The Right Rev. Joe Goodwin Burnett
Assistant Bishop of Maryland
Bishop Burnett was ordained and consecrated Bishop of Nebraska on September 13, 2003. A native Mississippian, he attended public schools, and graduated from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, with a B.A. in 1970. He later earned M.Div. and D.Min. degrees from Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, in Dallas. In 2005 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from The General Theological Seminary in New York City. Drawn to the Episcopal Church during his seminary years, he was confirmed in 1972, and became a postulant and then candidate for holy orders from the diocese of Mississippi. He was ordained deacon in 1974, and priest in 1975. In Mississippi, he served a succession of parishes for twenty-five years before becoming Professor of Pastoral Theology at the School of Theology of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, in 1999.
In the diocese of Mississippi, he served as a vestry and parish consultant, a convocation dean, diocesan liturgical coordinator, and chair of committees in evangelism, liturgy and music, and mission strategy. He was a member of the diocesan executive committee, as well as committees for AIDS ministry, church building and development, and ministry development. He served as an instructor in the school for vocational deacons, and in the Leadership Program for Musicians (LPM). He was also a frequent faculty member of the annual Preaching Excellence Program for Episcopal seminarians, and regularly participated as a chaplain for church music and liturgy conferences in Mississippi and Sewanee. An alternate deputy to four general conventions, Bishop Burnett has been a member of regional and national committees in evangelism, renewal, liturgy, and music. For several years he led evangelism and church growth workshops and training events in the Southeast and beyond, and was active in ecumenical and interfaith relations, strategic planning for community public schools, anti-racism efforts, adopt-a-school programs, and adoption advocacy. He has numerous published sermons and articles on pastoral theology, liturgy, and pastoral care.
During his tenure as Bishop of Nebraska, Burnett has guided the diocese to unprecedented increases in monetary investment and support for a variety of diocesan and local ministries and mission. He has worked with his staff and other diocesan groups to develop strategic goals in youth and young adult ministries, supporting and building new congregations, revitalizing existing parishes, equipping lay and clergy leaders for ministry and church growth, strengthening communications, and promoting increased focus and participation in both local and global mission. The diocese is currently working to arrange a tri-companion mission relationship and partnership involving Nebraska with the Dominican Republic and a diocese in the Sudan. Efforts are also underway to re-vision and reinvigorate the “Total Ministry” model used here for many years and known as “The Nebraska Plan,” which has enabled the calling and formation of talented and well trained lay and ordained leaders for local area ministries.
For the past four years Burnett has also provided enthusiastic support and leadership for a Tri-Faith partnership between the Diocese of Nebraska, Temple Israel in Omaha, and a Muslim group, the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture, also based in Omaha. These three faith groups are currently in the process of obtaining some thirty to forty acres of prime real estate in a fast growing area of Omaha that will serve as a shared campus for three separate faith centers housing three independent and practicing congregations—an Episcopal parish, a Jewish Temple, and a Mosque. In addition to these three facilities, a fourth structure is also planned which will house a shared center for interfaith education, reconciliation and outreach.
In the House of Bishops, Burnett is currently a member of the Board of Archives of the Episcopal Church. He also serves on the Theology Committee, and has just been appointed by the Presiding Bishop as its new chair. In addition, he is a member of the board of directors of the Anglican Theological Review, and the board of the Sewanee Church Music Conference.
Bishop Burnett is married to Marty Wheeler Burnett, a native Texan who holds degrees in music from Rice University and a Doctor of Ministry degree from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. She currently serves as Director of Fine Arts at College of Saint Mary in Omaha and as Director of Music at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. They have three grown sons.