RIP: Eastern Oregon Bishop William Spofford

By ENS staff
Posted Nov 6, 2013

ens_110613_williamSpofford[Episcopal News Service] The Rt. Rev. William B. Spofford, the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Oregon, died Nov. 5 at age 92.

Spofford, who retired from Eastern Oregon in 1979, was living in Portland, Oregon, and died in his apartment there, just after receiving the Ministration at the Time of Death.

An obituary from Eastern Oregon called Spofford a “prophet, priest, poet and pastor.”

A Brooklyn, New York, native, Spofford was ordained deacon on St. Andrew’s Day 1944 and priest in 1945. He served churches in Massachusetts, Michigan and Idaho, and was chaplain to the Massachusetts General Hospital and clinical training fellow at the Kansas State Hospital and Boys Industrial School, Topeka, Kansas.

He was dean of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Boise, Idaho, when the House of Bishops elected him in the fall of 1968 to serve as bishop to what was then the Missionary District of Eastern Oregon. He was one of the last people selected by that body before the term was dropped and those jurisdictions were permitted to elect their own bishops.

Spofford was ordained and consecrated on the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul (Jan. 25) 1969 during a snowstorm in Ontario.

Spofford was one of two men who made history in 1967 when serving as elected delegates to what was then called the Triennial Meeting of the Women of the Church. The other was the Rev. Powell Woodward of Central New York. During the 1967 General Convention, Spofford also was elected to serve on the church’s Executive Council.

In Eastern Oregon, where he often arrived for visitations and meetings on his motorcycle, he worked for new models of broader ministry, ecumenical relationships, a functional diaconate and a new vision of stewardship.

After he left the Eastern Oregon diocese, Spofford served as assistant bishop of the Diocese of Washington and bishop-chaplain at St. George’s College in Jerusalem. He was a member of the ACLU, the League of Women Voters and the Oregon United Nations Association.

Spofford is survived by his five sons: Timothy; triplets, Mark, Andrew and Stephen; and Daniel.

The first memorial service will be held Dec. 21 at 11 a.m. at Trinity Cathedral, Portland, and the second memorial service will be on Jan. 11 at 11 a.m. at Ascension Camp and School, in Cove, Diocese of Eastern Oregon.

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Comments (9)

  1. george wilson says:

    I was one of the fortunate who had a parish in Eastern Oregon. Bp. Spofford taught us all, by word and deed, how to be more effective communicators of the good news. He taught the difference between congregation and parish at large and how to minister to both.

  2. Bill Spofford was one of the great bishops of our church. Even though his service, as Dean of St. Michael’s Cathedral, was nearly forty five years ago, he’s still remembered and quoted often, but our senior members. He was known for his booming voice, and his prophetic ministry. As Dean of St. Michael’s he’s remembered for talking about issues publicly well before they were being discussed in the wider church. Bill, as priest, dean and bishop, served our Church with distinction. While Bill’s rest will surely be in eternity, it may not be completely in peace. As one of those ‘hounds of heaven’ I have no doubt that Bill will continue to be the ‘leaven in the lump’ in heaven as he certainly was on this earth!

  3. Norma Stevlingson says:

    I first met Bishop Spofford at Paradise Point, the Episcopal church camp at McCall, Idaho. I was attending junior high camp and Father Spofford, a parish priest (from Weiser, I seem to remember), was there. I remember her was game enough to allow us to throw him off the dock into Payette Lake. Our nightly campfires were wonderful led by him. He made us think about many things about the scriptures. He was loved by all the campers; everyone tried to sit at his table at meals.
    Next I knew him as Dean of St. Michael’s in Boise, my home church. He chanted (sang!) the service beautifully. He had a marvelous voice. He had an important singing role in the production of “Oklahoma” at Boise High.
    I wrote to him a few times while away at college and after he returned from Jerusalem he sent me his little book of thoughts. It is something I treasure and keep on my night stand.
    He and my dad, Dave, were friends. I’m sure they’re having deep discussions in heaven.
    RIP Bishop Spofford. You will be missed here.

