On May 16, George Sumner, principal and Helliwell Professor of World Mission at Wycliffe College in Toronto was elected as the seventh bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Dallas in Texas. Pending the required consents from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees of The Episcopal Church, he will be consecrated on November 14.
Sumner said he felt “stunned” and “humbled” to have been chosen. “I’ve been a priest for a long time, but it’s a whole new phase of ministry with lots of dimensions that I don’t yet know much about.”
In an interview, Sumner said that he had been to the diocese of Dallas many times over the years, “sometimes to preach, sometimes to recruit and to go to conferences,” and that “it was the kind of place that I admire and felt an affinity to.” He said that he felt a strong call from God to “be open to this possibility and see what happens.”
Of his work at Wycliffe, Sumner said he feels good about what he has been able to do as principal. “Wycliffe College is in a strong position: financially, in terms of students, in terms of faculty, morale, new programs – I will be very sad to leave. I love Wycliffe College, but I am confident that it is in a strong place to move ahead.”
He also shared his excitement about the work he will be taking on as bishop. “Dallas is in a remarkable moment,” he said. “It’s been successful at church planting and it has people who are good at that, so my goal is just to help them continue the good work they’ve done.”
As particular interests, he cited his commitment to Christian formation among the youth of the diocese, and “encouraging the clergy theologically, spiritually and pastorally.”
In a way, returning to The Episcopal Church will be going home for the American-born Sumner, who was educated at Harvard (B.A.) and Yale (M.Div, PhD) and ordained to the priesthood in the diocese of Western Massachusetts in 1981.
While he is happy to be returning to the U.S., Sumner said he has “an immigrant’s love” for Canada. “I admire a lot about this country and will miss it. I have been blessed to have been here.”
– With files from Episcopal News Service
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with more information.