The Rt. Rev. Deon K. Johnson was ordained as the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, representing more than 10,000 worshipers from 42 parishes throughout the eastern half of the state. He is the first black, openly gay bishop in the diocese’s 179-year history.
“To find ourselves in this moment, the ancestor of a slave, to be called to be the Bishop of Missouri – God is good!” said Bishop Johnson during his ordination service. “To the people of Missouri, we have a whole new story to tell and a whole new boldness to tell it with. So, I look forward to the adventure.”
Before two dozen worshipers and Episcopal clerics at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis, Johnson was consecrated as the spiritual leader of eastern Missouri’s congregants during a service that was livestreamed on the diocesan Facebook page.
Johnson succeeds the Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith, who served the diocese as bishop for 18 years before retiring at the end of April. Johnson’s ordination as bishop was delayed nearly two months as church leaders revised plans to accommodate public health requirements caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
At their convention on November 23, delegates chose among three candidates and elected Johnson by an overwhelming majority on the first ballot. He began his ministry in the diocese on March 1, beginning what turned out to be a longer than expected transition period with his predecessor.
Following the killing of George Floyd at the end of May, Johnson has been visible throughout the community among nonviolent protesters. He led a rally at St. John’s Tower Grove in solidarity with the members of St. John’s Church near Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C.—the scene of a police action that relocated protestors on June 1.
“Fear would tell us that dignity belongs to some and not to others,” he said following the rally. “As followers of Jesus, we must live and know that perfect love casts out fear. We must, in the words of the Prophet Micah, ‘do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.’”
Johnson—an immigrant from Barbados—has served as a priest in the Episcopal Church since 2003, most recently as rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brighton, Michigan. He and his husband now live in the St. Louis area. They have two children.