Frederick H. Borsch: 1935-2017

Frederick H. Borsch, fifth Bishop of Los Angeles and former interim Dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and Associate Dean of Yale Divinity School, has died at age 81.

“Fred Borsch was a remarkable combination of scholar, pastor, and poet,” Berkeley Dean Andrew McGowan said. “He brought a keen sensitivity to people and their needs, as well as substantial academic and ecclesiastical experience and learning, to Berkeley at a difficult time. He is remembered by many as having helped this community reflect, recover, and go forward with confidence and hope. Our strength today still owes something important to this leadership.”

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Read obituaries in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

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Educated at Princeton, Oxford, and the General Theological Seminary, Borsch held a Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham in England.

Borsch was the author and editor of some 20 books, including scholarly works such as The Son of Man in Myth and History (1967), two novels, and a poetry collection.

From 1998 to 2000 Borsch was chair of the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops. He served for seven years on the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council and was a member of the Anglican Consultative Council, after which he chaired the 1988 Lambeth Conference section titled “Called to Be a Faithful Church in a Plural World.”

Frederick Borsch served as dean, president, and professor of New Testament at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Calif. Prior to his election in 1987 as fifth bishop of Los Angeles, Borsch was dean of the chapel and professor of religion at Princeton University. At the time of his death, he was professor of New Testament and chair of Anglican Studies at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where he had served for the past decade. 

Borsch served at Yale in 2002 and 2003, between the departure of R. William Franklin from the Berkeley deanship and the appointment of Joseph H. Britton. Dean Greg Sterling expressed the appreciation of YDS and Yale for his work to create a stable and secure relationship between Berkeley and the university during a time of tumult. “Our community will always be indebted to Bishop Borsch for serving Berkeley and YDS during a challenging time, and for doing it with such grace and wisdom,” Sterling said.

Carolyn Sharp, Acting Associate Dean and YDS and Professor of Hebrew Scriptures, remembers that Borsch “brought a beautiful calmness, kindness, and pastoral presence to this community. He was just marvelous as a healer during the year and a half he was here.”

Former Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold III praised Borsch’s “theological acumen that was so important for the House of Bishops and the wider church as we made our way through various issues. He was a superb scholar and colleague widely respected in academia and the Anglican Communion.”

A memorial service is planned for April 22 at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, and another service will be held at a later date at St. Augustine by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica, Calif.

Editor’s Note: Acknowledgements to the Church Divinity School of the Pacific for much of the material in this article.

April 18, 2017