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Episcopal News Service Obituary | Comments
Eastern Oregon Bishop Nedi Rivera's Message
William B. (Bill) Spofford, 4th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon (1969-79) and Assistant Bishop of Washington (DC) (1979-1984), died at his home at Terwilliger Plaza in Portland, Oregon, at the age of 92. His wife of 64 years, the former Pauline (Polly) Fawcett, died in 2008.
Bishop Spofford was born in Brooklyn, NY, to Bill Sr, also an Episcopal clergyman, and Dorothy Ibbotson Spofford, and was raised in Middletown, New Jersey. He graduated from Lenox School for Boys in Lenox, MA, from Antioch College, and from the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge. He later studied at the Yale School of Alcohol Studies and earned an MSW from the University of Michigan.
Ordained in 1945, Bishop Spofford began his ministry at churches in Newton, Massachusetts, and Detroit, but soon was drawn to small-town ministry, a passion depicted in the church-produced film “In Fertile Soil,” (stream from http://spof.org) in which Bill and Polly were featured in barely-disguised fictional versions of themselves. He served as a staff associate at the National Town and Country Church Institute of the Episcopal Church at Roanridge, in Parkville, Missouri, from 1949 to 1953, and then as director of the Western Extension Center of the Institute and as a circuit minister in Payette and then Weiser, Idaho. From 1956 to 1960, the family returned temporarily to the East Coast while Bill held the post of chief of chaplains at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Invited to be the dean of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Boise, Bill, Polly and their 5 boys resumed their Pacific Northwest lifestyle: skiing, camping, hiking, enjoying their vacation cabins near Lowman, Idaho, and later Camp Sherman, Oregon, and in general immersing themselves in God’s natural glory. In 1969, Bill was elected the Bishop of Eastern Oregon, a position that he once claimed, without verification, caused him to drive 100,000 miles a year, all within the state, in his VW station wagon and on his 350 cc motorcycle. After ten years, he resigned this position to become the Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Washington with offices on the grounds of the National Cathedral. He retired in 1984. Ten years later he completed his pastoral work by serving for a year with Polly in celebration of their 50th anniversary, as the bishop/chaplain of St. George’s College in Jerusalem, a journey that he commemorated in Pilgrim in Transition, a collection of poems, sermons and meditations from the trip.
Bill Spofford was an activist for peace and justice. He was an early supporter of the ordination of women, and a leader for expanding the role of laypersons in church liturgy. He was proud of the number of protégés and colleagues, male and female, who later became Episcopal bishops. In 1967 he and one other priest were also the first men duly elected to serve as delegates to the Triennial Meeting of the Women of the Church. He was elected to serve on the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church in that same year.
Bishop Spofford was inspired by having met Gandhi in 1931 in London at the age of 10, and by his own father, Rev. William B. Spofford Sr., who from 1919 until 1967 was managing editor of The Witness, an influential progressive Episcopal weekly for which Bishop Spofford wrote many columns and articles. He had a heart for social justice and was a member of the ACLU, the League of Women Voters and the Oregon United Nations Association and was an advocate for justice and fairness for Palestine. He was the chairman of the Episcopal Church’s General Board of Examining Chaplains, and was involved with the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, the Rural Workers Fellowship, and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, and was a trustee for the Paddock Trust, which supported human rights as well as peace and justice issues.
Bishop Spofford is survived by his sister, Suzanne (Jerry) Rester of Vero Beach, Florida; sister-in-law Temple Fawcett of Providence, Rhode Island; his five sons, Tim (Prudence), Mark (Catherine), and Daniel (Yuko), all of Portland, Oregon; Andrew (Daantje) of Missoula, Montana, and Stephen of Seattle; and by 8 grandchildren: Sarah Spofford Chambers of Brookline, Mass, Justin (Amanda) of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Christopher (Kelsey) of Seattle, Amanda of Honolulu, Benjamin (Sarah), Nathanial (Kenzin), Amy and Tyler, all of Portland; 2 step-grandchildren, Emily and Jacob Fromer of Portland; and 8 great-grandchildren.
Consistent with Bill and Polly's expressed wishes, donations in appreciation for Bill’s life and ministry may be made to Ascension Summer School, c/o Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon, PO Box 236, Cove, OR 97824 (541) 568-4514. or to Bread for the World, 425 3rd Street SW, Suite 1200, Washington, DC 20024 (800) 822-7323
Memorial services have been held at Trinity Cathedral, Portland, and at Ascension School and Camp in Cove, Oregon. Bill and Polly's ashes will be scattered in Canyon Creek Meadow by the family.
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