Rev. N. Ellsworth Bunce Jr., 71, United Methodist minister


The Rev. N. Ellsworth Bunce Jr., a retired United Methodist minister who headed an ecumenical school, suffered a stroke Friday while vacationing in Berkeley Springs, W. Va., and died later in the day at a hospital in Winchester, Va.

Mr. Bunce, who was 71 and a resident of North Baltimore, was president of the McKendree School of Religion, an ecumenical educational agency that held classes in numerous churches and a monastery. When the school was founded in the mid-1990s, he described its purpose as "making the Christian Gospel relevant and effective." He said he also wanted to provide studies affordable to people of limited means.

"He was one of the great pillars of the ecumenical movement in our day. He was very broad-minded and open toward all faiths," said the Rev. Michael Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew's Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. "He was key in the development of ongoing education for clergy and laity in the Baltimore area."

"He was a very understanding man who maximized the use of his energy," said the Rev. David W. Cammack of Dickeyville, a retired Episcopal clergyman. "He was very much inclined to apply Christianity to society in America - both in social action and in educational knowledge."

Born in Baltimore and raised on Mathews Street in Waverly, he was a graduate of City College, where he was named Junior Mayor of Baltimore in 1946. He "served" one day in office at City Hall, under then-Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin.

He attended Eastern Nazarene College and graduated from Western Maryland College in 1951. He received a master's degree in theology from what is now Wesley Seminary in Washington.

Before he retired in 1991, he had been pastor of Arnolia Methodist Church, Mount Zion in Highland in Howard County, Stevenson Methodist in Baltimore County and Aldersgate Methodist in Hampden. He had also been an associate pastor and education minister at Grace United Methodist Church in Homeland.

In 1967, he testified before the City Council, urging an end to racial segregation in Baltimore's taverns.

Mr. Bunce also opposed capital punishment. "Opposition to executions ... raises social ethics above eye-for-eye vengeance and allows for mercy and redemption," he wrote to The Sun this year. "People can change and be rehabilitated."

"He was intensely involved in the betterment of humankind in race, peace and the environment - a whole range of social concerns," the Rev. Edwin Schell, a retired Methodist pastor, said yesterday.

Within the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, he had served as executive director of the Board of Christian Social Concerns and executive director of the Board of Church and Society. He had also been executive director of Maryland Churches United, an ecumenical foundation.

In 1975, he married Nargis Paul, then dean of Isabella Thoburn College in India.

His previous marriage to Elizabeth Thomas ended in divorce.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. May 19 at Lovely Lane United Methodist Church, St. Paul and 22nd Streets, where he served as minister of visitation.

He is survived by his wife, who retired as a chemistry teacher at Loyola Blakefield; a son, Newton E. Bunce III of Prescott Ariz.; a daughter, Deborah Lee Schillo of Asheville, N.C.; his mother, Dorothy Bunce Lawrence of Towson; a sister, Eva B. Young of Catonsville; and five grandchildren.

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