RIP: The Rev. Donald Smith Armentrout

Church historian prepared generations for service in ministry

ens_040113_donArmentrout[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Donald Smith Armentrout, retired professor of church history and historical theology, the Charles Quintard professor of dogmatic theology, and director of the Advanced Degrees Program at the University of the South’s School of Theology in Sewanee, Tennessee, died March 30.

The Liturgy of the Church in celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus and in memory of Armentrout will take place on April 3, at 3 p.m., in All Saints’ Chapel on the Sewanee campus.

Armentrout, who joined the School of Theology faculty in 1967, retired on Dec. 31, 2008, after 42 years as a teacher and leader at the school. He and wife Sue Ellen Gray Armentrout, who survives him, stayed in Sewanee in their retirement.

Armentrout graduated from Roanoke College in 1961; he was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus in 1992 and received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from his alma mater in 2007. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1964.

In 1972, he was ordained as a pastor in the Lutheran Church in America (now the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). He received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1970 and has received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from General Theological Seminary.

Armentrout became an instructor in ecclesiastical history at Sewanee’s School of Theology in 1967, progressing to assistant professor, associate professor, and professor before being named Quintard professor of dogmatic theology in 1991. He was the director of the joint Doctor of Ministry program shared with Vanderbilt from 1974 to 1984 and then director of the Advanced Degrees Program. He became associate dean of academic affairs in 1989, and served twice as interim dean of the seminary.

He has served as an editor of Synthesis: A Weekly Resource for Preaching and Worship in the Episcopal Tradition since 1988, as a member of the board of editors of the Sewanee Theological Review since 1991, and as a member of the Sewanee magazine’s editorial advisory committee.

Armentrout exemplified the ecumenical movement, serving for 42 years as a Lutheran at a seminary preparing priests for the Episcopal Church, and becoming an eminent scholar in Episcopal Church history. His publications include The Quest for the Informed Priest: A History of the School of Theology (1979), A DuBose Reader: Selections from the Writings of William Porcher DuBose (1984), with Robert B. Slocum, Documents of Witness: A History of the Episcopal Church, 1782-1985 (1994), and also with Robert B. Slocum, An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church (1999).

The Very Rev. William S. Stafford, dean emeritus of the School of Theology, said at the time of Armentrout’s retirement that by his scholarly work and teaching Armentrout had “shined light upon the history of the Episcopal Church as well as the church catholic. As pastor and preacher, his faith in Jesus Christ crucified and risen has deepened the ministries of many hundreds of graduates of the School of Theology. He has been more than a pillar of the School; he has been a wall to hold us up, and a window to let light in. No substitute for Don will ever be found, but we are glad that Sewanee gets to keep him and Sue for the coming years in the flexibility and freedom that retirement promises. We thank Don for his service, and we thank God for Don.”

Comments

  1. Ruth M. Allen says:

    With all of his titles and accolades, Rev. Dr. Donald Armentrout wanted us seminarians to call him “Don.” He did not need a title for us to know how special, how intelligent, and how important a person he was. Don was instrumental in my selecting Sewanee for my seminary training. As my Academic Dean and advisor, Don’s open door policy, his love for the seminarians, and always making time for us impressed me greatly. In the classroom his brilliant mind and humor made me eager to attend his classes. Don will be remembered as a friend and one of the most outstanding people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.

  2. (The Rev.) Galen A. Mirate says:

    There are not enough words to express the magnificent contribution that The Rev. Armentrout made to the seminary, and to the lives of so many seminarians – and thus, their parishioners. He was possessed of an incredible wealth of knowledge, which he lavished on his students with wit, charm, grace and an unfailing love. Love of Christ; love of us students.
    How deeply he will be missed, mere language cannot express. Yet, those of us who knew and cherished him are certain that if we listen closely, we hear the angels laughing, because of him.

  3. Fr. Will McQueen says:

    Don was one of those rare breeds who knew his subject matter (Church History) and above all else loved teaching and communicating that to his students. It was tough watching someone like that decline, and I’m grateful to have had him as a professor. He and I certainly didn’t agree on matters of theology or politics, but I’m grateful for his truly entertaining and informative lectures. Prayers for his wife Sue who lovingly cared for him in his final years.

  4. Jonathan Gosser says:

    Don was a great recruiter for the Advanced Degrees program with a welcoming presence for all manner of folk. He was possessed of an insightful mind and a sly sense of humor. Don gave himself in generous interchanges with others. I will miss him.

  5. Rev. Dr.William Muniz Ph.D. says:

    He was always my hero. I came to admired him as a teacher, fabulous preacher, highly informed historian and sound theologian. After I received my doctoral degree I was proud to count him and Sue as my personal friends. His contribution to the Episcopal Church at Sewanee transcends beyond the ecumenical world of the Christian family, his passion for the risen Lord was always evident in his faith and character. Enjoy the blessings of eternity beloved friend. Peace to you.
    The Rev.Dr.William Muniz Catholic Priest Archdiocese of Miami

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