The Right Rev. James “Jay” Beattie Magness was consecrated the Episcopal Church’s bishop suffragan for Federal Ministries on Saturday, June 19, 2010 and made a canon of Washington National Cathedral in 2012.
He had previously served as the canon for mission and diocesan administration in the Diocese of Southern Virginia, as of 2009; interim rector of the 1200-member Galilee Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach, Va., as of 2007; and canon to the ordinary of the Diocese of Kentucky, as of 2004.
Magness retired from the U.S. Navy in 2003 in the rank of captain, serving as command chaplain of U.S. Joint Forces Command and fleet chaplain for the U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Prior to those assignments, he served from 1997–2000 on the Navy Chief of Chaplains’ staff as personnel manager of the Navy Chaplain Corps.
Magness had first joined the Navy in 1966, serving aboard three Navy ships and spending one year in a logistics unit in the northernmost port of South Vietnam. He then returned to his hometown of Hendersonville, N.C.; married his wife, Carolyn; and after one year quit his job at a GE factory so both could attend Western Carolina University on a full-time basis. He graduated in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and sociology and then explored his call to ministry as a field director for aid and outreach programs with the Diocese of Western North Carolina.
Magness went on to receive an M.Div. in 1977 from the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Tex., then served parishes in North Carolina and joined the Naval Reserve as a chaplain. Three years later, he returned to active duty in the Navy as a Chaplain Corps officer. He completed a clinical pastoral education residency year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 1981 and later on spent two years in an exchange program with the British Royal Navy, working as a chaplain and priest for the Church of England. He earned a D.Min. degree with a concentration in Christian leadership from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in 1999.
The position of Bishop Suffragan for Federal Ministries, formally known in the Constitution of the Episcopal Church as Bishop Suffragan for the Armed Forces, includes pastoral care and oversight for armed forces chaplains, military personnel, and families, as well as oversight of Episcopal worship communities at Eucharistic communities affiliated with military installations, federal hospitals, prisons, and correctional facilities. As a Cathedral canon, Magness works to strengthen the National Cathedral’s ministries to these important groups.