

“You’ve been examined repeatedly and in prolonged exercises by the academy, by the diocese, by the episcopal church, by your families and by your own conscience, you should be appropriately proud to reach this moment of extraordinary affirmation and consecration” Love said. “It’s a remarkable day, an extraordinary day, a beautiful service, a gorgeous day on which to hold it and a life changing experience that you will remember for the rest of your lives just as your families and friends will.”

Reflecting on the service Bishop Wright said a highlight of Love’s sermon for him was about the importance of priests to lay people.

“One of several important points she made was that lay people in the church need to see courageous, compassionate leadership from their priests. She was really good and was wonderfully concise. She spoke from the heart.

And then the Cathedral was absolutely full on a Saturday in June,” Wright said. “That tells me that while there are lots of things to be concerned about in terms of the church there is also reason to hope. The presiding Bishop says Good Friday lives right next to Easter. And we are seeing this Friday a lot of places, but we are also seeing Easter, so Saturday was certainly an Easter moment for the Atlanta diocese.”

Wright said the growth of the diocese is the result of intentional and sustained effort.

“We’ve worked really hard in what we call our Commission on Ministry and I’m proud that we’ve developed clergy partners all around the Diocese of Atlanta who are inviting people to think about how God is calling them to serve as priests in the church, asking him to think about that as early as high school and college.

“And then there’s Camp Mikell. It ends up being one of our great places of discernment – we call it Mikell Magic. It’s a place of radical hospitality and joy and it’s also a place of prayer and formation. So, we’ve sort of cobbled together ways where we’re inviting people to think about what it might mean to live lives of service to the Lord of the church in the priesthood, the diaconate, and for lay people who are going to be increasingly the leaders of the church in the future.”

The Diocese of Atlanta is comprised of 117 worshiping communities in Middle and North Georgia served by more than 200 active priests. The Diocese also has a vital network of Episcopal schools and direct service ministries.

Watch the video of the ordination service. See photographs from the service.