The Right Reverend Charles Lovett Keyser (1990 – 2000)
IV Bishop Suffragan for the Armed Forces, Healthcare, and Federal Prisons
Charles Keyser was Rector of a parish in the Diocese of Virginia; and for our purposes was a recently retired US Navy Chaplain, Captain, who had risen to high positions. Bishop Keyser was handily elected by the House of Bishops and consecrated on 24 March 1990 in the Washington National Cathedral by the Most Rev. Edmond Lee Browning, XXIV Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church.
Bishop Keyser quickly revealed his leadership skills by reminding the Episcopal Peace Fellowship that federal chaplains are by definition peacemakers and by inviting the Episcopal Peace Fellowship to hold our very first Peace Vigil the night before his consecration. Yours truly, a brand new Deacon at the time, spent that entire night in prayer in the Cathedral’s War Memorial Chapel. From then on, the Office of the Bishop for the Armed Forces and Federal Ministries and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and other well wishers have enjoyed collaborative ministries.
We will always think of Bishop Keyser as a coach, not simply because he is a Jacksonville Jaguars fan, but because that word captures his leadership style.
Due to Bishop Keyser’s administrative acumen and Navy experience, Bishop Browning increased the responsibilities of this office, making Bishop Keyser Bishop for Armed Forces, Healthcare, Veterans Administration, and Federal Prisons – and we mustn’t forget “Micronesia,” which means Guam.
Supporting him each step of the journey was his beloved wife, Chris, and, at a couple of our Chaplain and Family Conferences, their daughter Christine D. Keyser, who at the time, specialized in youth and young adult ministries.
When Bishop Keyser “resigned” (the Church canonical term for Bishop retirement), Bishop Browning appointed him Interim Bishop of Montana. After that Bishop Keyser served for many years as Assisting Bishop of the Diocese of Florida.
Anecdote #1: From Bishop Wright: Interestingly, Bishop Keyser and Bishop Browning were friends of long-standing. They had been undergraduates and football buddies at Sewanee/The University of the South. Bishop Keyser once humorously remarked, “I was best man at Ed Browning’s wedding and he was best man at mine!” A highlight of his Episcopate was when Bishop Keyser brought Presiding Bishop Browning to our annual Military Chaplain and Family Conference in Germany. As with the lonely Airman Basic who was surprised by Bishop Burgreen, there were similar feelings of gratitude when Bishop Browning spent so much of his valuable time with us Chaplains.
Anecdote #2: Or, again, not be underestimated, Bishop Keyser was highly respected by military leaders. When he and Father Bill Noble visited me in South Korea, I was surprised – but shouldn’t have been – to learn that the Bishop and my Wing Commander, then Brigadier General Steven Polk were good friends. Further, at this time I learned the value of these Episcopal visitations. While the “Armed Forces Bishop” ostensibly serves Episcopalians, this Bishop actually serves all those with whom he or she comes in contact. Our troops do not discriminate. They are no respecter of persons when they are in need! I will learn this lesson again under Bishop George Packard.