The Rt. Rev. Orris G. Walker, Jr., Class of 1968, died on February 28, 2015 at the age of 72. He was the Seventh Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, serving from 1991 to 2009. He received an Honorary Doctorate in 1988 and also served on the Board of Trustees of The General Theological Seminary.
“His episcopate championed the cause of full inclusion of women in the ordained ministry of the diocese,” Long Island Bishop Lawrence Provenzano said of Walker. “He was the first to ordain women in the diocese and was responsible for facilitating the full inclusion and participation of women in all aspects of diocesan life.” Provenzano, who succeeded Walker in November 2009, noted that Walker was also responsible for “widening the participation and full representation of laity in the ministry of the diocese – especially their serving on diocesan boards and commissions.”
Walker was born November 5, 1942 in Baltimore, Maryland. He received his early education in Baltimore public schools, graduating from Baltimore City College in 1960. In 1964, he graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Political Science and Philosophy before attending General. In 1980, he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and in 1984 a Master of Arts in Religious Studies degree from the University of Windsor in Ontario. In 1993, he received an MBA in Church Administration from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. An honorary doctorate in canon law was also conferred on him by Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University in the fall of 1988. An honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree was conferred by St. Paul’s College, Lawrenceville, Virginia, in 2000.
In 1968 Walker was called to serve in St. Mark’s Ecumenical Church in Kansas City, Missouri, as director of program and education. In 1971, he was invited to serve as associate rector of the newly merged churches of St. Matthew’s and St. Joseph’s, Detroit. After the election of its rector, Quintin E. Primo, as bishop suffragan of Chicago, Walker was elected rector, at age 29. While in the Diocese of Michigan, Walker served as a member of Executive Council, the Trustees, the Urban Affairs Committee, dean of convocation, as a board member, and associate professor of contemporary society at the Whitaker School of Theology. He represented the diocese at the provincial synod for 10 years, serving as chair of the Urban Task Force and a member of the Court of Review. He was elected five times to serve as a deputy to The Episcopal Church’s General Convention.
Walker has chaired The Episcopal Church Committee on Canons and was a member of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice. He also served as chair of the Episcopal Commission on Black Ministries and as a member of the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons. In other churchwide service, he chaired the Committee on Canons in the House of Bishops, was a member of the Joint Committee on Nominations, and served as vice president of Province II. In addition, he chaired the Task Force for the Recruitment, Training and Deployment of Black Clergy for The Episcopal Church’s Commission on Black Ministries.
In Detroit, Walker was a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, president of the Cathedral Terrace, a senior citizen housing complex, the Highland Park Community Relations Board and the Black Family Development Board.
As Bishop of Long Island, Walker served as chairman of the board of managers of Episcopal Health Services and board chairman of the Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn. He was president of the Trustees of the Estate belonging to the Diocese of Long Island. In addition, he served as president of Episcopal Charities of Long Island and the George Mercer Memorial School of Theology.
He taught Canon Law and Theology & Contemporary Society at The Mercer School and at The General Theological Seminary. And, he also served as president of the Cathedral Chapter of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, New York.
A Requiem Mass for Bishop Walker was celebrated on March 7 at Christ Church in Detroit.