RIP: Fifth Bishop of Los Angeles Frederick Houk Borsch

Posted Apr 12, 2017

[Episcopal News Service] The Rt. Rev. Frederick Houk Borsch died early April 11 from complications of myelodysplastic syndrome, a form of leukemia. He was 81 years old.

Borsch died in his sleep at his Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, home, according to a post on the Diocese of Los Angeles’ Facebook page. He served as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles from 1988 to 2002.

The clergy of the Diocese of Los Angeles learned of Borsch’s death as they gathered for the annual Holy Tuesday renewal of vows at the Cathedral Center on April 11.

Educated at Princeton, Oxford and the General Theological Seminary, his doctorate in New Testament studies was from the University of Birmingham in England, according to an announcement from St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church in San Marino. He held teaching posts in England, at Seabury-Western Seminary, and at General Theological Seminary prior to becoming dean and president of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, where he served from 1972 until 1981. That year he became dean of the chapel and religious life at Princeton University. Borsch remained at Princeton until his 1988 election as bishop.

Borsch returned to academics after leaving the Diocese of Los Angeles, serving as professor of New Testament and chair of Anglican studies at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. The seminary honored him in 2014 by instituting the Frederick Houk Borsch Chair in Anglican Studies.

Contributor of essays, articles and poetry to a number of journals and newspapers, Borsch was the author or editor of some 20 books. A bibliography, along with more biographical information, is available here. The Diocese of Los Angeles’ remembrance of Borsch is here.

An April 22 memorial service (time pending as of April 13) is planned for St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Philadelphia,  and another service will be held at a later date at St. Augustine by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, Santa Monica, California.

A 47-minute interview with Borsch in 2014 about his life and work is below.


Comments (6)

  1. Donn Morgan says:

    Fred Borsch was a great man, touching folks in the church, in academia, and so many other places. I knew him primarily as a seminary dean, an academic colleague, and a good and faithful Christian friend. He was the epitome of “personable,” easy to talk with, easy to share light and heavy things with, honest and forthright, not afraid to share his own doubts and struggles. I give thanks for his life and ministry. One not so small correction to this report on his life and ministry. He left CDSP in 1981 to become Dean of the Chapel at Princeton, where he served until elected bishop of Los Angeles. Princeton was a big part of his life.

    1. Mary Frances Schjonberg says:

      We have made that correction. Thanks for setting the record straight, Donn.

  2. George Hayman says:

    I liked the Bishop a lot; he was a good and smart fellow. I was fortunate enough on many occasions to be in the company of the bishop’s wives, and his wife Barbara stood out among them, funny and a little ferocious, one of the foremost of all clergy spouses, of which I am proud to be one. So in addition to all his other good qualities, Fred also married well. Hate to see the ends of eras, as we have here, not only in LA, but also in Princeton, where he also left his mark.
    George Hayman
    South Orange, NJ

  3. Ann Van Dervoort says:

    I knew Bishop Bosch while going through the ordination process in the Diocese of Los Angeles. He was always kind, helpful and supportive during a very stressful time. I have always been proud to tell people that he ordained me a priest 21 years ago. My husband and I will miss seeing him at the Princeton reunions this year. We always found each other marching in the P Rade every 5 years as we were in the same cycle. He and his family will be in our prayers and the prayers of those at St. Pauls in Franklin. TN.
    The Rev. Ann Van Dervoort

  4. Sanford Z. K. Hampton says:

    I give thanks for the life and ministry of Fred Borsch, one of the “giants” of The Episcopal Church in our era. Fred was also a part of the same “Bishops’ Class” that I was.

    The Rt. Rev. Sanford Z. K. Hampton
    Suffragan of Minnesota and Assistant Olympia, Res.

  5. (The Rev'd) Stephen T. Beal says:

    No single person in the Church has had a more powerful or positive influence on my own spiritual formation, or later life and ministry, than Fred Borsch. I first met him some forty years ago as an applicant to the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. He carefully guided my five years of study, encouraged my studies at Oxford and the early years of priesthood and beyond. There has not been a day in the last 35 years when his influence has not been felt. May he Rest in Peace and Rise with Christ in Glory.

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