Father Stewart Becomes Bishop

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Next week, 72-year-old Payson actor Jim Stewart will take to the stage in a play titled "Keyboard Love," a comedy which casts him as a fellow who meets and romances a woman on the Internet.

And this Sunday morning, local crowds will get to watch Stewart take center stage in an even more lavish production: Payson's and Arizona's very first consecration of bishop in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The primary difference between these two slices of drama, of course, is that the first was created by a playwright, and the second was scripted by real life.

Stewart, pastor of Payson's Anglo-Catholic parish, the Church of the Holy Nativity, is finally making the biggest transition of his religious career, months after his appointment as the new Bishop Ordinary of the ACA Diocese of the West.

In his latest and most commanding role to date, Stewart better known locally as "Father Jim" will oversee parishes in the states of Arizona, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Montana and Nevada.

In the meantime, Holy Nativity, as the seat of the Bishop Ordinary, will also make a transition to the Cathedral of the Holy Nativity.

"The archbishop told me, 'You have no idea what you're getting yourself in for," Stewart said Wednesday, "and that's the truth. I had no concept. What I am seeing now is the anticipation of all the things people would like to have me accomplish by waving a magic wand the minute I become a bishop. I assume after a period of time it will slow down. That's what I hope, anyway."

Stewart, a native of Virginia, originally came to Payson from the Valley in 1992, he said, "because this is such a sleepy little town. I had just come from 16 years at the state capitol, working (as the senior analyst for the house and senate on the Joint Legislative Budget Committee) with 90 bosses, 60 representatives, 30 senators, and all the hubbub I wanted. And now, as a result of this, I find that I am being thrust right back into the same thing again."

Well, not quite the same thing, he said. "The House of Bishops never meets in the same country consecutively. Even though I wasn't yet a bishop, they hauled me to Puerto Rico for a week. We'll have a meeting in Africa, a meeting in Australia ... So, from the wonderful quietness of Payson, I'm back into the yo-yo business."

Taking up Stewart's daily chores while he's away will be two assistants, Jonathan Bar-On and Keith Howell. "They'll be filling in larger holes all the time," Stewart said.

Asked what his first official act as bishop might be, Stewart didn't hesitate with his answer: "As soon as everyone goes home Sunday, I'm going to rest."

Of the three bishops who will consecrate Father Stewart, the principal will be the Most Reverend Louis W. Falk, the Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, Stewart said.

The Right Rev. Ruben Rodriguez, the Bishop of Mexico, will be one of the co-consecrators along with the Right Rev. Wellborn Hudson.

The consecration of Bishop Stewart will take place 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the Cathedral of the Holy Nativity, 1414 N. Easy Street in Payson.

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