Those we lost in 2017: A wide diversity of believers

The Washington Post has published a list of figures from a wide range of faiths, including Catholic, Methodist, Mennonite, Mormon and New Age, who passed away in 2017, including early Episcopal priest, the Reverend Betty Schiess:

Betty Bone Schiess was one of the first women ordained as an Episcopalian priest. Her 1974 ordination was, in the legal language of the church at the time, “irregular.” The House of Bishops, in an emergency meeting at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, declared the ordination invalid.

The church changed its position on women’s ordination two years later. Schiess was reordained and her sex-discrimination lawsuit was dropped. During her service, she was a chaplain at Syracuse University and Cornell University and as rector of a church in northeast New York.

By 1985, more than 600 women were Episcopalian priests. Today, more than 40 percent of the denomination’s priests are women. Schiess was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1994. She died in Syracuse, N.Y., at 94.

Michael Sharp, a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, died at the age of 34, as a result of his peacekeeping work in the Congo:

Michael “M.J.” Sharp believed in the power of peace. That’s why the Mennonite from Indiana would walk deep into the Congo forest, sit beneath a banana tree and talk to armed rebels.

Sharp started his career as a peacemaker after graduating from Eastern Mennonite University in 2005. He counseled U.S. soldiers stationed in Germany, telling them how to declare themselves conscientious objectors. Then, in 2012, Sharp went to the Democratic Republic of Congo. With a budget of $12,000 per month, he coordinated a group of Christian volunteers who would talk to rebel fighters. In three years, they convinced 1,600 rebels to lay down their arms. When funding was canceled, Sharp contracted as a United Nations observer, investigating rapes, massacres and child soldiers in Congo.

He and a U.N. colleague, Zaida Catalán of Sweden, were kidnapped in Congo in March. Their bodies were found two weeks later in a shallow grave. Sharp was 34.

To read all the profiles, click on the link in the first paragraph above.

Photo: Charles Willie speaks to Betty Bone Schiess, one of eleven women irregularly ordained in Philadelphia on July 29, 1974, after Willie tendered his resignation as Vice President of the House of Deputies in protest of the Bishops’ decision to rule the ordinations invalid. His son James clings to his back. From the Episcopal Church archives.


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