The Rt. Rev. Frederick Houk Borsch — whose 1988-2002 tenure as bishop of the six-county Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles was marked by his theme of “Adelante: Forward Together” — died in his sleep April 11 at his Philadelphia home. He was 81 and succumbed to complications of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a blood cancer, for which he began treatment last fall.
He is survived by Barbara S. Borsch — his wife of more than 56 years and an honorary canon of the Diocese of Los Angeles — and by their sons, Benjamin, Matthew and Stuart, daughters-in-law Jeannie, Elizabeth, and Fang Zhang, grandchildren Jack, Emily, Owen and Zoe; by his sister, Jane Borsch Robbins, and by five nieces and three nephews and their families.
A funeral service at St. Martin in-the-Fields, Philadelphia is set for April 22 at 1 p.m, with a future memorial service to be scheduled at St. Augustine by-the-Sea, Santa Monica; the Borsches have been active parishioners in both congregations. The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to Neighborhood Youth Association, an institution of the Diocese of Los Angeles (1016 Pleasant View Ave., Venice, CA 90291, nyayouth.org) or to the charity of one’s choice.
Los Angeles Diocesan Bishop J. Jon Bruno paid tribute to Borsch during this morning’s annual Holy Week service at which the clergy renewed ordination vows. “Today we renew our vows in honor of Bishop Borsch and seeking to follow his example of ministry, leadership, and scholarship,” Bruno said, having learned of Borsch’s death only shortly before the liturgy began at the Cathedral Center in Los Angeles.
“We are so saddened by Bishop Borsch’s death, and we cherish his ministry and presence here,” said Bruno, who spoke by telephone with Barbara Borsch to convey his condolences along with those of the diocesan community. “Mary and I personally cherish his friendship and mentoring as I grew into this position starting 17 years ago. We are all in grief yet mindful that the coming Easter season calls us to resurrection and new life.”
Retired Bishop Suffragan Chester L. Talton echoed Bruno’s appreciation for Borsch: “I came to work with Fred here in the Diocese of Los Angeles, and while he was the bishop, he was also my friend,” said Talton, who served as bishop suffragan from 1991 to 2010. “I appreciated very much his friendship as well as his steady and very capable stewardship of the diocese. He was a dedicated priest and bishop who served the Lord in a very fine way. I am so grateful for his life and ministry.”
Former Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold III praised Borsch’s “theological acumen that was so important for the House of Bishops and the wider church as we made our way through various issues. He was a superb scholar and colleague widely respected in academia and the Anglican Communion, and a friend whom Phoebe and I will miss greatly.”
From 1998 to 2000 Borsch was chair of the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops. He served for seven years on the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, and was a member of the Anglican Consultative Council, after which he chaired the 1988 Lambeth Conference section titled “Called to Be a Faithful Church in a Plural World.”
“Remembering his wonderful and gentle soul will forever remain in my heart,” said longtime friend Octavia Miles, who first met Barbara and Fred Borsch in Chicago at Trinity Episcopal Church there. “Our lives have been intertwined since we were very young people.”
Long a leader in the life of the Episcopal Church and the global Anglican Communion, Borsch was beloved by clergy, laity, and congregations alike, the latter of which he frequently called “power stations for the Holy Spirit.”