Learn More About This Year's Bishop's Cross Recipients
Bishop Wright instituted the bishop’s cross to acknowledge and celebrate the ministries of exemplary clergy, and lay people throughout the diocese. These special people embody the diocesan purpose statement: we challenge ourselves and the world to love like Jesus, as we worship joyfully, serve compassionately and grow spiritually.
Rev. Dr. Gary Abbott, Sr. nominated by the Middle Georgia Convocation. Gary is a former Baptist pastor, who was received into the Episcopal Church as a priest in the Diocese of Georgia and served at St. Luke’s, Hawkinsville. Upon retirement, he moved to Macon, and supports clergy and parishes alike as a supply priest, especially during the sabbaticals of the clergy in that convocation. We are grateful for his ministry and presence among us.
Denis Ariel Hernandez is the selected YOUTH recipient of the Bishop’s Cross. Aside from being a great student who’s performed across the state as part of his high school orchestra, Denis has a strong faith that is evident in his role as a youth leader at his parish. He consistently volunteers in different parish ministries (including his role as a musician in worship) and has been a positive influence in his community. We are grateful for Denis and excited to celebrate his ministry!
Joel Carver and Kay Durand, nominated by the Chattahoochee Valley Convocation. Joel and Kay are members of St. Mark’s LaGrange, and are recognized for their faithful and steady leadership during St. Mark’s search process for a new rector, especially as an Interim rector was not available to serve St. Mark’s during this transition. Lay leaders within the congregation stepped up to manage everything. Joel and Kay especially worked together to make sure St. Mark’s not only survived but thrived.
Melida Fitten, nominated by the Northeast Metro Convocation. Melida is a member of Christ Church Norcross. Mellie, as she is known, attended the first service of the Hispanic Community at Christ Church 23 years ago, and has been involved ever since. Three years ago, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s but continued to love and encourage others, to teach catechism classes, share her gifts with the community, and remind others of God’s constant and unfailing love, encouraging them to follow Jesus.
Julie Foreman, nominated by the Southwest Atlanta Convocation from St. Margaret’s in Carrollton, where she has served as the parish administrator for almost 25 years, and will be retiring this coming February. Her priest says that Julie has been a rock and the glue that held St. Margaret’s together between 3 rector tenures and 2 major transitions. She loves photography and captures thousands of special moments, and her love for St. Margaret’s and the people of God is readily apparent.
Ann Fowler, nominated by the East Atlanta Convocation. Ann served at Emmaus House for more than twelve years in many roles, retiring in 2022. During her ministry at Emmaus House, Ann helped start such programs as the Saturday Community Arts, Homework Relief, Freedom School at Emmaus House. Ann is a member of the Church of the Epiphany in Atlanta where she is currently leading the Community of Hope Ministry. At Epiphany, Ann has served as senior warden twice and has also served in dozens of other roles at Epiphany and around the Diocese.
Barbara Jamison, nominated by North Atlanta Convocation. At 88, Barbara is the oldest active parishioner at Holy Comforter, serving on the vestry and the Friendship Center. Barbara is the only remaining parishioner, to our knowledge, who was at Holy Comforter in the days when it was a more “conventional” church. She has been a parishioner for 46 years. Barbara lived through the changing racial dynamics of the Ormewood Park neighborhood which led to Holy Comforter’s decline. When Holy Comforter’s resurrection began by inviting individuals who were affected by poverty and a mental health diagnosis, Barbara was there. She was one of only a handful of people who had the courage to stay, and she’s the last remaining member from those years. But what’s most striking is how she goes out of her way to do little things for others which make them feel special and cared for. Bishop Wright called her on her birthday the past several years, and says he loves doing it because she inspires him!
Karol Kimmell, nominated by the Mid-Atlanta convocation. Karol is entering her 25th year as director of children and youth CHOIRS at All Saints’ in Atlanta, and she has built a life-changing program that has now affected a full generation of children and youth. One sign of the depth of her ministry is the dozens of college students who come back from school to sing with her choirs on Christmas eve. She has developed a cohesive program that teaches the joy and power of the Christian faith, through the compelling power of communal song. She teaches bible stories, personal growth skills, musical vocabulary, and she builds community through a comprehensive K-12 program that includes prayer books, bibles, hymnals, retreats, worship, and activities for parents and siblings. She shows people the love of Jesus through music.
Christie Stevens, nominated by the Marietta Convocation, and member of St. Benedict’s. In 2014, just after taking early retirement, Christie prayed about how she could, in this new season, get more involved in her church and community. Soon after she heard a sermon about the ministry of Path to Shine, a mentoring program for underserved elementary school students, and before the sermon ended Christie sensed a call to get involved. She began mentoring with Path to Shine in 2014, building relationship with three 4th grade girls. She continued with them in their 5th grade year and is still in touch with all three, now high school graduates. One was valedictorian of her class and Christie was thrilled to be invited and attend her graduation! Christie asked God for opportunity to serve and this was the faithful response.
Ken Struble, nominated by the Georgia Mountains Convocation. Ken retired this year after having been a faithful servant of God and the Diocese of Atlanta for 30 years. He spent 21 years at Camp Mikell helping to mold and grow the young and old in the diocese and beyond. For 21 years, Ken led his staff with love and grace, and was always willing to lend a helping hand to any and all tasks. Ken is a great listener with a lot of patience. Ken also served his community by being a volunteer firefighter in Stephens County for 21 years.
Those are the Bishop’s Cross recipients nominated by our Convocations, and your work has been seen by your peers. The Bishop also has a few additional Bishop’s Cross awards to give out to those he has noticed exemplifying the Diocesan purpose statement.
Fr. Tonsmeire is one of the Diocese of Atlanta’s longest serving priests. Even after decades of service, he has continued to serve in retirement in many interim rectorships, often helping to keep parishes afloat and well-cared for during times of transition. Many parishes in the Diocese of Atlanta have benefited from his ministry.
Canon Isaias has been involved in planting Hispanic worshipping communities throughout the Diocese for decades. The first Hispanic mission was started at St. Luke’s in 1983, where it stayed until 1998, when it was transferred to the Cathedral, and in that same year, Bishop Frank Allan appointed Isaias as Hispanic Missioner from the Diocese.
Over the years, Isaias planted the following missions directly or indirectly.
1983/1998 St. Luke’s for 15 years. Now not existing.
1998 The Cathedral,
1998 Santa María,
2000 Christ Church,
2002 St. Jude´s,
2003 St. David,
2004 St. Bede´s,
2009 El Buen Pastor,
2011 Atonement, now Holy Innocents
2014 St. Edward,
2016 St. Gabriel´s Oakwood—now closed.
2017 St. Peter’s
One of the “green” and growing places in Congregational Vitality has long been our Hispanic congregations, and that is due in large part to the extraordinary efforts of Canon Isaias.