William Stafford: The Retirement of The Reverend Dr. Guy Fitch Lytle III: An Appreciation

It is my duty and honor to thank Dr. Lytle for his service. He was appointed as Dean by Dr. Samuel Williamson, the XIVth Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South. During the years following Dean Lytle’s appointment, he made significant contributions to the mission of this School that no subsequent developments should obscure. He brought to Sewanee the considerable stature he had won as scholar and church historian, and as Dean carried a full load of teaching with brio. His professional study of the history of the clergy in the context of Anglican ecclesiology and spirituality buttressed his contemporary concern to clarify the nature and improve the quality of Episcopal priests. That led to his appointment to national commissions, committees, symposiums, and lectureships. Combined with his vigorous representation of the School in the offices of bishops around the church and his peripatetic preaching and speaking, he brought wide recognition to Sewanee. Vigorous work in recruitment led to years of the largest enrollment the School has ever enjoyed. That in turn permitted him to create new positions on the faculty. He appointed young scholars who multiplied the perspectives and approaches available to students. Financial support by dioceses and parishes expanded: One Percent Plan parish contributions rose to levels they have never since approached. Large gifts came in for the scholarship endowment of the School, which has helped make Sewanee one of two Episcopal seminaries that can offer very substantial financial aid to all students who need it. Dean Lytle’s close work with the XIVth Vice-Chancellor and Provost led to the resolution of many long-standing issues between the University, the College, and the School. Not least among them was clarification of the financial standing of the School, eliminating a great part of the friction over the School’s budget and endowment that had beset his predecessors.

Dr. Lytle made many other contributions to the School’s mission. Among them, he helped create the Visiting Committee, one of the chief means by which the seminary comes into dialogue with the wider church and community. His strong support helped move The St. Luke’s Journal of Theology into the fresh directions it took as The Sewanee Theological Review, and it has flourished ever since. During his deanship, Education for Ministry, Disciples of Christ in Community, Galilee Moments, and other major programs for the wider church grew and blossomed in the School’s Programs Center. The annual Anglican Tour of England was his creation; for years he led large groups in a brilliantly narrated pilgrimage through the holy (and less holy but refreshing) sites in the England he knows so well.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

11 comments on “William Stafford: The Retirement of The Reverend Dr. Guy Fitch Lytle III: An Appreciation

  1. Billy says:

    “The clouds that gathered during the latter years of Dean Lytle’s tenure at Sewanee …” What clouds?

  2. Mark Johnson says:

    #1 Billy – I’m not going to describe them here, but they were quite well documented a few years ago. This letter was written to acknowledge his retirement. Suffice to say that he made some serious poor moral choices that people on both sides of the aisle could agree were inappropriate. I hope and pray that he is truly a repaired human now, and that as Dean Stafford states, he and his wife have a blessed and happy retirement.

  3. TomRightmyer says:

    Dean Lytle was a member of the General Board of Examining Chaplains during the time I served on the staff for the board. His knowledge of church history led him to take a conservative position on some of the issues of the 1990’s.

  4. Ralph says:

    #2, there were allegations, and those allegations inappropriately got leaked to the news media. I do know that he was a conservative who didn’t get along with the liberal members of the faculty, notably Joe Monti and Rebecca Wright. I believe that he had very strong support from orthodox students at the time.

  5. Mark Johnson says:

    I was a student at the time. I saw the exchanges personally myself. They weren’t just “allegations.” It was actually very sad; he was a better/smarter man than what he was doing. It was AFTER all of this happened that he decided to take a strong turn to the right. He was quite progressive until all of this happened. He decided to use the response of condemnations from everyone to suddenly claim to be a conservative and claim that he was being punished for his (suddenly newfound) orthodox beliefs.

  6. Cranmerian says:

    Mark Johnson,

    You’d better have some really strong evidence to support an assertion that Guy was a “progressive” before what happened to him. I was a student in the SoT from 2004 – 2007, and he and his wife Maria were a source of comfort and support for orthodox seminarians in an environment that was hostile to traditionalists. I have a really hard time believing that he changed his tune after the allegations that he was accused of were lobbed in his direction.

    I pray that Guy and Maria enjoy their retirement. The catholic faith in the Anglican tradition has been blessed by the service of The Very Rev. Guy Fitch Lytle, III. I thank God for his service and for that of his wife Maria. May God continue to bless them both.

    Fr. Will McQueen

  7. PhillipsBrooks says:

    No, Guy didn’t change his views from the 1990’s to the 2000’s. His orthodox views might have been considered quite progressive in the 90’s, when the issues had more to do with women’s ordination than human sexuality. He was always gracious and welcoming to his male and female students alike, even though many of his enemies deliberately misrepresented everything Guy did right and anything he may have done wrong.

    I was at Sewanee in both the 90’s and 00’s, and while Guy held a steady course of proclaiming and celebrating the gospel, the faculty took a hard left turn off a cliff. People who welcomed and celebrated my ministry and ideas in the 90’s ostracized and ridiculed me and my family in the 00’s–except for Guy and Maria, who were always gracious, caring, and helpful.

    I’ll always be grateful to Guy and Maria, and I hope they know that they blessed more lives than they’ll ever be able to count.


  8. Anglicanum says:

    I too was in seminary in the 90s–one of the first classes to graduate under Dr. Lytle, in fact. I can assure you, he was quite conservative then, and he hasn’t changed much that I can see.

    The thing about him, though, is that he’s a true scholar: he’s willing to entertain doubts and different sides, and he argues persuasively both for and against his own positions. Perhaps that led some to believe that he was more liberal than he really was, I don’t know. I do know that he told me in no uncertain terms that he was opposed to several key liberal positions, and that would have been in or around 1993, when some of them were just emerging.

    He was unfailingly kind to the people who derided him even then. I saw that with my own eyes, when their behavior was less-than-Christian. A few of them actually spoke evil of him in class, to the students, but I never heard him say a word about them in return.

  9. Matt Kennedy says:

    A little off topic. I was at VTS during the time Dr. Stafford was academic dean. He was not only one of the best lecturers (I had him for church history) but he was a kind and gentle man. He was then and remains a faithful orthodox scholar.

  10. Ralph says:

    We’re all better and smarter than what we’re doing.

  11. Jeremy Bonner says:

    Fr. Matt (#11),

    I concur. Bill Stafford worked with my father at Durham University thirty years ago. I’m glad your experience of him was as it was.