Our Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Royal Upton Grote, Jr passed from earth to his heavenly home on Thanksgiving morning, A.D. 2016, 3 months after his 70th birthday. His death was a shock to everyone. Because he was a close personal friend, Pastor Bill Smith has asked if I would be willing to address the parish & speak of our beloved Bishop.
Joan & I, & Pat Smith knew Bp Grote when we was just a seminarian & we had no idea, after his ordination to the Diaconate & then the Presbyterate, that he would ever be elevated to the Episcopal Office----not because he lacked the intellect, but rather because he was just such a regular guy. Happily, that trait of fun & honesty & restraint & wisdom was always a hallmark of his fine character. He was always a person of deep personal piety, prayer, interest in evangelism & missions, financial integrity, and commitment to the Reformed Episcopal Church, the Bible, and the Book of Common Prayer.
When others in the Reformed Episcopal Church said “No” to expanding our Reformed Episcopal witness to the West Coast—especially California, Texas, Roy Grote dared to go against the grain, stepped out in faith, & said YES, We Will Go!---he believed the fields were ready for harvest—and he was right.
Joan & Roy worked hand in hand in the financial matters of this fledgling venture---often with no money or funding except what came from the Bishops own wallet. First there was the SJNA—the Special Jurisdiction of North America,--& as more & more churches began to be founded & flourish under the pastoral care of this wise shepherd of the sheep,---the SJNA became the BNCE—The Board of National Church Extension, which in turn became the Diocese of Mid-America, the most successful diocese in the United States & Canada. And almost single-handedly it was due to the vigilance & hard work & vision & prayer of Bishop Grote. He looked to His Heavenly Father, to Jesus his Savior, & to the Holy Spirit for his leading & guiding & sustaining power.
I remember being invited to participate in his Episcopal Consecration in New Jersey; & on other occasions to visiting his parish of St Lukes. On various occasions we went to their mountain retreat in the Pocono Mtns, ---and Joan & I, with Roy & Ellen, going out for dinner, & even staying at their home overnight. His youngest son, Jacob, had to give up his bed for me---& I don’t that the young fellow was especially happy to have his bedroom invaded. Joan & I attended, in TX, the wedding of their daughter Ellen, & in so many ways---in the Diocese, in the General Councils, in personal & loving ways, to be a part of his life.
When he became Presiding Bishop, I personally felt that as Captain of the Ship, he would guide us away from the rocks & shoals & dangerous waters that were drawing ever closer to our beloved Reformed Episcopal Church. This past summer I shared with him, in a written format, my concerns. In October he attended, in Williamsburg, VA, the 60th anniversary of the womens Spiritual Enrichment Conference & preached a fine sermon outlining a strategy for progress & growth in our Church. And at that same conference he took the time to spend over an hour with several of us who had expressed alarm & concern over the direction, as we perceived it, in the Church. Again, his counsel was pastoral, gentle & restrained---& he felt that the Lord of the Church was still Lord of the Church & that He would guide His Church in His way. Nevertheless, the 3 of us felt that with Bp Grote at the helm, we would weather any storm that might come.
Then, a little later that month, again in Virginia, at St Jude’s in Richmond for our annual Diocesan Synod, he again reiterated his plan for growth & progress for the future of the RE Church. We were all grateful for his progressive attitude & his firm resolve, & looked ahead to the future with confidence, with our Presiding Bishop demonstrating solid leadership, ---a guiding light for a bright future. Our prayer & our plan was for him to be our Presiding Bishop for a long & successful role & venture.
However, in the Providence of God, he was not to be Presiding Bishop but for a very short time. His mantle of leadership will now fall on other shoulders & I pray that our Sovereign God & King will raise up others for the challenges & opportunities that lie before us.
More than any of us can realize, we have lost a sterling & wise leader. He now rests from his labors & enjoys the radiance of heaven & the presence of his Eternal Savior.
He leaves behind his family & his beloved wife Ellen. May we remember them in our prayers, remembering Jesus’ words, “I Am the resurrection & the life.”
My closing words are from St Matthew, 25:21 -- “Well done, thou good & faithful servant,……enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
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