Two days after he was consecrated as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, Gregory Brewer was marching Monday with the crowd demanding justice for Trayvon Martin.
He was the only white clergyman to address the Sanford City Commission inside the Civic Center that evening, urging city leaders to address the concerns of the black community.
“I thought it was very courageous,” said Andy Searles, a pastor with Aloma United Methodist Church in Winter Park. “It would have been very easy for him to sit in his office and organize the paperwork on his desk, but he made a statement of what the church should be.”
Brewer characterized it not as an act of courage but as one of faith and commitment to his diocese, which covers 15 counties and has 31,000 Episcopalians. It was the most direct way for him to make a public statement about what kind of Episcopal bishop he intends to be.
“Part of what I’m trying to do is chart a course of what my role is as bishop in Central Florida. I don’t want to hide out with my local churches. My role is to be involved in the life of my community as a Christian presence,” said Brewer, 60, who remembers Klan marches growing up in Richmond, Va.
Brewer, who was ordained in Central Florida and spent 16 years here, was rector of a small, multicultural church in downtown Manhattan when elected to succeed Bishop John W. Howe, who retired after serving 22 years. Apart from his opposition to ordaining gay priests, Howe was a low-key leader given more to intellectual study than community involvement.
Brewer comes from the evangelical tradition of the Episcopal Church that applied spiritual conviction to social activism, dating back to opposition to slavery and exploitation of child labor, said the Rev. Rory Harris, who has known him for 14 years.
“This is a consistent pattern with him. This is living out the gospel to be involved in the spiritual life, but have it inform our actions in daily life,” said Harris, rector of Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Sanford.