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New bishop plans outreach, growth

By Richard Yeakley
Oct. 5, 2012 at 10 p.m.

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas will consecrate a new bishop suffragan today.

The Rev. Jeff Fisher, who served as rector of St. Alban's in Waco, will be consecrated to minister to the Episcopal churches in the eastern region of the diocese, including Gregg and Smith counties.

"I am excited to be a part of this, I am a big believer in church growth. We have strong liturgy and strong outreach that our congregations are participating in," Fisher said. "I will be encouraging the congregations to think outside the box and to make sure they are engaging the community."

The Diocese of Texas covers the eastern portion of the state.

It is led by a bishop diosecan, C. Andrew Doyle, and has two bishop suffragans, Dena Harrison and Fisher.

Fisher will oversee Episcopal missions, including the Episcopal Church Women, and travel weekly to churches under his ministry to preach and administer communion.

A primary goal for the region is community outreach and evangelism, said Fisher, whose Waco congregation grew 85 percent during his six-year tenure.

"We make assumptions about the culture of East Texas - that everyone goes to church on Sunday - but that's not true. There are many people who are hungry to hear the good news," Fisher said.

Fisher's consecration will be 11 a.m. today in the Caldwell Auditorium, 300 S. College Ave., in downtown Tyler.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, will be the chief consecrator, joined by Bishop Doyle, Bishop Suffragan Dena Harrison and other bishops from across the country.

The Rev. Kevin Wittmayer of Trinity Episcopal Church in Longview said excitement is felt throughout the church.

"Without a doubt, any time you have a consecration of a bishop, it is a time of joy. It will be very celebratory, a great fanfare. It will probably last an hour and half or two hours," Wittmayer said.

Fisher is the husband of Susan Fisher and has two sons, one a senior at Texas Technical University and the other a high school senior in Waco.

He worked as an certified public accountant for 16 years and was an active lay member in his church when he felt called to full-time ministry.

Always a member of the Episcopal church, Fisher said the denomination offers a unique mix of old and new.

"I believe that the Episcopal church blends together the ancient with the contemporary. The liturgy, the order of worship, is so timeless that there is a freedom that can be found within that structure where we meet God through Jesus Christ - in the liturgy and the bread and the wine," Fisher said.

Fisher's office will be in Tyler.

Following the consecration, he will preach at 8:45 and 11 a.m. Sunday at Christ Church in Tyler.

"To me, it is extremely humbling, and I feel very much like a servant. I have been given a great task, and I hope God gives me the strength to perform," Fisher said.



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