Monday, March 03, 2014

In 1955 Bishop Benitez enrolled in St Luke's School of Theology at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee to study for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church. He was ordained in the Diocese of Florida in 1958 and assigned to St James Episcopal Church, Lake City, Florida. For two years (1961-62) he served as Canon Pastor of St John's Cathedral, Jacksonville, Florida, before being called as Rector of Grace Church, Ocala, Florida.
His years in Ocala were challenging ones in the life of the Church. The tensions of the civil rights movement caused Bishop Benitez to receive threats and hate messages as he stood up boldly against segregation. His parish school was the first in the area to be integrated, a step taken well before the public school system did the same. Still, he was held in such wide respect that when the public system's teachers later went on strike, he was asked by both sides to act as mediator of the dispute.
In 1968 he was called as Rector to Christ Church, San Antonio. There he introduced the exciting renewal program "Faith Alive!", which soon spread successfully throughout Texas and beyond. During his time there, he was elected to serve first on the Board of Trustees and then the Board of Regents of The University of the South, Sewanee, TN. He was called to the Church of St John the Divine in Houston in 1974, where he continued to implement popular forms of Christian renewal and evangelism. He served as chair of the diocesan programs of Christian Stewardship in both the Diocese of Texas and West Texas. Both dioceses elected him several terms as clerical deputy (representative) to the Episcopal Church's General Convention.

He was elected sixth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, and was consecrated on September 13, 1980 in Houston. For fifteen years he loved the privilege and responsibility of leading one of the strongest dioceses in the nation. One of his greatest joys was to continue the long example by which Texas presented more people of all ages for confirmation than any other diocese in the Episcopal Church. His first years as bishop coincided with the massive national capital campaign known as Venture in Mission in which the Episcopal Church raised funds for missionary efforts at home and abroad. The Diocese of Texas led all dioceses in total funds raised.

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