Feast of Henry Irving Louttit, Jr. (December 31)   10 comments

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor



Episcopal Bishop of Georgia

Bishop Henry Irving Loutttit, Jr., comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via my ecclesiastical past.  Within Anglicanism, history makes saints.  I, having known Bishop Louttit, attest that he was a saint.

This post is personal.  Know, therefore, O reader, that I have chosen to refer to this saint on a first-name basis–as Henry.

Henry was a model of Anglican collegiality.  In the last two decades, “Anglican,” in the United States of America, has assumed a Donatistic connotation in my mind.  Henry’s Anglicanism was a big tent, however.  He, to my right in many respects, offered an ecclesiastical setting that made room for heretics such as me.

Henry Irving Louttit, Jr., born in West Palm Beach, Florida, on June 13, 1938, was a scion of The Episcopal Church.  Henry’s mother was Amy Cleckler Louttit.  His father was Henry Irving Louttit, Sr. (1903-1984), then a priest in the Diocese of South Florida.  Henry, Sr., went on to serve as the Suffragan Bishop of South Florida (1945-1948), the Bishop Coadjutor of South Florida (1948-1951), and the Bishop of South Florida (1951-1969).  In 1969, the Diocese of South Florida broke up into the Dioceses of Southeast Florida, Southwest Florida, and Central Florida.  Henry, Sr., served as the first Bishop of Central Florida (1969-1970) before retiring.

The Louttit family belonged to the Anglo-Catholic wing of The Episcopal Church.  In 2005, Henry recalled:

…we knew that we were right, even though we were not the majority in the Episcopal Church.  There was a fortress mentality that caused us to suspect that everything the national Episcopal Church did was intended to undercut the truths that we held dear.  Most of the young priests who influenced me as a teenager believed that the greater part of the Episcopal Church was heretical–were outside of God’s communion.

The family was progressive on racial justice issues.  The Ku Klux Klan once burned a cross on the front lawn of the family home in Winter Park, Florida.

Henry had a fine Episcopal education.  He studied at Christ School, a boarding school in Arden, North Carolina.  He graduated with honors from The University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, too.  Our saint made an unusual choice of seminary, given his Anglo-Catholic heritage; he matriculated at Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Virginia.  In 2005, Henry recalled:

For them anything that Roman Catholics did or said was wrong….In my world, if Rome did it, it was right.  In their world, if Rome did it, it must be wrong.

Henry married Jayne “Jan” Northway Arledge on June 14, 1962.  The couple eventually had three daughters.

While a seminarian, Henry served at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.  It had become the first racially-integrated Episcopal church in the District of Columbia in the 1950s.

Henry, having graduated from VTS in June 1963, embarked on his ministerial career.  His father ordained him a deacon that month.  Our saint became a priest on June 25, 1964.  He served in three congregations in the Diocese of Georgia:

  1. Trinity Episcopal Church, Statesboro (-1967);
  2. Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta (1967-1994); and
  3. St. James’ Episcopal Church, Quitman (1970-1974).

Henry nearly became a bishop at least twice before winning election as Bishop of Georgia.

  1. Henry was a candidate for Bishop Coadjutor of Georgia in 1983.  Henry was a relatively liberal candidate; he favored the ordination of women.  Harry Woolston Shipps (1926-1916) won that election on a pledge not to ordain women.  Shipps went on to serve as the Bishop Coadjutor (1984-1985) then the Bishop of Georgia (1985-1994).  Before Shipps retired, he ordained women.
  2. Henry was also a candidate for Suffragan Bishop of Ohio in 1994.  Kenneth Lester Price, Jr., won that election and served, starting that year.

Henry won election as Bishop of Georgia in late 1994.  His consecration occurred in the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Savannah, on January 21, 1995.

Henry was my priest (1993-1994) then my bishop (1995-2005).  Many people knew him longer and better than I did.  I wish I had known him better than I did.

Henry was, among other descriptions:

  1. Beloved,
  2. Pastoral,
  3. Down-to-earth, and
  4. Realistic.

Henry had a healthy sense of humor about himself.  On his last Sunday at Christ Christ, Valdosta (October 30, 1994), Henry noted the proximity of that day to Halloween.  He also recalled that his installation as rector had occurred on April Fool’s Day, 1967.

In the early 2000s, I was a member of another parish in another town in the Diocese of Georgia.  One Sunday, when Henry made his episcopal visit, he diplomatically broke bad news:  He had spoken to recent former rectors of that parish.  Not one missed the parish.  This was an evaluation the congregation needed to hear.

Henry was, like most people, I suppose, a mix of progressivism and conservatism.

  1. Henry was a relative liberal in the Diocese of Georgia, especially with regard to The Book of Common Prayer (1979) and the ordination of women.  His metaphorical fingerprints were all over the “new Prayer Book;” he was part of its creation.  And one daughter became a priest.  In the House of Bishops, Henry voted to insist on the ordination of women in all dioceses.
  2. Henry, however, was relatively conservative regarding homosexuality.  His voting record on this issue in the House of Bishops moderated the longer he served as a bishop, however.  That relative conservatism helped in his effort to maintain diocesan unity in the early 2000s.  He was not entirely successful, though; no Bishop of Georgia could have been.  Henry strove to maintain the big tent.  Some, however, chose to leave that tent and form breakaway congregations.

Henry, as Bishop of Georgia, presided over a rural, far-flung diocese.  He worked on solutions regarding ministry in that context.  Henry also encouraged the vocational diaconate, founded missions and revitalized congregations.

Henry (Doctor of Divinity, Virginia Theological Seminary, 1993) was also a hagiographer.  He wrote Saints of Georgia (1998, 1999, 2004), a mix of national and diocesan saints.  One of these saints–Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander (1865?-1947)–eventually received denominational recognition.  The Episcopal Church added her to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016) then to Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018.  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry visited her old church, Good Shepherd, Pennick, in January 2018.

I departed for the Diocese of Atlanta in August 2005.  Before I did, however, I asked Henry to recommend a parish to attend in Athens.  He advised me to join St. Gregory the Great Church.  He was correct.

Henry retired on January 23, 2010.  He remained in Savannah for years.  Eventually, though, he and Jan moved to Tallahassee, Florida, to be close to a daughter.

Henry, aged 82 years, died in Tallahassee on December 23, 2020.  He was a gentleman, a scholar, and a prince of the church.





Heavenly Father, Shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servant Henry Irving Louttit, Jr.,

who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock;

and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life,

we may by your grace grow into the stature and fullness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16

Psalm 23

1 Peter 5:1-4

John 21:15-17

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 718


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