Rev. David E. Crossley, 68, rector of St. David's Episcopal Church

January 25, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

The Rev. David Edward Crossley, longtime rector of St. David's Episcopal Church in Roland Park, died of Tuesday of complications from a blood infection at Good Samaritan Hospital. He was 68.

Father Crossley, a Roland Park resident who had served as rector of St. David's from 1975 until retiring because of failing health in 1996, was born in Oakland, Calif.

"He always wanted to serve and had been active in the Presbyterian Church since he was a youth," said his wife of 42 years, the former Florenz Stephenson.

He was raised in Seattle, and after graduating from high school earned a bachelor's degree in English from Whitworth College in Spokane in 1955.

He taught at a mission school near Santa Fe, N.M., for a year before enrolling at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1956.

After being ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1959, he began his pastoral career in Larchmont, N.Y., and later served as pastor of a Presbyterian church in Port Chester, N.Y., from 1963 to 1965.

The Rev. Richard B. Martin of South Kent, Conn., a retired Presbyterian minister, was his roommate at Princeton Theological Seminary.

"He was a faithful pastor, a competent counselor and an imaginative preacher," said Mr. Martin.

From 1965 to 1968, Father Crossley served at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania.

It was while working in Bryn Mawr that Mr. Crossley became acquainted with an Episcopal chaplain from England who directed a campus ministry for students at Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore colleges.

"David liked what he learned from this man and felt comfortable in the Episcopal church, so he decided to return to divinity school," Mrs. Crossley said.

He attended the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Calif., from 1968 until being ordained an Episcopal priest in 1969.

Before coming to St. David's in 1975, Father Crossley was rector of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Ridgefield, Conn.

Vivienne V. Wilson of Roland Park, a longtime communicant of St. David's, recalled the quality of Father Crossley's sermons.

"They were highly intellectual and always made you think," she said.

"He was a very, very thoughtful and supportive person and highly respected in the diocese," said Randall S. Mullin, organist at St. David's for 26 years and a Reservoir Hill resident. "He always met the parish's expectations. He was a thoughtful speaker and very much the intellectual. He was not demonstrative but rather a very understated man. He was also very sensitive to the needs of other people, and gave a great deal of thought to his decisions and the ramifications of those decisions."

However, Father Crossley did not avoid speaking out on issues.

In 1996, when the ordination of homosexual priests became an issue in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, he told The Sun: "Many people in the church feel that a priest's sexuality is not an issue as long as sexuality is practiced responsibly. I think that all other things being equal, a person should not be barred from the priesthood only because he or she is a homosexual."

Throughout his career, Father Crossley served on many important diocesan panels, including the selection committee for a new bishop.

Father Crossley, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when he was 32, kept working even as his health began to fail.

"I think of many things when I think of David, including his tremendous courage as he faced his medical problems," said the Rev. Charles Lindsay Longest, retired suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. "He never complained, nor did he want a pity party. He remained steady, capable and dependable."

"In spite of all he had to deal with he never lost his faith or sense of humor," Mrs. Wilson said. "We were very fortunate to have had him for 20 years."

Father Crossley enjoyed attending the opera, ballet and theater. He was a voracious reader.

He was gifted with a slightly droll sense of humor.

"He was a man who always appreciated life's ambiguities and ironies," said the Rev. Ben H. Smith, retired rector of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Ruxton and a longtime friend.

A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. today at the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation, St. Paul Street and University Parkway.

In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, Stephen D. Crossley of Los Angeles; a daughter, Dale P. Crossley of Baltimore; and a brother, the Rev. Jack P. Crossley of Los Angeles.

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