Bishop Announces the Appointment of Archdeacons

Beloved in Christ,

Since the earliest days of the church, the order of deacons has been critical to our life, ministry, and witness in the world. As we continue to sail into the uncharted waters in front of us, it is clear to me that we need the charism of deacons now as much as we ever have. Deacons are called to help us stand in the places where Jesus stands—with the poor, the forgotten, the sick, and the lonely. Deacons help us walk the gospel walk, get outside of our buildings, and be present in our neighborhoods and communities. We are currently blessed by an extraordinary cohort of deacons doing holy and transformative work among us. One deep hope for my time as bishop is to continue to strengthen and nurture the diaconate and increase the number of deacons we have serving among us in their many different ways.

After much prayer and counsel with the Commission for the Diaconate, I have decided to appoint three archdeacons to help us care for and support our deacons. I am delighted that Deacons Chip Whitacre, Rena Koonce Turnham, and Leland Grimm have all agreed to serve in this capacity. They are all extraordinary examples of how deacons can enhance our life and witness in the world. You can learn more about them in their biographies below. 

The archdeacons will help extend the reach of the bishop in the nurture and care for the community of deacons; they will help to raise the profile of the diaconate around the diocese; they will help advise me and others on matters related to discerning, raising up, forming, and deploying our deacons; they will assist with deacon placement and transitions; and, they will occasionally join me on congregational visitations to represent and educate about the order of deacons. In all of this, they will work closely with the Commission for the Diaconate. Lee will have primary responsibility for the Northwest and Northeast Mission Areas, Rena for the Central Metro, West Metro and Southwest Mission Areas, and Chip for the East Metro and Southeast Mission Areas. 

Please join me in congratulating and thanking these three extraordinary disciples of Jesus for their willingness to serve in these important new roles. Please also pray for our deacons, and that God in God’s mercy will raise up new deacons for ministry in this moment, and in the years to come. 

Grace and Peace,

The Right Reverend Craig Loya
X Bishop, Episcopal Church in Minnesota
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The Venerable Leland H. Grim, Deacon, and his wife Donna Carol Grim have lived on the shores of Jackfish Bay at Rainy Lake, International Falls since 1967. They have two sons, Dr. Mark Grim, an anesthesiologist at Essentia in Duluth, and Tomas Grim, an electronics lab manager at San Jose, CA.

Deacon Lee was born and raised in South Dakota as a Methodist, then attended school Fargo, ND, where he received a BA in biology and secondary education and an MS in zoology from North Dakota State University. He completed post-graduate studies in ecology and geology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Governor Rudy Perpich appointed him as a volunteer to the Minnesota Environmental Education Board in the mid-1970s.

He delighted in teaching small classes in general biology, ornithology, ecology, microbiology, human anatomy, physiology, and geology at Rainy River Community College in International Falls from 1967 through 2000, when he retired. He was an active member of the Minnesota Community College Faculty Association. 

Employed at Voyageurs National Park seasonally as a naturalist and natural resources biologist from 1972-2014, Lee has been involved with forest-bird, waterbird and breeding bald eagle and osprey monitoring and research at the park ever since. He guided professional geologists and biologists conducting research in VNP, trained park staff about the geology and ecology of the park and has continued to volunteer there since his retirement.

The International Joint Commission (IJC) established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, appointed him a USA member of the International Rainy Lake Board of Control and a USA member of the International Lake of the Woods Rainy River Watershed Task Force on Bi-national Management in the Watershed. Once formed, he also served on the International Lake of the Woods Rainy River Watershed Board until 2015.

Deacon Grim served as a vestry member and lay reader at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church from 1967 to 2006. After teaching for 35 years, he discerned a call to join their total ministry team in 2002 and was ordained an Episcopal vocational deacon in 2006. 

At Holy Trinity, he serves to cultivate the servant ministry of the whole church. As Deacon he is an associate of the bishop, a minister of charity and worship. He exercises his ministry in the world by encouraging his congregation to do things that represent "The Good News" and lead to outreach in the community. Lee works as a conservationist and environmental advocate to sustain God's creation from exploitation and abuse. Frequently engaging in continuing education opportunities improves his role as a deacon in the world. He has enthusiastically and synergistically served with his total ministry team members in the church and all his neighbors in communities inside and outside the walls of the church.

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The Venerable Rena Turnham was ordained to the diaconate in 2013. She served as a deacon at St. Stephen’s and Gethsemane, and now serves at Saint Mark’s Cathedral. Rena shepherds the laity in leading outreach efforts and encourages and equips Cathedral members to engage in acts of witness and advocacy in gun violence prevention, climate justice, ending homelessness, racial justice, and immigration reform. She is a certified Daring Way™ facilitator and holds a certificate from the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago’s College for Congregational Development. Rena is trained as a Called to Transformation Asset-Based Community Development facilitator and trainer.

Rena has enjoyed mentored deacons through the Iona Center’s Thriving in Bi-Vocational Ministry program. Rena currently serves on the board of The Friends of the Episcopal Church in Cuba, as the leader of ECMN’s Cuban Ministry Commission, as a deputy to General Convention, and as a member of ECMN’s team in Luther Seminary’s Faithful Innovation for Judicatories cohort.

Rena grew up at St. David’s in Minnetonka, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing, and went on to a career in client-side and agency-side marketing. Rena has also held positions at City House and Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation. She currently serves on staff at Saint Mark’s Cathedral as the part-time Associate for Community Engagement. She lives in the Tonka Bay area of Lake Minnetonka and loves being on the water and in the woods and walking through life with her yellow lab, Ryder. She has two children. 

Rena describes her vocation as inspiring, equipping, and connecting followers of Jesus as “sent” people. She loves to innovate, collaborate, and reimagine "the questions." She describes herself as being full of energy and hope for this time in the life of ECMN and interprets our current awakening and adaptation as a Spirit-led opportunity to reclaim and recommit to our vocation for the sake of our communities.

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The Venerable Chip Whitacre was ordained Deacon in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota in 2013. After ordination he served as Deacon at St. Edward the Confessor. Later that year he was called to Trinity Episcopal Church in Excelsior, where his focus has been on building relationships with churches organizations serving the South Lake communities and developing new opportunities for service. He has served on the ECMN Standing Committee, as a member of Mission Project teams, and as the Deacon on a Discernment Team. He is a current member of the ECMN Disciplinary Board and an alternate on the Court of Review for The Episcopal Church. Prior to ordination he was a member of St. Edward the Confessor Episcopal Church in Wayzata where he participated in many aspects of the liturgy and leadership in the community. He was an early participant in the organization of the Episcobuilder partnership with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and has been a volunteer on many Habitat for Humanity projects. In the community, Chip has been a volunteer arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota, a board member for the West Suburban Mediation Center, and a volunteer host at the Veterans Administration Community Resource and Referral Center in Minneapolis. His main interests are in Veterans issues and affordable housing. After service in the U.S. Army and graduating from the University of Iowa, Chip worked in academic biochemical and biomedical research beginning at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. He retired from Medtronic in 2011 after almost thirty years in the medical device industry where he worked in research and development, clinical research, and regulatory affairs. His assignments offered him the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the world and work with a wide range of government and industrial organizations and their leaders. Chip and his wife Lynne are blessed with a blended family of five children and six grandchildren and many long-time friends. They enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, taking road trips and spending time out of doors, especially in northern Minnesota. Chip is an avid reader, a lover of music in spite of his admitted inability to sing on key, and enjoys spending time observing the natural world.