The Right Reverend James Beatty Magness (2010 – 2017)
VI Bishop Suffragan for the Armed Forces and Federal Ministries
James Magness – “Bishop Jay,” – is a highly decorated US Navy Chaplain, Captain (Retired), whose terminal active duty assignments were Fleet Chaplain, United States Atlantic Fleet, then Command Chaplain, United States Joint Forces Command. After retiring from active duty, Bishop Jay had the unique distinction among “Armed Forces Bishops” of being Canon to the Ordinary in two dioceses: Lexington, Kentucky, and Southern Virginia, where he currently serves as Bishop Pro-Tempore.
Bishop Jay was consecrated, June 2010, by The Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts-Schori, XXVI Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, in the Washington National Cathedral. Episcopalians like to joke that once we do something twice it is forever after known as a tradition! At the Consecration of the Reverend Canon Jay Magness, this was now the fifth time our Episcopal 9 Peace Fellowship and Armed Forces and Federal Ministries again worked together to pray for peace on earth.
In addition to his faith, Bishop Jay’s greatest gift to this Episcopate was his organizational genius. No sooner than he had been consecrated he was able to negotiate our removal from an office block on Capitol Hill to the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral. (The blessings this Episcopacy derives from being associated with the National Cathedral are innumerable.)
Similar to our historic association with the Diocese of Long Island, our present location at the Cathedral – on the highest elevation in the City – makes us feel as if we are strategically placed sentinels spiritually guarding our nation’s capital. Or, again, the Cathedral has a special ministry to Veterans as is symbolized by the annual Worship Services of the different branches of the military, usually presided over by the Armed Forces Bishop; not to mention the annual worship on National days; and the “Blessing of the Bikes,” (usually Harley Davidsons) on Memorial Day weekend. Further, the Cathedral’s War Memorial Chapel (with all appointments given by Queen Elizabeth II, in the 1950s, in Thanksgiving for the end of World War II) has become a pilgrimage site for military members and pilgrims of all religious stripes.
Bishop Jay totally reorganized this Episcopate and created too many efficiencies to be named. In addition to reorganization, he traveled extensively, visiting the Chaplains in the field as well as recruiting seminarians and others. He worked tirelessly for this ministry. I can personally report that Bishop Jay left this ministry in the best possible shape so that all I had to do was assume the crozier and turn the key.
Carolyn Magness, Bishop Jay’s spouse, has an active ministry to the both the Bishops’ spouses and partners and Chaplains’ spouses and partners. God blessed both Magnesses with the gift of hospitality. Bishop Jay’s expert Canon to the Bishop was his comrade of long-standing, The Rev. Dr. Wollom “Wally” Jensen (Chaplain, Captain, US Navy, Retired.)
Anecdote: From Bishop Wright: Further testament to his servant leadership is that wherever I go as Armed Forces Bishop, Bishop Jay’s name is invoked with love and respect. I wish I had a dime for every Episcopal Bishop who has said, “Carl, you have mighty big shoes to fill.” I once raised this observation with Bishop Jay and he humbly replied, “Carl, you will fill your own shoes.” Typical of him.