  4. (The Rev. Canon) Thomas E. Winkler says:

    11-7
    As I sit here in my home office, I can see two beautifully framed ordination certificates signed by Bishop Spofford. I was ordained a deacon in Burns, OR in 1969 and priest in Ontario, OR in 1970. Bishop Spofford was, for me, a powerful mentor and friend. He was an energetic presence and simply overflowed with ideas. He was a disciple of Rowland Allen, the English priest who was the creative spirit behind Total Ministry, a program which is increasingly relevant in the Episcopal Church. Bishop Spofford would often arrive, on his motorcycle, a bit rumpled. I remember that the clergy of the diocese brought him a voluminous chasuble, a style just then coming into popularity, which he could use to cover up his “motorcycle” clothes. He was also well known for camping out in a tent for his first meeting of the House of Bishops, objecting to the cost of the facility in which they were meeting! A great man and a true Christian.

  5. Carolle A. Skov says:

    When Bill was Dean of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Boise, ID he baptized my daughter. A number of years later we were in the play Madwoman of Chaillot at Boise Little Theater. He played one of the miners and I played a street prostitute. I had to “come on” to him every night. I kept seeing him baptizing my daughter and couldn’t do it during rehearsals! His sense of humor came through with each time I tried and because of his truth, honesty and theatrical ability I was able to do my acting job by opening night! I’ve always had a great fondness for him. He was always ahead of his time in opening his heart and understanding to all people. The world needs many more Bill Spoffords.

  6. Leslie K. Bell says:

    I first met the Spofford clan at Idaho’s Paradise Point Church Camp in 1960. I was a “pearl diver” (dishwasher) for that best summer of my life. Bill and Polly, the boys, and the dog were visiting from Massachusetts and rumors were flying that Bill was going to be appointed Dean of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Boise. And, indeed, that came to pass several months later. After he arrived, my best friend and I began attending St. Michael’s, continuing through high school and during summers while I was in college. He will be so missed.

  7. Michael McCue says:

    In 1977 I got to spend the summer with Bill Spofford in Eastern Oregon while I was a seminarian. He had a profound influence on me. Bill, two high school students, and I traveled through the south eastern corner of the Diocese. We did various projects in each of four towns, Lakeview, Burns, John Day and Baker. As we moved between the towns, the distances are great in Eastern Oregon, Bishop Spofford would often stop at isolated ranches. Those visits from Bill were the only Church some people got. I particularly remember Evening Prayer at a large cattle ranch miles from the nearest paved road. Bill didn’t just visit Episcopalians. More than once on that trip Bill stopped to visit and support a clergyperson of another denomination. One minister told me he never saw his own denominational officials but Bill Spofford was there for him.

  8. Rev Alan M Gates says:

    Thirty years ago, as Assistant Bishop in Washington (DC), Bill Spofford spent time one afternoon each week with three of us who were new postulants engaged in a year’s pre-seminary internship. To spend such time with this wise, compassionate, down-to-earth bishop, thoroughly grounded in the Gospel and in what it means to love God by loving God’s people, was a great gift and one of the defining experiences of my priestly formation.

  9. The Rev. Harry L. Knisely says:

    First, it was my privilege to ben asked to be a seminary interne at St. Michael’s Cathedral, in Boise, Idaho, in the 1967 -68 year. It changed our lives, for Gail and I were in the first year of our marriage, and Bill and Polly were great mentors and friends. Then in 1972, Gail and I were invited by Bishop Spofford and the Diocese of Eastern Oregon to be their program coordinator. The next three years, thanks to the benefit of the United Thank Offering, was again life changing.
    We lived in Bend, and I could only have wished that I had found deployment when my work ended in the Pacific Northwest. Thanks Bill. You were the best Bishop I had in my entire ministry.
    Dear friend, may you rest in priest. You taught me well.

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