Born on January 3, 1947, I was raised in Brookhaven, Mississippi. As the tumultuous Civil Rights Era exploded across the South, I was deeply troubled by the prejudice and injustices I witnessed.
What made a far bigger impression on me was that my grandmother routinely entertained black friends on the broad front porch of her home—a rare event in Mississippi at the time. From her I learned much about true friendship, equality and respecting the dignity of every human being.
I headed north for college to the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. After completing my undergraduate work there in 1969, I moved on to Harvard where I earned an M.A. in Church History in 1971 and a Ph.D. in Church History in 1975.
From 1974 to 1993 I was the Michael Blecker Professor of the Humanities at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN. Following this I accepted a position as the SPRL Professor of History and World Mission at General Theological Seminary. I held this position until 1998. I thought moving my family from a fairly rural town in Minnesota to the middle of Manhattan would be quite a challenge, but within a few days my daughter told me it was the best thing that ever happened to her.
I went on to become the Dean of Berkley Divinity School at Yale until 2002. I always say that this experience, which became fraught with challenges, made me the person I am today and prepared me well for becoming a bishop.
And now I am the 11th Bishop of Western New York. It is an exciting and challenging job, but one I feel I am strongly called to do to the best of my ability.