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Former House of Deputies President George Werner dies

Then-former House of Deputies President George Werner speaks at the 2015 General Convention in Salt Lake City. Photo/Bill Werner via Facebook.

Dean George Werner, who served as the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies president from 2000 to 2006, died Feb. 6 at age 85, according to a post on the House of Deputies website.

“We are sad to hear the news of his passing, but we are grateful for the legacy of hard work he has left us and his love for the church and the House of Deputies,” wrote the current president, Julia Ayala Harris, in a Facebook post.

“While we will surely miss his humor and good spirit, we can give thank that he passed along our way. President Werner provided leadership in our church that was both deeply faithful and open to new insights, truly just and genuinely kind,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in a written statement to Episcopal News Service. Curry was bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina during Werner’s tenure as House of Deputies president.

“His was leadership deeply rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a reminder that good leadership is still possible in complex and difficult times. May he rest in peace and rise in glory,” Curry wrote.

Werner was elected HOD president at General Convention in 2000 in Denver and re-elected in 2003 in Minneapolis. From 1994 to 2000, he served as vice president under President Pamela Chinnis. In addition, he served eight terms as a deputy and deputation chair from the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

“George and I began corresponding several months ago after I announced my candidacy for president of the House of Deputies. George was always gracious, kind, and affirming in our conversations. After my election, George started sharing more about his experiences, and I will always treasure the advice that he gave me. It is a humbling honor to succeed him in this unique role in our church. I pray for George and his family daily,” wrote Harris in the HOD obituary notice.

Werner was born in New York City, came to the Episcopal Church as a teenager, and by 1962 had received his M.Div from the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1963 and served in several parishes in Connecticut and New Hampshire before becoming Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Pittsburgh in 1979, where he would work for the next 20 years. He turned his energies to urban mission, working with Venture in Mission to make the cathedral a welcoming space for the entire community, from unemployed steel workers to teenagers and white-collar executives, according to a profile on the Episcopal Church Archives page.

During this period, he also worked with the Church Pension Fund and the Church Hymnal Corporation and was a trustee of the Church Pension Fund until his final days.

In 2009, he was appointed guest chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Jason Altmire, (D-PA), introduced him, saying, “As the dean emeritus of the historic Trinity Cathedral in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dean George Werner has earned a special place in the hearts of Western Pennsylvania and especially the Episcopal Church. A well–known volunteer and leader in the community, Dean Werner is involved in countless community and civic organizations, including the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh, the St. Margaret’s Foundation, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, just to name a few.

“And it’s altogether fitting that by opening up today’s House session in prayer, Dean Werner is the first person to stand at that center podium where President Obama stood last night to talk about the need for health care reform, because Dean Werner has literally made a career out of advocating for fairness for all of our citizens and helping those less fortunate.”

He is survived by his wife, Audrey.

The full Episcopal News Service obituary can be found here.

An obituary on The Living Church website can be found here.

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