The Living Church

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The Living ChurchAugust 12, 2001Chicago's Bishop Burrill was an Advocate for African Americans 223(7) p. 6

The eighth Bishop of Chicago, the Rt. Rev. Gerald Francis Burrill, died July 17 in Sarasota, Fla. He had recently celebrated his 95th birthday.

A native of Bangor, Maine, Bishop Burrill was ordained priest in 1932 after graduating from General Theological Seminary. He served parishes in Staten Island and Morrisania, both in New York, and Williamsport, Pa., before being elected Bishop Suffragan of Dallas in 1950. Four years later he was elected Bishop of Chicago, succeeding the Rt. Rev. Wallace Conkling.

Bishop Burrill oversaw significant planting of churches in Chicago's suburbs and designated St. James' Church as the permanent cathedral of the diocese. He was also an early voice for fair housing and desegregation of neighborhoods and integration of the diocese's white parishes.

In 1966 Bishop Burrill and the Rt. Rev. James Montgomery, bishop coadjutor, were hosts to a summit on fair housing that was attended by both Mayor Richard Daley, Sr., and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The following year, in a pastoral letter to the diocese, Bishop Burrill ordered parishes to consider black clergy as nominees for rector or vicar and directed that the ordination process be fully opened to them. He retired in 1971.

In retirement Bishop Burrill moved to Sarasota and became a consultant for the Church Pension Fund. He traveled widely, becoming well known and beloved by many for his work as an advocate of retired clergy. At the national level, Bishop Burrill also served as a member of Executive Council and a delegate to the Consultation on Church Union (COCU).

Although in declining health the past two years, Bishop Burrill assisted the Bishop of Southwest Florida with confirmations, ordinations and Sunday visitations as well as occasional services at St. Boniface, Sarasota, the church the Burrills called home after retirement.

"He was a sterling example of how bishops can be supportive of local ministry, [but] he probably did more good going and telling bishops and clergy how to retire," said the Rev. Ted Copland, rector of St. Boniface.

Bishop Burrill is survived by his wife, Janet; son James, of Gloucester, Mass.; son William, retired Bishop of Rochester, and many grandchildren.