William Seth Adams


Quintessential teacher, gracious host, priest of the church, and friend. A craftsman and sculptor of liturgical imaginations, you are fascinated by how imagery shapes our experiences in the church.

Born in Arkansas, raised in St. Louis, you earned undergraduate degrees at Washington University and Bexley Hall and a Master’s and a PhD at Princeton University.

Following ordination in 1967, you served parishes in Missouri and New Jersey until 1975 when you joined Vancouver School of Theology to teach liturgy and church history for seven years. You accepted the appointment of Professor of Liturgics and Anglican studies at Seminary of the Southwest in 1982, and held the J. Milton Richardson chair at Seminary of the Southwest for 23 years.

In 1988, you were invited to lead a clergy retreat in the Diocese of Missouri. The meditations that you offered became the seed of a book that your students encouraged you to publish. In this book – Shaped by Images – you offer the reader a set of images of the one who is called to preside in the Assembly.  “It is not my intent,” you say in your introduction, “to transfer into the hands and heart of ‘the one’ something which belongs to the community, but rather to say that within the community ‘one’ presides.” The title and structure of this book reflect something significant of its author.  You are one who is shaped by and has shaped so many others by “images”.  You are one who “imagines”.

Your former student Chad Vaughn says, “Even a casual conversation with Bill will reveal his preferred use of the verb ‘imagine’ over the more commonly used verbs ‘think’ or ‘feel’. Imagining is essential to who Bill Adams is and how Bill Adams teaches.  He imagines that the liturgists he forms might be at best both ‘conservators of the received tradition and provocateurs of its most creative expression and enrichment’, thus seemingly offering assent, yearning, belief, and hope – all at the same time.”

St. James’ Episcopal Church in Austin was beneficiary of your good care, leadership, teaching and pastoral presence. Bishop Greg Rickel, the former Rector of St. James – as well as your former student – recalls that, “Countless people lay and ordained, across this church we share, have been taught and formed by the life, ministry and witness of Bill Adams. He is deserving of this honor in so many ways.”

It is with admiration, affection, and gratitude for how you have nourished the imagination of generations of students and cared for congregations from New Jersey to Texas to Western Washington, that the Board of Trustees of the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest presents to you the degree of Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa.

Austin, Texas         May 23, 2017