Bishop Paul Moore of New York, outspoken advocate for peace and urban justice, dies at 83

May 1, 2003

The Rt. Rev. Paul Moore, Jr., the 13th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, died May 1 after a long illness. He was 83 years old.

"Paul Moore was a great man, who lived his whole life fighting for justice and for the rights of the oppressed," commented Bishop Mark S. Sisk, bishop of the diocese. "He was a man whose passion for life grew out of his love for people--a love returned by so many who cherished him deeply."

In many respects, Bishop Moore was a pioneer on many fronts. He advocated for social causes and peace until the last weeks of his life. He helped open the Episcopal Church to the ordination of women. He was known for his social activism, deep religious convictions and dedication to welcoming all to the church. He was also a decorated war hero.

A tall man with a stately presence, Moore never hesitated to use the pulpit to express his opinions on social causes and civil rights. Whether he was marching for peace with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the tumultuous 1960s, or offering aid and assistance to the victims of the World Trade Center tragedy 40 years later, he spoke out for peace in all places for all people. At the end of his life, when he was barely able to mount the steps of the pulpit in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Moore was outspoken against President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq.

"Over and against that force of millions of people of all faiths is one solitary man named George W. Bush, alone in a room, telling his staff he needed to be alone for a few minutes of prayer," Moore said at an Evensong for Peace on March 23, 2003. "I think it's strange the whole world--literally millions of people, little children, people in the jungle, people in the city, people outside here, you--that your fate will be determined on the power of millions of people of all faiths against the war, and one solitary Texas politician being alone with Jesus... This has to do with two different kinds of religions, it seems to me. The religion that says 'I talk to Jesus and therefore I am right,' and millions and millions of people of all faiths who disagree."

War hero

Paul Moore was born in Morristown, New Jersey, on November 15, 1919, the son of Paul Moore and Fanny Hanna. He attended St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, and graduated from Yale in 1941.

He served in the US Marine Corp 1941-1945. As a platoon leader in the Tulagi-Guadalcanal operation of the First Marine Corp Division, he was seriously wounded. Later he served as officer in charge of Marine V-12 program at the University of Washington Command and Staff School, and as company commander and operations officer at Guam.

During his years in the armed service, he earned the Navy Cross, the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. He left the Marine Corps with the rank of Captain. Throughout his life, he maintained his membership in the Manhattan District of the 369th Veterans Association.

When WWII ended, Moore returned to New York City and studied at the General Theological Seminary, graduating in 1949. He was ordained on December 17, 1949 by Bishop Washburn of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark. He served as a seminarian at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in the Chelsea area of New York City, where he revived an interest in the work of that downtown mission. His first church as a rector was Grace Van Vorst in Jersey City, New Jersey, where he served until 1957. From there, he and his family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he was called as dean of Christ Church Cathedral.

In 1963 he was elected suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Washington (DC) and was consecrated on January 25, 1964. He served as for five years, continuing his work with inner city churches. He again came back to New York City when he was elected bishop coadjutor in December 1969 and was installed as diocesan bishop of New York on September 23, 1972, succeeding Bishop Horace Donegan.

Moore retired as bishop in 1989, but never slowed and maintained an active interest in the church and other causes important to him.

Moore was the author of three books: a study on the urban work of the church, "The Church Reclaims the City" in 1965; "Take A Bishop Like Me" in 1979, in which he chronicles his ordination of a lesbian and describes the struggle for women's ordination and gay rights in the church; and his memoir, "Presences: A Bishop's Life in the City" in 1997.

The Mass of the Resurrection for Bishop Paul Moore will be held on Saturday, May 10 at 4 pm at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, New York City.

Lying in State: Friday, May 9, 5 pm to 8 pm and Saturday, May 10, 9 am to 2 pm at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

--Neva Rae Fox is director of communications at the Diocese of New York. 

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