News Archives

United Methodist Bishop R. Marvin Stuart dead at 93

11/17/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn

A UMNS Report By Linda Green*

Retired United Methodist Bishop R. Marvin Stuart, 93, who advocated full clergy rights for women in the denomination, died Nov. 11 at his Palo Alto, Calif., retirement home.

Born in Paullina, Iowa, Stuart was ordained in 1934 and elected bishop in 1964. He served as president of the Council of Bishops in 1978. His election to bishop highlighted a ministerial career that included 22 years as pastor of First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, as well as service at other churches in the San Francisco Bay area. He served 16 years as bishop in Denver and San Francisco.

At the 1956 General Conference, Stuart was the chairman of the legislative body for the committee on ministry and presented the report for the church to approve full clergy rights for women. As a result, the assembly granted clergywomen full rights in the United Methodist Church that year. Stuart served as a General Conference delegate from 1952 to 1964.

He was also responsible for beginning the denomination's national training program for district superintendents and directors of councils on ministries.

"I knew Bishop Stuart well and had high regard for him," said retired Bishop Jack Tuell of Des Moines, Wash. "One of the things that marked his ministry before he was elected bishop and after was the incredible energy he devoted to his ministerial work."

Stuart received an associate degree from Taylor University in Indiana and later received bachelor's and master's degrees in sacred theology from Boston School of Theology. He also received an honorary doctorate from Taylor University.

Tuell said Stuart was an idea person, particularly with regard to missions.

"Bishop Stuart was phenomenal at fund raising for mission programs, and First United Methodist Church was one of the leading churches in the denomination for supporting a variety of Advance Specials (mission projects). He devoted considerable energy to mission in an outstanding way," Tuell said.

When Stuart was appointed pastor of First Church in 1948, the congregation had only a few hundred members. During his 22-year tenure, the church grew to 2,000 members, and a gothic-styled sanctuary was constructed in 1962. As bishop, he led the denomination's Denver Area for eight years, beginning in 1964, and later oversaw the San Francisco Area until his retirement in 1980.

During his ministerial career, Stuart was an advocate for social justice. "He was in the forefront of people working to integrate the church during the '60s," Tuell said.

Stuart's wife, Mary Ella Stuart, died in 2001. He is survived by his son, Robert Lee Stuart of San Francisco. A memorial service will be held Jan. 17 at First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto. Donations may be made to the Stuart Landscaping Endowment, First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto, 625 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301.

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*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer in Nashville, Tenn.

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