Former Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia Peter James Lee Dies at 84

[Diocese of Virginia] The Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, 12th bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, died in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on July 2. He was 84. Lee served as bishop from 1984 to 2009.

During his tenure as bishop, Lee ordained more than 200 people to the priesthood; helped to strengthen the church schools in the diocese; oversaw major capital improvements to the two diocesan conference centers, Roslyn in Richmond and Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs; developed a partner relationship with the Diocese of Christ the King in South Africa; and established a program to give financial assistance to diocesan youth to make mission trips. He also helped to establish the Triangle of Hope, a covenantal relationship between the Dioceses of Virginia; Liverpool, England; and now the Diocese of Kumasi, Ghana. The Triangle of Hope promotes reconciliation and healing from the three dioceses’ shared history in the slave trade.

One of the hallmarks of Lee’s episcopate was his vote in 2003 to confirm the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop elected in The Episcopal Church. That decision prompted 11 churches to break away from the diocese, which led to a legal battle over property ownership. The diocese ultimately won the legal dispute in 2012 when the courts ruled that the seceding churches’ buildings and land were the property of the diocese.

Lee said that some of the highlights of his career were meeting Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and being presented to Queen Elizabeth II.

Another legacy he leaves to the Diocese of Virginia is a fund established in his name, the Peter James Lee Fund for Small Church Revitalization. The endowment fund was established in 2001 and its purpose it to assist small churches in their revitalization, preservation and expansion primarily of their facilities.

While Lee eventually found his way to seminary, ordained ministry was not his first career. Prior to his call to ministry, he served as an Army intelligence officer, then as a journalist for several newspapers, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

He enrolled in Duke University Law School in 1963, but it was during his first year that he felt his call to ordained ministry. It was also the year he met his wife, Kristy Margaret Knapp.

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Source: Episcopal News Service