ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The Rt. Rev. James Michael Mark Dyer died Tuesday, November 11, 2014, Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) Dean and President the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham announced today. He was 84.
Bishop Dyer's funeral will be at 11:00 a.m. Nov. 20 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Va. Committal will be in the Chapel Garden (at VTS) at 2:00 p.m., followed by a reception in the Deanery.
"As we absorb this news, the sense of loss is palpable. I was among many who found tears in my eyes as I learned the news,” said Dean Markham
. “Mark Dyer was a giant of this Seminary. He was a profound gift to the Church and to this Seminary.”
Bishop Dyer joined the VTS faculty in 1996 as professor of systematic theology and director of spiritual formation. He also served as professor of theology and mission
. While at VTS he was a senior consultant for the Center for Anglican Communion Studies. After his retirement from VTS, Dyer maintained a presence within the VTS community as an adjunct professor until his death.
"Under his gentle tutelage an entire generation of future priests and lay leaders were shaped and formed for their vocations," said The Rev. Martha Horne, the 13th dean of VTS. "Mark's extraordinary legacy as scholar, teacher, pastor, spiritual director, liturgist,and ecumenist lives on in the ministries of his students and in the lives of the countless men and women whose lives he touched as a monastic, a parish priest, and a diocesan bishop."
Born June 7, 1930 in Manchester, New Hampshire, Bishop Dyer served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War before studying contemporary philosophy at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in theology magna cum laude from New Hampshire’s St. Anselm College in 1959.
The following year, he was professed a monk in the Order of St. Benedict at St. Anselm Abbey, on the college’s campus. He was ordained priest of the abbey in 1963. He earned a master’s in theology and licentiate in sacred theology at the University of Ottawa, Canada, in 1965, while teaching at St. Anselm seminary. He also taught theology at Queen of Peace Mission Seminary in New Hampshire and as an adjunct professor at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts.
He entered the Anglican Church of Canada in 1969 and was received as a priest in the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Massachusetts in 1971. He served Massachusetts as missioner to the clergy; as priest in charge of Trinity Church, Bridgewater; and as rector of Christ Church, Hamilton and Wenham, before being ordained Bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem in 1982.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, retired Archbishop of Cape Town in South Africa and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, remembered his friend, Bishop Dyer, who he worked with on many issues in the Anglican Communion: "He had a gentle manner. His mouth was always ready to laugh. And he was an affirming presence in every situation in which I encountered him."
Bishop Dyer’s was an important voice in dialogues between the Episcopal Church and Lutheran and Orthodox churches in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s. His contributions to the wider Anglican Communion are also significant and include service on the steering and design committees for the Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Communion and Women in the Episcopate, the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Lambeth Commission. The only American to serve on the commission that produced the Windsor Report, Bishop Dyer also chaired the Lambeth Conference’s editorial committee and was co-chair of the Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue, which produced an agreed statement on the theology of the Church in 2006, published as The Church of the Triune God
"If there was anyone who believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it was Mark Dyer; teacher and theologian, shepherd and pastor, loving husband and father," said The Rt. Rev. James J. Shand
, chair of the board of trustees at VTS. "Mark’s death yesterday in his home, in the shadow of Aspinwall Hall at VTS, was received with sadness and coupled with the joy that his cancer struggle was over."
Bishop Dyer is predeceased by his son Matthew and survived by his children John and Jennifer Dyer; his stepchildren, Robyn and Amanda Gearey; two grandchildren, Sam and Ava Wandler; and his spouse, Amelia J. Gearey Dyer, Ph.D., who serves VTS as the James Maxwell Professor of Christian Education and Pastoral Theology, and director of the Ministry Resident Program. He is also survived by a sister, Patricia Cashin.
Bishop Dyer’s first wife, the Rev. Marie Elizabeth Dyer, died in 1999. She was an Episcopal priest and they were married 29 years.