We honor past members of REA:APPRRE

1138769327Matthew William Geiger, leader of the REA Schools Working Group, died on March 9, 2016, in his home in Alexandria, Virginia, surrounded by his parents and loving wife Emily. He had battled cancer for the last two years. Matthew was the son of William Ebling Geiger, Jr. and Edwina Pordum Geiger. He was born on November 8, 1972 in Carbondale, Il, and moved with his family to Vermont in 1974. He graduated from Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington after receiving his primary education in Essex Junction schools. After one year at SUNY Oswego, Matthew transferred to UVM, where he completed majors in both History and Religion, as well as a minor in Philosophy, in 1997. He lived with Benedictine monks in Chicago while doing graduate studies at the University of Chicago, from which he received a Master of Divinity in 2004. Following several adjunct instructor positions at local colleges, he began his high school teaching career at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, MA. He moved in 2007 to St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School (SSSAS) in Alexandria, where he taught in the Religion department up until his death. He continued his studies while doingaward-winning teaching at SSSAS and earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in 2013.

Matthew’s commitment to the service of others was evident from a young age. While at Rice, he was involved in missionary trips to Selma and to Caracas, Venezuela. He later traveled with teams to Guatemala and El Salvador. These experiences reinforced his growing commitment to service of those in need and inclusion of all in the human family.

Matthew found a confluence of his interests in scholarship and service in high school teaching. In his brief academic career, he made substantive contributions to the teaching practices of high school religion and ethics. He published papers and essays having their origin or foundation in his doctoral work (“Religious Education Person to Person: the Reflective and Relational Practice of ‘Notebooking’ in an Academic Setting”) in major journals, one reviewer characterizing the work as ‘groundbreaking’. Matthew’s manuscripts recently accepted by Religious Education and by British Journal of Religious Education will be published posthumously. Matthew also gave a number of invited lectures and organized workshops at national meetings of the Association of Religious Education. The substance of his teaching was one-on-one interactions with his students, and he was deeply committed to each of them. After his illness became known, he received countless cards, texts, and visits responses from former students who recalled specific conversations that they had with Matthew which were important in their paths to personal development. Matthew and his family were heartened and encouraged by these outpourings and offer their deep thanks and gratitude to all who reached out.

He enjoyed reading, classical music, and going anywhere with Emily. As a young man, Matthew loved playing sports, and was a Little League all-star pitcher and infielder. He was a four-year varsity basketball player at Rice, where he became an accomplished point guard and set a school record for assists. He continued to enjoy playing and watching these sports as an adult, and was a regular attendee at Washington Nationals games. He eventually forgave his father for raising him as a Buffalo Bills fan.

Matthew’s greatest good fortune was meeting the math and economics teacher Emily Catherine Repp at SSSAS. Matthew and Emily were married in Alexandria, VA on July 18, 2009 and built a deep relationship based on mutual unconditional love. Emily remained Matthew’s greatest strength and source of meaning during his illness. Matthew is survived by Emily, by his loving sister Karen Marie Geiger, and by his mother Edwina and father William. A Mass of Christian Burial was held on March 14, 2016 11 AM, at Our Lady of Queen of Peace in Arlington, VA, and a memorial service was held on March 16, 9 AM, for SSSAS students and faculty at the Virginia Theological Seminary. Matthew requested that donations in his name be made to Monastery of the Holy Cross, 3111 S. Aberdeen St., Chicago, IL 60608 or on-line at

Joanne Chafe, past president of REA (1985–89), died in Ottawa on Friday, February 17, 2012, at the age of 60. Predeceased by her husband Jan Kolaczek in 1999, by her mother Philomena in 2001 and her father Gerald in 2004.

She had worked for 35 years with the National Office of Religious Education (NORE) of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).  Since December 2000, she was the Director of NORE and Secretary of the English Sector Episcopal Commission for Catechesis (formerly the Commission for Christian Education).

After working as a religious education coordinator with the Roman Catholic School Board in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Ms. Chafe joined NORE in 1977, beginning as an Assistant Director and member of the NORE catechetical team, and then in 1983 serving as its project specialist in the adult portfolio.

Ms. Chafe attended the October 1997 International Congress in Rome for the promulgation of the revised General Directory for Catechesis, and also served as President of the Religious Education Association of the United States and Canada and as President of the International Forum on Adult Religious Education.

The Funeral Mass was held on Ash Wednesday, February 22, at Annunciation of the Lord Church in Ottawa.  Burial was held in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on February 25, 2012.

