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Bishop Orris Walker (Courtesy Photo)

The Right Reverend Orris Walker, who served as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island from 1991 to 2009, died on Feb. 28th after a bout with an undisclosed illness. Walker played a historic role in the life of the Episcopal church, and is remembered by his family and others as someone who always put the needs of others before those of himself.

“My brother was a good Samaritan,” said Lance Walker in an interview with the AFRO. “He was always doing thingsfor others, and he’s just a good person, which you very seldom run into these days.  He did for others before he did for himself, and that’s how I remember my brother.”

A popular figure when he was growing up in Baltimore, Walker was also fondly remembered by AFRO Publisher, Jake Oliver. “ ‘Ja’ was like a “big brother’’ to many of us during our formative years, always ready to lend a kind ear, advice, and encouragement when we needed it. He indeed will be missed but always remembered with high regard and deep appreciation.”

Bishop Walker was born in Baltimore on Nov. 5, 1942.  A graduate of Baltimore City College and the University of Maryland, Bishop Walker earned his Bachelor of Sacred Theology from General Theological Seminary in 1968, and would later earn his Doctorate of Ministry from Drew University in 1980.

As bishop of the diocese of Long Island, Walker led the Episcopal Church towards greater inclusion of women in the ordained ministry, and was the first bishop to ordain women in the diocese, according to a message from current bishop of the Diocese of Long Island, the Right Reverend Lawrence Provenzano, and posted on the diocese’s website.

Bishop Walker also helped expand the participation of lay members in the diocese’s ministry, including having them serve on diocesan boards and commissions.

“Bishop Walker’s episcopacy covered a difficult and sometimes controversial period in the history of the diocese, nevertheless, his dedication to the people of the Diocese of Long Island will forever stand as a testament to his love for Jesus Christ and his dedication to the ministry of the church,” wrote Provenzano.

After his retirement in 2009, Bishop Walker moved to Baltimore before ultimately settling down in Detroit where he remained actively involved in his community, according to an obituary also posted on the Long Island diocese’s website.

“In Detroit, Bishop Walker was a member of the Executive Committee of the NAACP, President of the Cathedral Terrace, a senior citizen housing complex, the Highland Park Community Relations Board and the Black Family Development Board,” reads the obituary.

It is that tireless commitment and love of others that Lance Walker will remember most fondly about his brother.

“He just will be sorely missed,” said Lance Walker.  “He was a father to me, a brother to me, and my best friend.”

Bishop Walker is survived by his wife Norma Walker, daughter Angela Walker, son Richard Walker, grandsons Luna Mishoe and Miles Walker, brother Lance, Lance’s daughter Nicole Walker, and cousins Kay Paterson and Marshall Murray.

A requiem mass will be held for the bishop on Saturday, March 7, at 1:30 p.m. at Christ Church in Detroit, MI (960 E. Jefferson Ave.). The Diocese of Long Island will hold a memorial service on March 21, at 11 a.m., at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, NY (50 Cathedral Ave.).