Adapted from the Diocese of Georgia
The Rt. Rev. Harry Woolston Shipps, Bishop of Georgia from 1983 to 1994, died Nov. 17 with his beloved wife, Louise, by his side. He was 90.
“He was a man of great character and purpose, always ready to listen and offer good counsel,” said the Rt. Rev. Scott Anson Benhase, Bishop of Georgia. “He was enormously helpful to me as one who had sat in the chair I now occupy. I could always count on him to give me perspective and needed humor on the office of bishop. He was a great leader of this diocese because he loved God’s people so much. He was, quite simply and humbly, a disciple of Jesus.”
A native of Bordentown, New Jersey, Bishop Shipps was a graduate Bordentown Military Institute, and the New York State Maritime Academy. He was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Maritime Service in 1946. He sailed on a troop ship, then with Grace Line Steamship Company, until called to active duty in the Navy during the Korean War. He was assigned to a Naval facility in Savannah, then to shipboard duty in the North Atlantic.
He married Louise Huntington in 1953.
After his discharge from active duty, he attended Sewanee’s School of Theology as a postulant sponsored by the Collegiate Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Savannah. He was ordained a deacon in 1958 and a priest in January 1959.
He was first assigned by Bishop Albert Rhett Stuart as vicar of St. Mark’s Church in Albany. Later, he served parishes in Savannah and Augusta. Before his election as bishop, he served as diocesan secretary, editor of the diocesan newspaper, member of Diocesan Council, president of the standing committee, and as a deputy to three General Conventions.
He was rector of St. Alban’s, Augusta and dean of the Augusta Convocation when he was elected bishop coadjutor on September 15, 1983. He was consecrated on January 6, 1984, and became diocesan bishop in 1985 upon the retirement of Bishop Paul Reeves.
Bishop Shipps was initially opposed to the ordination of women to the priesthood, primarily because of his concerns about how it would affect ecumenical relations with the Roman Catholic Church. But early in his episcopate he began a process to hear the diverse diocesan positions on the ordination of women, which the Episcopal Church permitted after its 1976 General Convention.
Bishop Shipps ordained Susan Harrison as a deacon in September 1985. Sonia Sullivan-Clifton was ordained to the priesthood in 1993.
Bishop Shipps and the Most Rev. Raymond W. Lessard, Roman Catholic Bishop of Savannah and a fellow ecumenist, held several joint clergy conferences with speakers from both churches. This cooperation led to a covenant between the two dioceses calling for a number of mutual ministries and responsibilities.
After his retirement as Bishop of Georgia in 1995, Bishop Shipps served as Assistant Bishop of Dallas for four years.
In addition to his wife, Bishop Shipps is survived by daughters Ruth Shipps, Susan Anderson, and Rebecca Eidson; a son, David Shipps; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A requiem Eucharist is scheduled for 11 a.m. Nov. 22 at the Collegiate Church of St. Paul the Apostle.
The diocese welcomes gifts in memory of Bishop Shipps.