Dorothy Marple, pioneering church executive and coordinator of the transition team for the ELCA (1986-87), died Aug. 8 in Ambler, Pa.
A member of St. Michael Lutheran Church, Philadelphia (Germantown), Marple, 84, "was crucial in completing the commitment made by the ELCA's predecessor churches in 1982," Lowell Almen, retired ELCA pastor and former ELCA secretary, told ELCA News. "In that year [the three churches] voted to form a new church in a step toward greater Lutheran unity for the sake of effectiveness in mission. Dr. Marple shared that vision and worked tirelessly toward its implementation."
Marple broke ground in 1975 as the first woman and first layperson to be named a bishop's assistant in the Lutheran Church in America, an ELCA predecessor. She came to that role after serving as the first executive director of the LCA women's organization from 1962 to 1975.
"She had an accurate and detailed knowledge of the entire Lutheran Church in America — its history, work and function," said James Crumley, a retired ELCA pastor and former LCA bishop.
Marple held a variety of U.S., international and ecumenical leadership roles, including her service as assistant general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (1988-89); chair of the Lutheran World Federation Commission on Church Cooperation (1984-1989); and chair of a task force studying theological education in the ELCA (1989-1994).
The church owes Marple "a debt of gratitude," said Phyllis Anderson, president of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, Calif., and one of Marple's colleagues on the theological task force. "That study continues to inform the directions and decisions of our seminaries today."
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