ATLANTA -- The Very Rev. Urban Tigner Holmes, III, dean of the School of
Theology of the University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn., died here Aug. 6 after
suffering a stroke in late July. He was 51.
At the time of his death, Holmes had been dean of the Episcopal Church seminary
since 1973. His special interest was in the role of theology in society and he was
the author of many books and articles exploring such diverse areas as human sexuality
and the changing role of ministry.
In his career, Holmes moved easily from studies of the earliest theologians of
Christianity through an effort to relate theological study to contemporary life.
Much of his ministry was carried out with young people; serving as chaplain to Catawba
College in North Carolina and Louisiana State University before accepting a position
as professor of pastoral theology at the Church's Nashotah House seminary.
At the time of his death, he was also a member of the Executive Council of the
Episcopal Church and of the Standing Commission on Health and Human Affairs of the
Church's General Convention.
As a moderate and a scholar, convinced that the Church's history and worldwide
involvement (through the Anglican Communion) gave it a particular role in shaping
contemporary thought, he was much in demand on controversial issues. He was co-editor of To Be A Priest and Male and Female, two books that became standard
references as the Church debated ordination of women and the role of human sexuality.
However, his work went beyond these fields. His 1971 book, The Future Shape
of Ministry -- and the 1976 Ministry and Imagination -- gave impetus to a series
of Convention studies and reports on recruiting, training and developing expanding
ministries to meet new needs, and he was co-author of Christian Believing, a
thoughtful exploration of the role of faith that was the first volume of the Episcopal Church's 1979 "New Teaching Series."
Dr. Fredrica Thompsett, who as director of the Church's Board for Theological
Education worked closely with Holmes, said of him: "I don't know of anyone who did
more work in shaping the contemporary theological framework for the Church's ministry.
In many circles, as conference leader, in the Church's Council of Seminary Deans, and
in ecumenical settings he was a passionate and energetic voice for this role."
"He was a man of unquenchable thirst for knowledge and had a compelling desire
to share his understanding of God and man through his writing, preaching, and lecturing," said Robert M. Ayres, vice-chancellor of the University of the South. "His
contribution to theological education and contemporary Christian thought extended far
beyond his own denomination."
Holmes served a number of Church commissions including: The Anglican Consultative Council, the Standing Liturgical Commission, and the Anglican Theological Review.
In addition to his books, he was author of a number of articles.
A native of Chapel Hill, N.C., he earned degrees from the University of North
Carolina and the Philadelphia Divinity School before being ordained a priest in the
Episcopal Church in 1954. He was awarded the Ph.D. degree from Marquette University
In 1951 Holmes married Jane Wiley Neighbours and they have four children:
Jane Teresa, David Thomas, Janet Reid and Allan Tigner.
A memorial service was held at 4 p.m. Aug. 10 at the seminary chapel, followed
by a funeral service and interment in Chapel Hill on Aug. 12. Memorial gifts may be
made to the Library Fund at the University of the South.
In a related development a week later, Ayres announced that the Rt. Rev. Girault
Jones, retired Bishop of Louisiana, has been named interim dean of the seminary. Jones
is a former chancellor of the University. An advisory committee of seminary administrators and faculty members will work with the interim dean.