Bishop Robert Hall Dies After Surgery

Episcopal News Service. June 6, 1985 [85127]

RICHMOND, Va. (DPS, June 6) -- The Rt. Rev. Robert B. Hall, 64, Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, died May 27 at a hospital here just seven months short of his scheduled retirement.

Hall, who had waged a battle against alcoholism and also had emphysema, entered the hospital May 19 to undergo surgery for lung cancer. He later suffered two strokes and went into a coma. He died four days after the second incident.

Hall, spiritual leader of the diocese's 88,000 parishioners, was the first bishop to ordain a woman priest in the Washington area after the Episcopal Church officially gave its blessing to ordaining women. He officiated at the ordination of the Rev. Patricia Laura Merchant Park on Jan. 2, 1977.

Earlier, in 1974, when the first "irregular" ordinations of women were in dispute, he had ruled that a church in his diocese should not allow one of the controversial woman priests to officiate at services. He favored and supported the ordination of women and revealed to a recent diocesan council that he was "sorely tempted" to ordain a woman before General Convention gave its approval.

In 1980, Hall went public with his personal battle against alcohol, and received the support of clergy and lay leaders of his diocese in seeking treatment. He later said that going public about his alcohol dependency "helped to take me out of the sort of stereotyped role, the ceremonial role of a bishop. It makes the bishop more human." During the 1983 meeting of the House of Bishops in Spokane, Wash., Hall took part in a panel discussion on alcoholism. His story of his personal and family struggles with alcohol was seen as a key factor in opening up the frank discussion the bishops engaged in about their own role and responsibilities as chief pastors in this field.

Hall was ordained to the priesthood in 1949, was consecrated bishop coadjutor of the Virginia diocese in 1966, and became bishop of the diocese in 1974.

A native of Wheeling, W. Va., he was a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Mass.

He was in the U.S. Army during World War II, and he served churches in West Virginia and Chicago before becoming bishop.

Funeral services were held May 31 at St. Paul's Church here where Hall had been consecrated a bishop and later installed as diocesan.

He leaves his wife, Dorothy, and five children.

He will be succeeded by Bishop Peter J. Lee who, was consecrated as bishop coadjutor in 1984.