ELCA NEWS SERVICE
August 26, 2011
Dorothy Marple, retired church executive, dies
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Dorothy Jane Marple, pioneering church executive and coordinator of the transition team for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), died Aug. 8, 2011, at Artman Lutheran Home in Ambler, Pa. Marple, a member of St. Michael's Lutheran Church, Philadelphia, was 84.
Marple broke ground in 1975 as the first woman and the first non-clergy person to be named a bishop's assistant in the Lutheran Church in America, an ELCA predecessor church body. She came to that role after serving as the first executive director of the Lutheran Church in America women's organization from 1962 to 1975.
"There is no way I could say too much about Dorothy," said James Crumley, former bishop of the Lutheran Church in America. "In the 1980s, Dorothy and all of us spent a large portion of time planning for the ELCA. A formidable series of tasks had to be done to make the ELCA happen. After the ELCA was approved, she did an extraordinary job coordinating the transition team. She was just a wonderful person."
Marple held many other leadership roles throughout the years, including: dean of women and foreign student adviser at Thiel College in Greenville, Pa. (1953-1961); board member of Church Women United (1962-1975); assistant general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (1988-1989); National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. governing board member (1970-1987); The Lutheran World Federation Executive Committee member (1977-1984); chair of The Lutheran World Federation Commission on Church Cooperation (1984-1989); member of the board of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (1989-98); member of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia (1989-98); and chair of a task force studying theological education in the ELCA (1989-1994).
"Dr. Marple was gracious but firm, precise and thorough, conscious of detail and yet mindful of the bigger picture. Her dedication to the work of the church was shown in untiring endeavors," said the Rev. Lowell G. Almen, first secretary of the ELCA. "She was crucial in completing the commitment made by the ELCA's predecessor churches in 1982.
Michael Cooper-White, president, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, said Marple was the epitome of a churchly servant leader. "She never sought the limelight of center stage, but her quiet competence shone in so many corners of the church, especially in her work helping lay a solid foundation for the ELCA."
Marple is survived by a sister, Virginia Reynolds, nine nieces and a long-time friend, Lois Leffler.