Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaches at Ron Miller’s celebration of life at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Baltimore, October 17, 2019

by Mary Klein, Diocesan Archivist

After 57 years together and one year apart, a “power couple” has been reunited – the Rev. Ronald and Mary Miller. Ron died on September 29, 2019, almost exactly a year after Mary’s death on September 25, 2018. Ron and Mary had advocated for peace, social justice, racial reconciliation, LGBTQ+ rights, marriage equality, and a deeper knowledge of God their whole adult lives. Presiding Bishop Michael Bruce Curry preached at both Mary’s and Ron’s memorial services, perhaps indicating how much these two quietly committed, intelligent people had meant to The Episcopal Church as a whole.

 

 

The Rev. Ron Miller, 2010

Having earned his B.A. from Yale University in 1960, Ron attended the General Theological Seminary in New York City, where he received both bachelors and master’s degrees in Sacred Theology. Following Ron’s serving in parish ministry in Virginia and Washington, DC, Mary and Ron returned to New York so that Ron could further his education with a Ph.D. from Fordham University. While Ron spent his hours studying, Mary went to work at The Episcopal Church Center. Having earlier earned her Master of Religious Education at Union Theological Seminary, Mary was employed in the Christian Social Relations department at “815” (The Episcopal Church Center at 815 Second Avenue, NYC, NY).  While there, Mary was instrumental in the work of the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity (ESCRU), and became treasurer of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.

In her 2014 book, Dear White Christians, author Jennifer Harvey interviewed both Ron and Mary Miller, mining their experiences for insights into the Church’s struggle for racial justice. Ron gained invaluable knowledge about how our diocese had profited from the institution of slavery while serving as associate priest at St. James’ Church, Baltimore during the rectorship of Michael Curry. He was appointed co-chair of the diocesan Reparations Task Force formed in 2004 in response to a resolution passed by Diocesan Convention. Mary Miller, who had remained a parishioner at St. James’ Church after Ron finished his employment there, had begun an after-church discussion group, which dealt with issues of social policy, current events, racial inequality and reparations. The resolution came from that discussion group and called for “diocesan-wide education and discussion…on the issue of restitution/reparation to African-Americans whose ancestors were enslaved in this land for nearly 250 years.” In 2008, the Reparations Task Force and the Anti-Racism Commission were replaced by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and in Mary Miller’s words, the members continued to “look for what’s broken and what we might be able to do to help fix it.” The Millers’ legacy of working to “repair the breach” was affirmed at the 235th Diocesan Convention in 2019 when a resolution to “continue fostering formational conversations around the understanding of reparations” passed unanimously.

Episcopal Society of Cultural and Racial Unity (click image to see full document)

Episcopal Urban Caucus

Integrity Baltimore
(click image to see full document)

According to a brief message in the Cathedral of the Incarnation newsletter for June 2010, Ron Miller wrote, “My Ph.D. from Fordham was the ticket which first brought us to Baltimore (in 1972) so I could teach at St. Mary’s Seminary, Roland Park.” He continued, “Undergraduate study of music and a major in the history of music, along with graduate work in worship and church history have set my interests beyond theology and ordained ministry. Since the 1960’s, the renewal of Episcopal worship and music have been major interests.” Ron served on Maryland’s Liturgy and Music Commission, taught in the Faculty Leadership Program for Musicians, and sang tenor in the cathedral choir from 2010 until his health prevented it in 2018. 

From 1977-1986, the Millers lived in Murrysville, PA, where Ron was engaged in parish ministry and liturgical renewal, returning to Baltimore in 1989. Mary became Executive Secretary of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, which required a daily commute to Washington, DC, and Ron was first at St. Bartholomew’s, Ten Hills, then worked for the diocese as the Associate for Ordained Ministry. After retiring from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship in 1992, Mary was appointed vice chair of the Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace with Justice, and, although she was never a deputy to General Convention, she attended every triennial meeting from 1968 onwards, missing 1976 for the birth of her son. Mary and Ron were active in the Episcopal Urban Caucus, and Integrity, where Mary served as secretary; and Mary served on the Board of Directors for the Center on Conscience and War, as well as the Center for Conscientious Objectors.

Reflecting on the Millers as an influential Christian couple, retired Bishop of Maryland, Robert W. Ihloff said, “Ron and Mary lived the Gospel of social justice, believing it with their whole beings. They exuded that in their priorities, what they spent their money on, what they did.” As Bishop Curry said in his sermon at Ron’s memorial service, “Ron and Mary were so bound together by powerful love, that they gave their lives for their family, and for their church family. Now they are in the hands of God whose powerful love will never let them go.”

Mary Miller, 2018

There’s Something About Mary – sermon preached at Mary Miller’s celebration of life, October 3, 2018 at
St. James’ Episcopal Church, Baltimore

Sermon preached by Presiding Bishop Curry at Ron Miller’s celebration of life, October 17, 2019