Longtime Bishop Paul A. Duffey dies at 91

United Methodist Bishop Paul Andrews Duffey, 91, died March 18 in Georgia after a brief illness.

"In those trying times that life brings, I always felt a sense of peace when Bishop Duffey would stand before us as a congregation, reminding us of God's goodness and mercy, God's love and grace, God's sovereignty and power, and God's reign over all creation. He didn't just speak these words as a shepherd of the flock; he lived them for all of us to see," said the Rev. Jeremy Pridgeon, Pensacola (Fla.) District superintendent, who recalled Duffey's years as bishop-in-residence at First United Methodist Church, Montgomery, Ala.

"Bishop Duffey was truly one of God's humble servants," said the Rev. Karl Stegall, now retired from the Alabama-West Florida Annual (regional) Conference. "He was a Christian gentleman in the highest sense of the word. He always lifted our spirits to the higher, nobler things of life. He modeled for all of us in a unique way Christian piety and social action."

Stegall described Duffey as his "father in the ministry" for 45 years.

In 1980, the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference elected Duffey to the episcopacy. He was assigned to the Louisville Area and served eight years. He also was secretary of the Council of Bishops from 1984 to 1988.

Born in Brownsville, Tenn., Duffey spent much of his childhood in East Tallassee, Ala. After attending the University of Alabama, he finished his degree at Birmingham-Southern College. While serving a student appointment, Duffey earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University. Before finishing his formal education, he joined the Tennessee Conference, where he was ordained deacon and elder, both times by Bishop Paul B. Kern.

Ministry throughout the South

He served the Chapel Hill Circuit in the Tennessee Conference, then ministered in six different appointments in the Alabama-West Florida Conference: Abbeville; First, Marion; Dexter Avenue, Montgomery; First, Pensacola: First, Dothan; and First, Montgomery. In 1976, Duffey was named district superintendent of the Montgomery District of the Alabama-West Florida Conference.

Duffey and Louise Calhoun were married in Selma, Ala., on June 20, 1944. She died in 2010. Their children are Melanie Claire Duffey (Mrs. David N. Hutto Jr.) and Paul A. Duffey Jr.

His alma mater awarded him an honorary doctorate and elected him a life trustee. Duffey also received honorary degrees from Union College and Kentucky Wesleyan College. Lindsey Wilson College and Sue Bennett College presented him with a Distinguished Service Award and the Trustees Award respectively. Huntington College conferred an honorary degree on him in May 2000.

'A testimony to a virtuous Christian life'

Pridgeon said Duffey and his wife, Louise, "were such a significant part of that congregation. Bishop Duffey always took interest in the young associates, and his counsel was often sought, as we knew of the great wisdom he had as a pastor.

"We all marveled at his vocabulary," Pridgeon added. "Whether he was waxing eloquently about the vicissitudes of life or sharing about a person's indefatigable spirit, his command of the language and his immediate access to those words while extemporaneously speaking was amazing."

Meredyth Earnest, former communications director for the Alabama-West Florida Conference, called Duffey "the closest thing to Christian perfection that I have ever known. He was not only a friend and mentor but (also) a testimony to a virtuous Christian life."

Jenny Posey Baars, now of Pensacola, Fla., wrote on the conference Facebook page, "Brother Paul was truly the most Christlike person I have ever known." She recalled a farewell sermon Duffey preached at Dexter Avenue United Methodist Church in September 2011. "He was as sharp as ever and had such a great message. We, however, were all in tears, believing we might not see him again in this life. He will be missed by so many, but I know we will meet again someday."

"It is with great sorrow we acknowledge the death of Bishop Duffey," said Bishop Paul L. Leeland, Alabama-West Florida Conference. "Bishop Duffey was a friend and mentor to so many. &ellipsis; His wisdom and Christlike love abounded in all he did. We seek to live and lead as he did as we serve our churches, conference and Christ. My wife, Janet, and I had the privilege of getting to know Bishop Duffey and his late wife, Louise, when we moved to Montgomery where he served as the retired bishop-in-residence.

"I find it difficult to sum up his exemplary life in just a few short sentences. We take comfort in knowing he was welcomed into the Kingdom as a good and faithful servant and pray for his children and extended family during this difficult time. We will honor him for generations to come."

Services for Duffey will be Friday, March 23, at First United Methodist Church, Montgomery. Visitation will be in the church fellowship hall at 10 a.m., followed by a memorial service at 11 a.m. in the sanctuary. A private burial will be held prior to the services.

*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].

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