The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Former House chaplain dies

James D. Ford, 70, an ELCA pastor and chaplain emeritus of the U.S. House of Representatives, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Aug. 27 in Annapolis, Md. He had struggled with illness for an extended period of time, his family said.

"Jim Ford became chaplain of the House at a time when longer sessions and more work hours placed a strain on the family life of many of us in Congress," said Rep. Ben Gilman, R-N.Y., at a funeral service in the West Point [N.Y.] Cadet Chapel, where Ford's ashes were buried. "He was always ready to lend a helping hand and sound advice."

"Chaplain Ford was a respected and revered presence of the church in the midst of the highest decision-making body in our land," said Bishop Theodore F. Schneider, Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Synod.

"Jim could relate to anyone," said John F. Steinbruck, a retired ELCA pastor from Lewes, Del. "He had a gift of being there with people whose lives had utterly come apart at the seams and could somehow impart a hopefulness."

Ordained in 1958, Ford served a parish in Minnesota before assuming a chaplaincy post at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. That led to his becoming chaplain of the U.S. House from January 1979 through his retirement in 2000.

Ford is survived by his wife, Marcia Ruth Sodergren Ford; four daughters; and a son.


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Embracing diversity