James Hickson Lee dies at age 48

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

May 10, 2016

Pastor smiling

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.

  1. Acabo de conocer la trágica noticia de este querido amigo, colega y hermano en la fe. Dios le tiene en un lugar especial. Tuve la alegría que compartiera con nosotros en la iglesia de la fernanda, como el queria. Su ministerio fue muy sacrificial. rev. José a. Padin y esposa.

    by José a. padin m.

    May 13, 2016

  2. Jim was a good friend with whom I enjoyed many long visits during our years as fellow staff at Austin Seminary. I shall miss his enthusiasm and great smile.

    by Jerold Shetler

    May 13, 2016

  3. James was a classmate at UT where we sung in Innervisions Gospel Choir together. He was also a minister at the 19th Street Church and served as a role model to my husband and me. He will certainly be missed. Praise God for lives he touched through ministry.

    by Misha Lesley-Burkins

    May 12, 2016

  4. ....just a wonderful spirit...

    by ivory t. brown

    May 12, 2016

  5. I am going to miss James so much! I first knew him as a student--a grace-filled person who made every classroom he entered more healthy and more honest. Quickly, though, I was privileged to know James as a friend. I think James had an amplifying faith. His faith made my faith and the faith of those around him stronger and clearer. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. —Deuteronomy 33:27

    by Scott Black Johnston

    May 12, 2016

  6. I had the pleasure of meeting James on several occasions. His mother, Vi, was my pastor and friend. My prayers are with his wonderful family and my heart aches for them. They will miss him terribly, as will all you knew him, but we know he's in a far better place and feeling no more pain.

    by Sandra Horton

    May 11, 2016

  7. We all grieve that such a fine leader has died. James was active in our Youth Group at Northwoods Presbyterian Church, Houston. He starred in our production of Godspell and celebrated life in so many ways. I feel honored to have known him. Thanks be to God for his witness of Christ's love for all.

    by Rob Morrison (Rev Rob)

    May 11, 2016

  8. James was my roommate at the Racial Ethnic Seminarians Conference at Lake Tahoe about 1999. He told me I may want to get another roommate since he had a snoring problem. I said, "na, I'll be alright. OMG! Was he ever right!!! He always had great advice and greeting me with a huge bear hug. "Hey Roomie!" The news hit me hard as I was sitting in the Denver airport last week. He is now healthy and forever young in the arms of his Savior and King - Jesus Christ, our Lord! Rest now my brother. You have run the race, you have finished the course., See you again one day.

    by Rev. Irvin Porter

    May 11, 2016

  9. All of Mo-Ranch mourns James's passing, with me at the top of the list. I never got to see James completely healthy, but also never saw him without that beautiful, welcoming smile. Except for the first meeting, we never said hello or goodby without a real hug. I will miss him and continue to pray for Vi.

    by Fred Gamble

    May 11, 2016

  10. My favorite memory of James is from our youth service at Grace Presbyterian Church (Plano) while in high school. The youth group was in charge of the Sunday worship and James volunteered to preach the sermon! He did a really great job! I was able to attend his ordination at the same church years later and we both enjoyed remembering his youth sermon. Much love to his family.

    by Zan Jones

    May 11, 2016

  11. I was with James at Grace Presbyterian in Plano while we both attended PSHS. I went on to attend UT and proudly watched James become a Longhorn legend playing football. I regret not being part of his ministry but it is clear it just extended the James I knew.

    by Robert King

    May 10, 2016

  12. My brother, friend and colleague Sir James Lee embodied the example of the true disciple that made more disciples through his faithful commitment to our Lord Jesus. Hasta pronto hermano!

    by Rev. Jesus (Jesse) Gonzalez

    May 10, 2016