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James Hickson Lee dies at age 48

Prophetic pastor and intercultural ministry leader envisioned Christ’s church as new, diverse community

by Emily Enders Odom

James Hickson Lee. Courtesy of New Covenant Fellowship

James Hickson Lee. Courtesy of New Covenant Fellowship

The Rev. James Hickson Lee (1968-2016), a teaching elder member of Mission Presbytery and a tireless advocate for intercultural ministry, died on Friday morning, May 6, at his home in Austin, Texas.

Lee, who worked on projects with the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Office of African American Congregational Support and its Office of Intercultural Congregational Support, formerly served as a member and moderator of the Presbyterian Intercultural Network.

“That the good news is for all nations illustrates the paradox of the ‘already but not yet,’ ” Lee said. “Christ has paved the way for us to build a vibrant community that celebrates the wonderful ethnic diversity of the kingdom of God, and now is the time for us to incarnate that practice.”

A passionate proponent of the church’s “becoming a new community together,” Lee was the current moderator of Mission Presbytery as well as a member of the Board of Trustees of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

“The Austin Seminary community mourns the loss of the Reverend James Lee,” said the seminary’s president, the Rev. Dr. Theodore J. Wardlaw. “A graduate of the Seminary, James also served us later as a beloved recruiter and administrator in the Admissions office, and at the time of his death was an active member of the Board of Trustees. He was a mentor and pastor to numerous students and alums, and an ongoing friend of so many members of this community.  We share deep sadness with his mother Vi, his family, the New Covenant Fellowship congregation, and all others who now prepare to give witness to the Resurrection with thanksgiving for his amazing life.”

Called in 2003 by Covenant Presbyterian Church of Austin, Texas, to create a new, diverse church there, New Covenant Fellowship, Lee became the new worshiping community’s first installed pastor when the congregation chartered in 2009. For over 13 years, Lee committed himself to making the congregation “a safe place to have a conversation, to come together, and to see how people can cross bridges to reach common places.”

“James was an amazing human being, dear friend, teaching—and always learning—elder, prophetic presence, connector and listener, care-giver and energizer,” said the Rev. Tom Heger, an honorably retired member of Mission Presbytery. “If anyone, ever, deserved a ‘well done, good and faithful servant’ acknowledgment, James does.”

Viewing is scheduled beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 12, through to the Monday, May 16, visitation at the Cook-Walden Funeral Home, 6100 N. Lamar, Austin.  Visitation and prayer service will take place at the funeral home on Monday, May 16, from 7:00-9:30 p.m. A Celebration of Witness to the Resurrection will be held on Tuesday, May 17, at 11:00 a.m. (doors will open at 10:00 a.m.), at the Shoreline Church, 15201 Burnet Road, Austin.

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