House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings released a statement today upon learning of the death of Dr. Charles V. Willie, former vice president of the House of Deputies:
“I was deeply saddened to learn today of the death of Dr. Charles V. Willie, a giant in the Episcopal Church’s long and incomplete journey toward justice.
“Dr. Willie was vice president of the House of Deputies in 1974 when he preached at the ordination of the first female priests, known as the Philadelphia 11. When our church’s bishops failed to uphold those ordinations, he resigned his position in protest.
“‘I decided I didn’t want to tell my children that I was the first African American to become [President of the House of Deputies] particularly when I know they won’t do well for women,’ Dr. Willie told Byron Rushing, the current vice president of the House of Deputies, in a 2015 interview. ‘Some of my friends called me an angry black man. They called me all kinds of things, but it never stopped me.’”
“I presented Dr. Willie with the House of Deputies Medal for his distinguished service to the church at the 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City, and the house responded with a standing ovation that was much deserved and too-long delayed.
“In addition to his service to the church, Dr Willie was the first African American professor at Syracuse University, a distinguished public servant who worked with President John F. Kennedy and President Jimmy Carter, and a leader of desegregation.
“He will not be forgotten.”