Episcopal Bishop William C. Frey has shocked members of the Colorado religious community with news that he is leaving to take the helm of a small, financially troubled seminary in a former steel town near Pittsburgh.
Frey has been a leading voice in Colorado since he was named bishop nearly 17 years ago and was one of four candidates in 1985 to become the Episcopal Church's top bishop nationwide.
He leaves the episcopacy more than a dozen years before the mandatory retirement age of 72 to become dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa., an evangelical school of about 70 students where one of his sons is a freshman.
In an interview at St. Stephen's Church in suburban Aurora, Frey said he agonized over the decision to leave his position and called the time he spent considering the offer 24 hours "of the worst depression I've ever gone through."
Ultimately, he decided to take the job "because of a sense of vocation."
"I felt a call," explained the bishop, who prefers to be addressed simply as Bill. "It just came from left field."
Frey called Trinity "the Cinderella of American seminaries," noting that it is "poor, new, in an abandoned steel town and has offices in a converted Safeway building with no air-conditioning and classes in a former Presbyterian church."
The bishop said he will probably begin his new job in the fall of 1990 after relocation to Pennsylvania in the spring.
Frey is an evangelical and charismatic who believes in speaking in tongues. And he believes abortion is homicide. But he has a distinctively liberal side also and has been denounced by church conservatives for his opposition to the nuclear arms race, capital punishment and the proliferation of handguns.
On the divisive issues of ordination of women and revision of the Book of Common Prayer, Bishop Frey has sided with liberals.