Here is a fascinating portrayal of the life and ministry of Bill Gordon, dynamic and unorthodox leader of the Episcopal Church in Alaska for twenty six years. It is a story, too, of a changing Alaska, beginning in the 1940s and taking us to the post-oil pipeline era of the 1970s.
Upon Bill's election as bishop in I 948 at the age of 29, the Gordons moved to Fairbanks and Bill assumed control of the enormous Missionary District. Undaunted, he learned to fly and soon was spending six months of his year traveling among the far-flung Indian and Eskimo villages in his single-engine plane. He had many dose calls in the Alaskan wilderness, crashing no less than six times. Tireless in his dedication to his flock, Bill could be a tough taskmaster. Priests who came north to his parishes soon learned to "rough it" like their bishop, who was often content with a pot of beaver stew and a sleeping bag in a one-room hut.
Bill marched to a different drummer on many issues, openly opposing the Vietnam war at a time when very few of his parishioners and fellow bishops did. In the mid·
I 960s he began an ambitious and controversial program to raise up native clergy-priests whose only training was on the spot. This meant changing the canons of the Episcopal Church, but Bill prevailed, ordaining twenty-seven native men and women in the early 1970s, In 1974, after serving for twenty-six years as a bishop, Bill saw his work completed and resigned, leaving an indelible mark on Alaska and the Episcopal Church.