The Rev. Dr. Harvey Guthrie, Jr.: 1924-2017

The Rev. Dr. Harvey Guthrie, Jr., dean of Episcopal Theology School from 1969 to 1974 and dean of Episcopal Divinity School from 1974 to 1985, died on December 17 in Oxnard, California, where he had been recovering from hip surgery. Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.

“Dean Guthrie was admired and respected by so many in the Episcopal Divinity School family, including myself, and I am indebted to him for the legacy he has left,” wrote the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of EDS@Union, in a statement to the school community.

“As I reflect on Dean Guthrie’s legacy, I am reminded of how he described what undergirded his faith. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he noted, ‘For me, those commitments are rooted in my study of the thrust of the biblical message, which is first of all that the rights and privileges of being human are in every respect to be shared by all as gifts of God.’”

During Guthrie's tenure as dean, EDS became the first Episcopal seminary to allow ordained Anglican women to celebrate the Eucharist in its chapel and the first Episcopal seminary to admit openly gay and lesbian students to degree programs.

“Harvey Guthrie's leadership on social issues was transformative and profound,” said the Rev. Gary Hall (ETS MDiv ’76), an EDS trustee. “He was a tireless advocate of racial and gender justice in the church, often at great cost to his own career.”  

Friends, former students and former colleagues offered tributes to Guthrie on social media. “His personal warmth, intellect, generosity, and faith were a gift to all who met or worked with him,” wrote the Rev. Randall Chase, former acting dean and president at EDS.

“Harvey Guthrie introduced me to the practice of prayer in my first year at EDS, and sharpened my theological inquiry, and welcomed all of us into the church at its best,” wrote the Rev. Anne Howard (MDiv ’85), a member of the board of trustees.

A native of California, Guthrie first studied for the ministry at Union Theological Seminary in the mid-1940s. "While I was there, I decided the Episcopal Church was the one I wanted to be ordained in," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1998. "I was attracted to the Episcopal tradition of inclusiveness and doctrinal freedom. I just felt at home there.”

After spending three years as vicar of St. Margaret’s Church in White Plains, New York, Guthrie began his long academic career in 1950, joining General Theological Seminary where he served as a fellow and instructor while earning his ThD in Old Testament.

Guthrie joined the faculty of Episcopal Theological School in 1958 and became dean in 1969.

He served as a deputy to the triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church four times, from 1973-82, and a president of the Association of Theology Schools from 1980-82.

Guthrie is the author of numerous books including “God and History in the Old Testament,” 1960; “Israel’s Sacred Songs,” 1966 and “Theology as Thanksgiving: From Israel’s Psalms to the Church’s Eucharist,” 1981.

In 1985, he became rector of St. Andrew’s Church, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, retiring in 1995.

“During his long retirement in California, Harvey practiced what he preached, becoming a full-time volunteer legal aid counselor, advocating for poor and disadvantaged people in benefit disputes with Social Security and state agencies,” said Hall, who was a close friend of both Guthrie’s and his wife Doris’. Doris Peyton Guthrie died in October 2016. The couple had been married for more than 70 years.

“Harvey Guthrie was not only a scholar, teacher, and leader,” Hall said. “He was an exemplary Christian person.”

Guthrie is survived by three children, Lynn Frances, Stephen and Andrew, and several grandchildren. A son, Lawrence, died in 2016.