The Diocese of Chicago and the Episcopal Church lost a leading light and steadfast voice in antiracism work on Saturday, January 22, with the death of Patricia Simpson-Turner. Simpson-Turner, a national consultant on antiracism training and former chair of the diocesan Commission to End Racism, was found dead at her home in South Chicago Saturday afternoon. The cause of death has not yet been determined. Simpson-Turner was 53.
A Requiem Mass will be held for Simpson-Turner on Saturday, January 29, at 1 p.m. at her home parish, St. Edmund's, Chicago. Visitation will be at noon. The Rev. Dr. Richard Tolliver, rector of St. Edmund's, will preside and preach. Bishop William Persell of Chicago will attend as will Bishop Wendell Gibbs of the Diocese of Michigan and president of Province V. St. Edmund's is at 61st and South Michigan. A memorial was held for Simpson-Turner January 24 at Messiah-St. Bartholomew, Chicago.
In addition to her antiracism work, Simpson-Turner served as coordinator of Province V, one of nine regional diocesan groupings of the Episcopal Church, and as a program associate for Trustee Leadership Development, a national leadership education and resource center based in Indianapolis. She served as president and chief operations officer for Skills Builders Training Specialists, a human resources consulting firm she founded in 1995. Before that she worked as operations officer and wire services manager for Northern Trust Bank in Chicago.
She was the most persistent advocate of antiracism work in the diocese, serving as founding co-chair of the Commission to End Racism from 1989 until 2003. She led the effort in 1998 to develop a joint antiracism training program with the two Illinois synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, an association that became the Illinois Lutheran Episcopal Antiracism Project (ILEAP) which was formally launched in 1999.
In addition to her four years service as Province V coordinator, Simpson-Turner was active in the church nationally as secretary of the Union of Black Episcopalians (1993-1999), a member of the Episcopal Urban Caucus, and as house services coordinator for the 2000 and 2003 General Conventions.
As an antiracism trainer with Crossroads Ministry, she facilitated trainings for non-profit organizations and dioceses throughout the church. She was scheduled to serve as a co-trainer at an antiracism training event in the Southeast the last week of January. She had served as program associate with Trustee Leadership Development since 1998.
Besides chairing the Bishop's Advisory Commission to End Racism, her service in the Diocese of Chicago included ILEAP convenor; a term as judge on the Ecclesiastical Trial Court; a member of the advisory board of Grace House -- the transitional ministry for women ex-offenders; and past president of the Standing Committee.
Born and raised on Chicago's South Side, Simpson-Turner attended a Pentecostal church as a youth. She joined St. Edmund's in 1975. At St. Edmund's she served as directoress of the St. Agatha's Altar Guild and advisor to the parish youth group, and assisted volunteers at the St. Edmund's Charter School. For over 24 years she taught in St. Edmund's Sunday School. She also founded the parish's Angel Tree program which arranges for gifts for children whose parents are incarcerated.
Simpson-Turner is survived by her daughter Seye Simpkins and son-in-law Mason Simpkins; son Akinyele Simpson; brother Derrick Pettis; and six grandchildren: Khari, Salim, Mason, Jabari, Kisha, and Akilah. Gifts for the support of Jabari, Kisha and Akilah, for whom Simpson-Turner had guardianship, should be made to St. Edmund's Episcopal Church.