Dear Companions in Christ,
It is with great sadness that we write to let you know of the death of the Right Reverend Morgan Porteus, the 11th Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. Morgan passed away last Sunday, December 15th, 2019 at the age of 102 in his home in Wellfleet, Massachusetts surrounded by members of his loving family.
Born in Hartford on August 10, 1917 and growing up in Windsor, Connecticut, Morgan graduated with a degree in History and Government from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine in 1941 and later attended Episcopal Theological School (later EDS), in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology in 1943.
Raised in the Congregational Church, Morgan was a self-described Connecticut Yankee. At age eleven he found his way to The Episcopal Church when he joined the choir at Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, singing there for seven years. He considered the Cathedral the heart of his life and ministry. It was at the Cathedral where he was ordained to the diaconate in 1943, to the priesthood in 1944, at then Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut in 1971. In 1975 Morgan was elected Bishop Coadjutor and became the 11th Bishop Diocesan in 1977, serving until 1981. Prior to becoming bishop, Morgan served as a curate at Trinity Church in Torrington and then, for 27 years, as Rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Cheshire.. Morgan also co-founded the summer Chapel of St. James the Fisherman in Wellfleet, MA, where he served as priest-in-charge for 18 years.
Morgan was an inspirational and evangelistic preacher, whose style was both disarming and humorous. A selection of his sermons was published in the book: A Godly Gift of Love. Recalling his preaching, Bishop Laura says: “I will always remember Morgan’s profound gifts as a preacher. His inspiring sermons were filled with humor, humility, faithfulness and love. Hearing him preach moved me to a deeper understanding of my own faith journey and how I am called to share God’s love with the world.”
Morgan served on the Standing Liturgical Commission for The Episcopal Church where he was deeply involved in the drafting of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. His consecration as Bishop marked many firsts: it was the first to use the new trial liturgy that would later be published in the 1979 Prayer Book, and the first consecration to be covered locally by both live radio and television. A supporter of women in leadership, Morgan was an early proponent of the ordination of women in The Episcopal Church.
Morgan married Martha A. Walsh in 1944 and together they had three sons, Christopher, Jonathan, and Milton. After his marriage to Martha ended, he married the Rev. Joan Cottrel in 1988, and later divorced. He leaves behind seven grandchildren, Emily, Kate, Benjamin, Andrew, Eric, Linsey, and Sarah.
An avid fly-fisherman, gardener, and photographer with a deep love of Cape Cod and its natural beauty, he moved to Wellfleet, Massachusetts in 1981 upon his retirement as Bishop Diocesan of Connecticut. He served as an assisting bishop in the Diocese of Massachusetts until 2009.
Morgan maintained very close ties with clergy and lay people throughout his life and ministry. His scrapbooks, letters, and his “silly hat collection,” that grew with his parish visitations are testaments to how he was beloved by the people of this diocese. Through it all Morgan’s warmth and love for all came through. Bishop Ian was blessed to visit Morgan in Wellfleet each summer during the last years of his life. He recalls fondly their annual lunches at Winslow’s Tavern on Main Street in Wellfleet. “Morgan seemed to be known and loved by everyone in town. His grace, wonderful warm smile, and keen intellect were present to the end. He would always ask how the diocese was doing, inquiring specifically about long-time colleagues and friends in ministry. The love of Jesus just seemed to shine through him. I will miss him very much.”
A service of thanksgiving for Morgan’s mortal life and new life in the Resurrection, as planned by Morgan, will be held next summer at the Chapel of St. James the Fisherman in Wellfleet. Consistent with Morgan’s generosity and self-effacing manner, individuals may contribute to the charity of one’s choice in lieu of flowers.
In 1929, at age 12, Morgan was asked to sing the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City” as a solo in the Christmas Eve service at our Cathedral in Hartford. Morgan has directed that this carol be the first hymn at his funeral next summer. When you sing “Once in Royal David’s City” this Christmas, please offer a prayer of thanks to God for the gift of Morgan Porteus, priest, pastor, bishop, and friend to all of us in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and beyond.
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens
Bishop Diocesan Bishop Suffragan