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The Death of Bishop John Rodgers

Death of Bishop John Rodgers

A Personal Reflection

By the Very Revd Dr Paul Zahl

Bishop John Rodgers died on the 23rd of November in Pittsburgh. He was 92 years of age.

His wife of 61 years, Blanche, died in 2020.

John was a mighty man of God.  He never wavered, neither in his orthodox faith nor in his warm pastoral demeanour.  From the early, somewhat heady days of evangelical and charismatic renewal within the Episcopal Church during the mid-1970s to the more anxious era of “pushback” from the mainstream denomination in the 1990s and beyond, John kept his head.

One can see him vividly during mid-week chapel services at Virginia Seminary, tall and towering and Valiant for Truth.  Together with FitzSimons Allison and Jack Goodwin, the very faithful Librarian at VTS, John held the faith.  He always struck one as calm.

Later, when he would visit Mary and me in our rectory, you knew you had to ask him to say Grace at meals, tho’ you know his prayer of blessing would last at least ten minutes and cover the entire Letter to the Ephesians.  Even so, John’s warmth always shone through.

Later, much later, he would attend board meetings for Trinity (Episcopal) School for Ministry as dean emeritus.  When he had something to say, he would say it. He was pretty much always right, but you’d still hold on to the table, like Bette Davis in All About Eve (1950), when John raised his hand from the back of the room.

I once asked him what the key was to surviving as dean/president of Trinity in stressful times. He said, “Just remember, as you walk into your office every morning, there will always be a ‘crisis du jour‘ awaiting you.”  Oddly enough, I found that comforting.

Bishop Rodgers was Reformed in the specific sense, and perhaps a shade more to the Calvinist side than some of us.  But hey, he had John Whitgift on his side, and Augustus Toplady, and certainly J.I. Packer. John was rooted and grounded.

In sum,  Bishop Rodgers was a faithful, courageous and persevering servant of Christ.

And he never lost perspective, nor his sense of humour, nor his inward spirit of peace over the Deep Blue Sea.  All traditional Christians within the Anglican Communion can thank God for this good and fruitful man. 

The Very Revd Dr Paul Zahl was a successor to Bishop Rodgers as Dean of Trinity School for Ministry.