Rev. Canon Theodore O. Wedel Dies at 78

Diocesan Press Service. July 23, 1970 [89-3]

WASHINGTON, D. C. -- Funeral services for the Rev. Canon Theodore O. Wedel, one of the most widely-known personalities of the Episcopal Church, were held at 2 p.m. July 23 in the Bethlehem Chapel of the Washington Cathedral.

Canon Wedel died of a heart attack in the early morning of Tuesday, July 21, at an Alexandria, Va., hospital. He was 78 years of age.

The simple service at the Cathedral was for immediate family and friends, and a memorial service is planned for the Fall.

The Rt. Rev. John E. Hines, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, issued the following statement on receiving word of Canon Wedel's death:

"Dr. Wedel was one of the most distinguished and influential Churchmen, both in the Episcopal Church and in the field of ecumenical Christianity. As one-time warden of the College of Preachers and President of the House of Deputies he was a valued friend, teacher and counsellor to more of the Episcopal clergy than any other single person in the Church. His perceptive writing helped many a struggling clergyman and many lay people through the turbulent 30's and 40's. The impact of his creative ministry will remain. "

The Very Rev. Francis B. Sayre, dean of the Washington Cathedral, said of him: "He was an enormously gifted man who nevertheless was very humble. He didn't recognize his own gifts, but always recognized the gifts of others, making him a man who was warmly loved. "

Canon Wedel had been warden of the College of Preachers at the Washington Cathedral for 21 years, from 1939 until his retirement in 1960. He was President of the House of Deputies of the Church's General Convention from 1952 to 1961. He also was active in the ecumenical movement and served as chairman of evangelism for the World Council of Churches.

Born in Halstead, Kansas, February 19, 1892, he was the son of a Mennonite minister, the Rev. Cornelius H. Wedel, first president of Bethel College at Newton, Kansas. He went on to earn his B.A. degree in 1914 at Oberlin College, his M.A. at Harvard in 1915, and his Ph.D. at Yale in 1918.

After teaching English at Yale, 1919-22, he joined the Carleton College faculty at Northfield, Minnesota, in 1922 to remain until 1934, first as Professor of English, later as Professor of Biography. His final years there were divided between his teaching and his duties as deacon and then as a priest at All Saints' Church in Northfield, as a result of his having been organist in an Episcopal Church at Newton, Kansas, while still in high school.

His experience as organist there led to his becoming an Episcopalian. Later, while senior warden in the parish at Northfield, he audited classes at Seabury Divinity School in Faribault, Minnesota, read intensively in theology, and became a lay reader. He passed the required examinations and was ordained a deacon September 24, 1929, going on then to Marburg, Germany, to study theology. He was ordained a priest May 31, 1931, and remained at Northfield, teaching at Carleton and serving as a priest in his parish.

From 1934 to 1939 he was on the Episcopal National Council staff in New York City as secretary for college work in the Department of Christian Education. He went from there to Washington, D. C. as a canon of the Cathedral and director of studies at the College of Preachers, operated at the Cathedral for post-ordination training of clergymen.

Following his retirement he worked for a year with the Ecumenical Institute at Evanston, Illinois, accepting the visiting professorship at Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge for 1961-62, and a faculty post for 1962-63 at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Dr. Wedel is the author of "The Medieval Attitude toward Astrology," "The Coming Great Church," "The Christianity of Main Street, " and "The Pulpit Rediscovers Theology." His honorary degrees include: Doctor of Sacred Theology, from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary; Doctor of Divinity, from Oberlin College, Brown University, and Trinity College; Doctor of Laws, from Carleton College; and Doctor of Civil Law, from Kenyon College.

Married first in 1926 to Elizabeth Ewert, who died in 1932, he married Cynthia Clark on May 4, 1939, in the chapel of the National Council headquarters building in New York City. Mrs. Wedel is now president of the National Council of Churches.