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Local Episcopalians petition to put Waubun priest on bishop ballot

Rev. Doyle Turner of Waubun is a potential candidate to be the 9th bishop of the Minnesota Episcopal diocese. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

A small Episcopal church - so tiny it had to merge with a Presbyterian church to survive - has offered one of its own priests to be the next bishop of Minnesota.

Doyle Turner of Waubun was nominated by a petition circulated by members of Trinity Church - Episcopal and Presbyterian of Park Rapids. Petitioners actually drove the papers to the diocese offices in Minneapolis Aug. 14, the last day to submit petitions.

The petitioners solicited funds to help finance the drive. Typical of his unpresuming nature, Turner thanked parishioners for their support, but told them to keep their donations modest.

"The church needs a rural voice," he said in accepting their support.

Candidates for the 9th Episcopal bishop of Minnesota will undergo background checks and be formally announced Sept. 25. Three candidates gave already been solicited by the diocese search committee, but the process allows for public petitions for nominations such as Turner's.

The election of the bishop will take place Oct. 31 at the Diocesan Convention in Minneapolis.

"The process of calling the IX Bishop of Minnesota is designed to be deliberate, thorough, and prayerful," said Dr. Scott Crow, chair of the diocesan Standing Committee, which conducts the search and election of bishops.

"These candidates come to us out of a process that has been well-organized and spirit-filled and always in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of our church.

"I look forward to continuing to witness the work of the Holy Spirit among Episcopalians in Minnesota as this process unfolds," Crow wrote for the diocese Web site.

Turner was born and raised on the White Earth Indian Reservation and served as tribal chair for four years until 2004. He joined the Episcopal church 44 years ago when he married his wife, Mary, a church member.

"I fell in love with the liturgy with its beautiful and poetic language," he said. "It spoke to me and called me deeper and deeper into my faith journey."

He began studying for the priesthood after college, graduating from the seminary at Seabury Western - Theological Seminar in Evanston, Ill. He was called to the four Episcopal Chrches on White Earth and ordained to the priesthood in 1986.

He serves as a supply priest to various churches around the region, including Trinity.

He said rural churches are facing issues of sharing spaces and priests.

"The diocese sees itself as a metropolitan diocese," he said. "We need to draw attention there's a wider diocese and make our voices heard."

In many rural congregations, he said teams of parishioners have assumed the roles of ministering to their own flocks, becoming lay visitor ministers and sacrimentalists, accredited to serve communion.

He would like to see the Episcopal diocese become less issue-centered and more spiritual. The Episcopal diocese nationwide has been mired for the past few years in controversy over the ordination of a gay bishop, an issue the Lutheran denomination faced in Minneapolis last weekend. For Episcopalians, the issue has caused a deep schism in the church.

"People are looking for things," Turner said. "They're tired of issues being the center (of the church), not the spirit.

"We've identified ourselves with our issues. Look, we have beautiful liturgy, beautiful images, beautiful structures."

He cautions that he is only a prospective candidate at this point and would never have thought about entering his own name. He's humbly surprised that the Trinity congregation thought so highly of him, it would petition to submit his name for consideration.

"I prayed about this and asked a friend, 'How do I get out of this?' He told me, 'You don't,'" he said.

"So I'll let the Spirit work though this process."