The Rev. Canon Constance C. Coles, a pioneering priest who served as the Diocese of New York’s canon for ministry, died August 10 at 77 after a brief struggle with pancreatic cancer.
Coles grew up in Glen Cove, New York, a direct descendent of Robert Coles, an English Quaker, who founded the community in 1668. She became an Episcopalian as a girl and graduated from Wells College, and then Union Theological Seminary. After working as a Christian educator for several years, she was ordained in 1978, beginning her ministry at the Church of the Epiphany in Manhattan.
As rector of All Saints’ in Harrison, she was the third woman to be a rector in the Diocese of New York. She was active in community ministry there, and a highlight was her role organizing an interfaith memorial service on the town green just days after the terrorist attacks in 2001.
She served as canon for ministry for 12 years, shaping the formation of dozens of deacons and priests. She was also a long-serving trustee of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and board member of the Metropolitan Japanese Ministry.
Coles is survived by her husband of 53 years, William McKeown, and their two children.
The Rev. Dr. William Rankin, a former dean and president of Episcopal Divinity School who founded a healthcare network in Malawi, died July 22 at 80.
Rankin grew up near Syracuse, New York, and studied at Duke and Episcopal Theological Seminary before being ordained to the priesthood in 1967. He began his ministry as a curate at Trinity Church, Elmira, New York, before moving to California, where he served as an assistant at All Saints’ in Pasadena.
His ardent support for the Civil Rights Movement and for initiatives aimed at ending poverty and bringing peace led him back to Duke, where he received a degree in public policy and a doctorate in Christian ethics.
After 10 years as rector of St. Stephen’s in Belvedere, California, he was called to Episcopal Divinity School in 1993, and served for five years as dean and president, as well as professor of Christian ethics. He was the author of five books about Christian ethics and social issues, including Countdown to Disaster (1981), a critique of the nuclear arms race.
Rankin returned to California to become vice president of the United Religions Initiative, an organization founded by Bishop William Swing of California that seeks to unite religious leaders from across the world to share in peacemaking and justice projects. In 2000, with neurosurgeon Charles Wilson, Rankin founded the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA). Originally focused on medical support during the worst of Africa’s AIDS crisis, the organization has since expanded its work to disease prevention and treatment across rural Malawi, orphan care, micro-loans for women-led businesses, and scholarships for trainee nurses.
He retired as GAIA’s president in 2011, and assisted until his death at St. John’s in Ross, California, where his son-in-law is the rector. Rankin is survived by his wife of 57 years, Sally, two children, and two grandchildren.
The Very Rev. George Bull Salley Jr., who served parishes in South Carolina and Georgia, died August 10 at 85.
Born on his family farm near Orangeburg, South Carolina, Salley graduated from the University of South Carolina. After four years as a U.S. Army Intelligence officer, he worked as an accountant before answering a call to ministry. After graduating from St. Luke’s School of Theology at the University of the South, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1974.
He was the founding vicar of St. Alban’s in Lexington, South Carolina, and then served as rector of All Saints’ in Cayce for seven years. In 1985, he became rector of St. Michael and All Angels in Savannah, where he served for 15 years, while being a leader on numerous diocesan committees and dean of the Savannah Convocation.
In retirement, Salley extensively researched the history of his and his wife’s families, and became a member of more than 40 lineage societies. He also served as interim rector at St. George’s in Savannah and as priest associate at the Collegiate Church of St. Paul the Apostle.
Salley is survived by his wife, Anne, two children, and two granddaughters.