—Courtesy of Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

C. Ellis Nelson, 95, died on June 9, 2011, in Austin, Texas. Ellis Nelson’s pioneering research and writing about forming Christian disciples through the life of a congregation, coupled with his deep wisdom, gentle wit, and genuine humility, endeared him to several generations and secured his place in the history of the American Presbyterian Church. The only son of Carl and Elizabeth Nelson of Beaumont, Texas, Nelson married Nancy Gribble in 1941. He earned degrees from Austin College, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, The University of Texas, and Columbia University, and was a research fellow at Oxford University in 1964 and 1972. Nelson was ordained by the Presbyterian Church and served as associate minister for University Presbyterian Church, Austin, and as chaplain to the State School for the Blind. Ellis Nelson’s contributions to church life in the twentieth century are noteworthy. In a career that spanned sixty years, he was a minister, researcher, author, consultant, as well as seminary professor, dean, and president. He taught, researched, and wrote well into his tenth decade (he published his last book at age 92). To the very end, Ellis Nelson’s meticulous scholarship, steady presence, and ever-present humor made him a trusted advisor and valued friend.  Nelson began his teaching career at Austin Seminary in 1940. He left in 1957 for New York’s Union Theological Seminary where he was named to the The Skinner and McAlpin Chair of Practical Theology and served as dean. In 1974 he became president of Louisville Presbyterian Seminary and served until he retired. He and Nancy returned to Texas and he became interim president at Austin Seminary where he remained on the faculty until his death. He lectured or taught at many U.S. and foreign seminaries. He also served in the public sector: the Texas Legislative Council, the Fair-Housing Committee in Tenafly, New Jersey; and as a founder of the National Council on Religion and Public Education in New York.The Nancy Gribble and C. Ellis Nelson Chair in Christian Education at Austin Seminary was established in 2002. In addition to his beloved wife of seventy years, Nancy, survivors include his son, Ellis Stark, wife, Veronica, and son, Brian; daughter, Karin, husband, John McAnlis, and children, Nancy, Ian, and Carolyn; and sister, Selma. Ellis and Nancy’s daughter, Joy Elizabeth, preceded him in death.

Harold W. Burgess, Faculty Emeritus at Asbury Theological Seminary, passed away on March 28, 2011 at his home. Burgess was born to school teachers William K. and Gladys Burgess on Oct 8, 1933 in Marlette, Michigan. Harold was ordained to pastoral ministry in the Missionary Church in 1962 and served several churches throughout his lifetime. He invested his life in teaching at: Mountain View Bible College, Alberta; Bethel College; the University of Notre Dame; Messiah College, Pennsylvania and Asbury Theological Seminary. Harold received his Master of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in 1958, began his teaching ministry with the Seminary in 1978 as Professor of Christian Education and Pastoral Ministry, and officially retired 23 years later. In 1983 Dr. Burgess, along with Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, helped to establish The Francis Asbury Society where, through Feb 25, 2011, he was actively involved in writing, editing and publishing resources to further the message of Biblical holiness.  His family includes his brother Philip (Marie) and his sister, Nancy Quinn; his wife Marcia; his daughter, Colleen Fitch and her children: Emily Kuehnemund (Stephen), Mary Slininger (Chris) and Katherine Fitch; his daughter, Cheryl Amstutz and her children: Daniel (Kathleen), Hannah, Abigail and Joel and their father, Brian Amstutz.

Terence Michael Copley, British academic and author passed away January 17, 2011 at age 72. For almost all his adult life, Copley had been a member of the Society of Friends. Copley was Professor of Educational Studies (Religious Education) at the University of Oxford, England and also Emeritus Professor of Religious Education at the University of Exeter, where he served as Professor of Religious Education from 1997 until 2007. Copely also served as a Religious Education teacher and then deputy head-teacher of a comprehensive school. He was a well-known speaker at academic conferences and teacher training provision. His writings cover the history of Religious Education and ‘spiritual development’ in state-maintained schools in England and Wales and methods of teaching biblical narrative in primary and secondary schools. His work includes the BIBLOS project on teaching the Bible in a secular environment and a number of books for children. Copley had a Methodist background but had been a Quaker for many decades. He received a Lambeth degree of Doctor of Divinity from the Archbishop of Canterbury. The dearly loving husband of Pauline, a much loved Father of Sandra, Terry and Lisa also a dear Grandfather of Daniel, Lyle and Lucy, Copley was a loving Brother and a good friend of many.

Furnish_deceased010311 Dorothy Jean “DJ” Furnish, was born August 25, 1921 in Plano, Illinois. She graduated from Merrill Junior High, Rock Falls, IL (1935); Parker High School, Chicago (1939); Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, IA (1943) and Garrett-Northwestern University, Evanston, IL (MA, 1945). Dorothy Jean served as Director of Christian Education (DCE) at Trinity Methodist Church, Hutchinson, KS, from 1945-52, as Assistant Professor of CE, Nebraska Wesleyan University (1952-57), and DCE, First Methodist Church, Lincoln, NE (1952-65). In 1968 she received a Ph.D. in Religion from Garrett-Northwestern where she taught until she retired (1991). Professor Emerita Furnish published a history of the rise of the profession of director of religious education in the 20th century. She also published three books on her progressive theory of teaching the Bible to children, leading many workshops, always accompanied by her guitar. She was an avid camper, hiker and photographer who loved Rocky Mt. National Park. Dr. Furnish died on January 3, 2011. She is survived by her partner of 50 years, Dr. Mary Jo Osterman, Louisville; her brother, Dr. Victor Paul Furnish, Dallas, TX; two nieces, Brianna Furnish, Grosse Point Park, MI and Rebecca Furnish McNeal, Dallas; great-niece and nephew, Kailey and Evan McNeal, Dallas. She was preceded in death by her baby sister, Charlotte (1926), her father, the Reverend Reuben McKinley Furnish (1961), and her mother, Mildred Lorraine Feller Furnish (1985).