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ARKANSAS: Local pastor elected church bishop

ARKANSAS: Local pastor elected church bishop
He Will Serve UECNA, APCK and ACC Parishes

By Armando Rios, Staff Writer
The Baxter Bulletin
November 13, 2008

A local pastor's flock will soon be getting larger.

The Rev. Sam Seamans, rector of St. Thomas Anglican Church, was elected suffragan bishop of the United Episcopal Church of North America recently and could eventually become an archbishop of the church.

Seamans was ordained a priest in the UECNA in March 2005 by Archbishop Stephen C. Reber. Seamans found his duties increasing quickly, becoming the archdeacon and assisting the bishop. Seamans is married and has children, and is also a police officer with the Mountain Home Police Department.

Becoming a bishop was not something he sought, but accepted, Seamans said.

"It (the election) changes the focus," Seamans said. "Before, I just had to worry about my own local parish, St. Thomas, here in Mountain Home. And then as an archdeacon, I just had to assist our suffragan bishop with little things here and there. But with this, you are responsible for visiting other parishes and seeing to it that they have episcopal oversight and assistance when they need it. It is going to mean a whole lot more traveling for me." Life experience

Reber said Seamans has many qualities that will make him a good bishop.

"I have known him about six years. I ordained him to priesthood," Reber said. "I see in him a quality of leadership he brings from his profession as a policeman in the city of Mountain Home. He comes from a nonliturgical background and has good preaching skills and abilities. He has a winning way with people. I think he will work out in the long run very well."

The church's clergy members come from all walks of life, Reber said. Some are retired military; others are teachers. Reber said he was a firefighter many years ago. The clergy members bring with them experiences people cannot get any other way.

In addition to Seamans, two other suffragan bishops were elected to serve the UECNA - Wes Nolden of Evansville, Ind., and Peter Robinson of Prescott, Ariz.

The consecration of the three bishops will be Jan. 10 in St. Louis.

Reber will be retiring within the next two years and his successor will be elected coadjutor from among the suffragan bishops, Seamans said. The coadjutor will take Archbishop Reber's position after he steps down.

The bishops were elected during the ninth Triennial Convention held in Coshocton, Ohio, last month.

Currently, Seamans assists the presiding bishop as archdeacon of the Ozarks Deanery, a cluster of churches in Arkansas and Missouri, and has been rector of St. Thomas Anglican Church here in Mountain Home since 2004. Church unity

Seamans will continue to serve as rector of St. Thomas and will also serve in two other religious organizations which will be uniting with the UECNA, the Diocese of New Orleans in the Anglican Catholic Church and the Anglican Province of Christ the King.

"He will be working as what we call a suffragan bishop, a bishop under the archbishop," Reber said. "He will be carrying out for the next 18 months assignments that will be given to him. What is exciting is the fact we are also building unity with several other church bodies which at one time were together. We came apart over several years. He and my other two men will be very involved in working with the other groups. In a sense, we are recreating a unity that once existed but now is an entirely new territory that will be a whole new challenge."

Traveling, meeting new people and preaching at new parishes is something Seamans said he is looking forward to, while still tending to his own parish.

Seamans said with the uniting of UECNA, the Anglican Province of Christ the King and the Anglican Catholic Church, which have their own parishes, in addition to assisting in UECNA churches, he will be assisting the bishops of the other churches.

"As a suffragan, you do confirmations, episcopal visits, ordinations at the direction of the presiding bishop, and basically help him with his duties," Seamans said. "Our presiding bishop is 70 years old and will be retiring in the next two years. He cannot travel like he used to, so the synod decided we need to select two, possibly three, and they chose three suffragan bishops to help the bishop in his transition to retirement. Then the convention will come together again in a couple of years to elect a coadjutor. A bishop coadjutor will succeed the presiding bishop when he leaves."

Seamans said his travels will not be limited to Arkansas and Missouri, but will include parishes in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Parishioners had mixed feelings about his election, Seamans said. At first, they were elated but then were afraid Seamans might be leaving as their pastor. Seamans told them he would remain.

"For them, it means anytime a confirmation comes up, it is not a problem because I am there every Sunday," Seamans said. "There are some advantages to having a bishop in your parish. For now, I am looking forward to just getting comfortable in the role of bishop. I never aspired to that office. Now I am looking forward to the next few years of being a suffragan and learning the ropes."

Parishioners are very proud.

"I think everybody there (at the convention) was excited about it and we know that he will be doing a lot, he will have a lot more duties with the national church," said Phillip Bivin, St. Thomas senior warden. "He might not be around quite as much, but we are very proud of him."

Bivin said the national convention elected Seamans unanimously. Seamans is very well respected, he added.

"He is very dedicated to the church and his parishioners," Bivin said. "He gives of his time, even with a full-time job; he is there for us.

"We are very fortunate to have him," Bivin added.


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