Robert C. Worley, a theologian and a peacemaker, died June 30 at age 87 in Chicago. Though he was in practice a Presbyterian, who spent his career teaching at McCormick Theological Seminary, Bob Worley should be remembered for his ecumenism—for his respect for and celebration of the diverse ways people engage with one another, with their culture, and with their faith; for his concern with the humanity and dignity of all people in the Middle East, where he worked for decades; and for his lifelong commitment to justice and peace.
Bob, began his life as one of four children to Henry and Lillian Worley in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He entered a pre-med program at Oklahoma State University with the intention of becoming a medical or dental missionary, subsequently getting both a Doctor of Dental surgery and a graduate degree in physiology and pharmacology from Northwestern University. Bob then attended McCormick Theological Seminary where he later became a professor of Christian Education.
In the 1980’s, he was instrumental in developing the Center for Organizational Study and the Doctor of Ministry Program at McCormick. Through his students, he became involved with the Chicago Korean Presbyterian Community and traveled to Korea many times. In 1980, Bob went to Beirut, Lebanon, to teach at the Near East School of Theology. Through the Middle East Council of Churches, he then taught throughout the region, in Egypt, Cyprus, and Syria and Armenia. He taught at McCormick until 1994, when he retired as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty.
Frank Yamada, President of McCormick Seminary said, “Bob Worley was an innovator in theological education. Today, most U.S. seminaries understand the ecumenical and global impact that theological education can have. Dr. Worley advocated for and lived out these commitments decades before it became a trend among seminaries. Through the D.Min. program, his commitment to racial-ethnic churches, his passion for peace in the Middle East, and his deep commitments to ecumenical diversity, Bob Worley has left a profound legacy for McCormick Seminary and the broader church and society.”
After Bob’s retirement, he maintained various commitments: to his Middle East friends, the Chicago Korean Community, to reading groups and to travel with Irene.
Bob Worley did not want a funeral, only a private memorial service at the family cabin in Michigan. His ashes will be scattered in the front yard of the cottage, facing Indian Lake, near the lady’s-slipper plant behind the blueberry bushes. Robert Worley is survived by his wife, Irene; their children, Christine, Gretchen, Johanna, Rob, and Peter; and 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to:
Rev. Dr. Robert Worley Memorial Fund to Support Education for Displaced Syrians
c/o Middle East and Europe Office, Global Ministries
700 Prospect Ave., #718
Cleveland, OH 44115
The Faculty Global Awareness Fund
McCormick Theological Seminary
5460 S. University Ave.
Chicago, IL 60615