Bishop Ben Benitez’ Obituary from the Houston Chronicle

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In 1955 Bishop Benitez enrolled in St Luke's School of Theology at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee to study for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church. He was ordained in the Diocese of Florida in 1958 and assigned to St James Episcopal Church, Lake City, Florida. For two years (1961-62) he served as Canon Pastor of St John's Cathedral, Jacksonville, Florida, before being called as Rector of Grace Church, Ocala, Florida.
His years in Ocala were challenging ones in the life of the Church. The tensions of the civil rights movement caused Bishop Benitez to receive threats and hate messages as he stood up boldly against segregation. His parish school was the first in the area to be integrated, a step taken well before the public school system did the same. Still, he was held in such wide respect that when the public system's teachers later went on strike, he was asked by both sides to act as mediator of the dispute.
In 1968 he was called as Rector to Christ Church, San Antonio. There he introduced the exciting renewal program "Faith Alive!", which soon spread successfully throughout Texas and beyond. During his time there, he was elected to serve first on the Board of Trustees and then the Board of Regents of The University of the South, Sewanee, TN. He was called to the Church of St John the Divine in Houston in 1974, where he continued to implement popular forms of Christian renewal and evangelism. He served as chair of the diocesan programs of Christian Stewardship in both the Diocese of Texas and West Texas. Both dioceses elected him several terms as clerical deputy (representative) to the Episcopal Church's General Convention.
He was elected sixth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, and was consecrated on September 13, 1980 in Houston. For fifteen years he loved the privilege and responsibility of leading one of the strongest dioceses in the nation. One of his greatest joys was to continue the long example by which Texas presented more people of all ages for confirmation than any other diocese in the Episcopal Church. His first years as bishop coincided with the massive national capital campaign known as Venture in Mission in which the Episcopal Church raised funds for missionary efforts at home and abroad. The Diocese of Texas led all dioceses in total funds raised.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals

Posted March 3, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Sarah wrote:

What a grand life.

It’s sad to think how shamelessly his legacy of the Gospel has been squandered by bishops of the Diocese of Texas since 1995—in less than 20 years, that Diocese is now being led by a man who thinks it’s a great idea to bless sexual relationships between two men or two women, along with the usual foundational heresies in beliefs about Scripture, authority, the sacraments, the Fall, sin, repentance, sanctification, marriage, the nature of the church and authority, the nature of humankind, and salvation.

So—that’s discouraging to think that in less than 20 years diocesan leadership can go from outstanding and Gospel-believing, to faux-custom-gospel-promoting.

But—at least the DOT had him for 15 years, and that is a great blessing for those who lived under his leadership and Gospel.  Perhaps God will place other teachers and leaders besides the current bishop in the path of those in the Diocese of Texas so that they can hear and learn the Gospel and grow in grace as well.

March 3, 12:20 pm | [comment link]
2. David Keller wrote:

Sarah—In fairness, Bp. Benitez was followed by Bp. Claude Payne who started the Missionary Outpost movement in TEC.  The Diocese of Texas was one of the big drivers behind 20/20, and the Standing Commission for Evangelism was very closely aligned with the Diocese of Texas’ yearly Evangelism Conference at Camp Allen—this was when Bp. Gethen Hughes, Bp. Keith Ackerman and (now) Bp. John Guernsey were still on the Standing Committee. Bp. Dan Herzog keynoted the conference in 2002.  Texas, like everyone else started to come unraveled after 2003, and the Evangelism Conference went out of business after that year. Texas sat in front of Upper SC in Minneapolis in 2003, and they were a very othodox bunch who all opposed VGR.

March 3, 4:25 pm | [comment link]
3. Sarah wrote:

My understanding from those in Texas is that Bishop Payne presided over a drastic decline in orthodoxy in his diocese—a steep plummet from Benitez—and prepped the diocese for its current leadership. At best his actions regarding defending his diocese might be described as feckless and enabling—but some who lived under him would probably go farther than that.

I do see that he liked evangelism.

March 3, 7:59 pm | [comment link]
4. David Keller wrote:

Sarah, Amazing comment. I have decided to stop commenting on Titus19 for Lent and probably beyond, so I will refrain from responding.

March 3, 9:00 pm | [comment link]
5. Charles52 wrote:

I attended Bp. Benitez. Consecration in 1980, and have a wonderful memory of his ministering healing prayer at a renewal conference at my friends’ parish. What a wonderful man! Light eternal!

March 3, 10:00 pm | [comment link]
6. Matt Kennedy wrote:

Actually, having come through the process of ordination in the Diocese of Texas first under Claude Payne, I affirm every single word Sarah has written above…with one exception. He did not like “evangelism” so much as he liked church growth. He asked me in an interview to give my definition of evangelism…I said, going out and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with non-believers. No, he said, that is not the way Episcopalians do evangelism. We do evangelism by having beautiful worship and that draws people into the church.

March 4, 8:35 am | [comment link]
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