An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

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Stringfellow, William

(Apr. 26, 1928-Mar. 2, 1985). Theologian, activist, and Episcopal layman. He was born in Cranston, Rhode Island. He attended Bates College and the London School of Economics. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1956. He then began a private legal practice in Harlem, where he lived. He defended the legal rights of poor African American people. Stringfellow utilized a theological perspective to attack racism, the war in Vietnam, and other social ills. He perceived the powers and principalities of death to be active in the social evils of his day and in the idolatries of contemporary culture. Stringfellow urged that intercession and eucharistic praise are well suited to political resistance. Stringfellow moved to Block Island (New Shoreham), Rhode Island, in 1968 because of his failing health. He lived there with his friend Anthony Towne in the household they named "Eschaton." They were charged with harboring Daniel Berrigan as a fugitive. Berrigan, a Jesuit priest, was arrested at the home of Stringfellow and Towne after Berrigan's conviction for burning draft records. Stringfellow supported Berrigan's protest against American involvement in the war in Vietnam. The charges against Stringfellow and Towne were eventually dismissed. Stringfellow was a prolific writer, despite the limitations of his health. He was an advocate for Bishop James Pike, and the co-author with Towne of two books that were supportive of the controversial bishop. Stringfellow's many theological books included Free in Obedience (1964), Dissenter in a Great Society (1966), Count It All Joy (1967), A Second Birthday (1970), An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (1973), Instead of Death, New and Expanded Edition (1976), Conscience & Obedience (1977), A Simplicity of Faith: My Experience of Mourning (1982), and The Politics of Spirituality (1984). His writings were direct and accessible to a wide audience. He encountered the evils of his society with a profound Christian spirituality. Stringfellow died in Providence, Rhode Island.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.