Our ELCA Vice-President was a quietly accomplished, reliably upbeat, and effortlessly friendly man named Bill Horne. At one of our Synod Assemblies, his family occupied the hotel room next to mine. He'd greet me when we passed in the hallway, and always have a smile on his face when I'd see him. I knew his face because he frequented Synod gatherings, but I only gradually learned of his background, his history, and his job as Clearwater City Manager. I remember thinking how blessed that city was to have someone as well-suited as Bill to be handling those delicate interactions with the local Scientologists.
I've included some articles about Bill below, as well as information about his funeral service. Our prayers and blessings go out to Bill's family, and our thanks to God for giving our Church such a wise and encouraging lay leader.
The Memorial Service for Bill Horne will be this Saturday, August 21, 2021 at 11:00am at Calvary Church in Clearwater, Florida.
Calvary Church - 110 McMullen Booth Rd, Clearwater, FL 33759
Masks will be required and social distancing is strongly encouraged.
The memorial service will also be live streamed at https://streamedevents.online.church/
From the Florida-Bahamas Synod Office: The Passing of Bill Horne
If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:8 (New Living Translation) The sudden and unexpected death of our sibling in Christ, Bill Horne, has left many of us at a loss for words. Thankfully, when we cannot find words, the Spirit intercedes for us with wordless, deep sighs. (Romans 8:26) We cling to the comfort of the Resurrection promise, as we know Bill did every day. Bill is at rest now, seeing Jesus face to face, joining the choir of angels with that robust voice he shared when he worshipped. But we still hurt. The loss in Bill’s family and communities is raw and palpable. How do we make any sense of what seems like a life cut short, weeks before a planned retirement of service, travel and adventure with his wife Loretta? Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. I first got to know Bill when I served on the Synod Council and he was the Vice President. My first impression was of a calm leader who appreciated good order. Not too long after, and when the old constitution required that the Synod Council put forth two names for a VP election, Bill called me and asked me if I would run against him! After some deeper conversation, I agreed. And at that election, I won by a single vote. Bill and I knew that what the Synod needed in that moment was a sense of our unity, not any sign of division. Because the truth was that we were not divided. So we made the rounds of receptions and meeting together. A couple of months later, Bill ran for and won a seat on the Churchwide Council. The Spirit was indeed up to something, putting him on a path that led him to be elected to the position of ELCA Vice President. I think back to that time still with a sense of astonishment. A few weeks after that Synod Assembly, my husband Steve and I drove to Clearwater to have a long dinner with Bill and Loretta. He wanted to pass on some things he thought I should know. He and Steve bonded over their shared Air Force service. Loretta was gracious and we shared some talk about family. That dinner cemented our shared desire for service in God’s church, and our unfailing support for each other on our respective journeys. It never wavered. As it happens, FSU football Coach Bobby Bowden’s memorial service was Saturday. I watched a part of the livestream. What struck me then, and is even more poignant now, was the theme of “Faith, Family, Football” as the pillars of Bowden’s life. As his sons Terry and Tommy both noted, “football was a priority, but is not THE priority.” I think it was Tommy who also said, if it isn’t football for you, figure out what your priority is---just don’t make it THE priority. Faith is always first. Bill Horne understood that. His third pillar wasn’t Football. It seems to me instead that it was Service. Faith, Family, Service. Bill embodied the Lutheran concept of “vocation” as well as anyone I’ve known. While theologians wrestle with what Luther meant by that, I think Pr. Dwight DuBois put it well in an article in Living Lutheran (9/2/19). He characterizes vocation, not as any particular career or job, but rather as the way we connect life and faith. It is ministry in daily life. Bill’s vocation was to serve the neighbor using his gift of leadership—whether in the Air Force, as a long tenured city manager, or the highest elected layperson in our denomination. Daily, he connected his faith with service. It was born of his deep faith in God and nurtured by his commitment to and support from his family. Faith. Family. Service. Bill never stopped trying to learn more about Jesus and the tenets of the faith community he belonged to. He read and studied the Bible often, always had time for prayer, loved music, and was willing to acknowledge his faith questions and even doubts. He served on more committees than I can count. He has told the story of his faith journey from doubt to understanding and embrace of LGBTQ siblings. He knew that our denomination and our people have a long way to go in the arena of racial justice. And yet, with his deep belief that the Spirit had called him to lead our white denomination by his words, his example and his actions, he persisted. Because he loved God and God’s people. Frustration, weariness, anger, incredulity---yes, Bill experienced all of those things from time to time. But his belief that no burden was too great to leave with God carried him through and lightened his step. Maybe that is why it is hard to accept that he will not get the earthly reward he had planned in retirement. I pray fervently for Loretta and their family in these weeks and months ahead, that they will make a way to find and embrace the joys of this life even when grief seems front and center. I cannot make sense of why things like this happen. But this I know. Bill did not toil or serve God in vain. He left us better than we were. Bill left us with an example of what it means to move forward when the way is not clear or is hard; to trust God; to love neighbor. It is up to those of us who were touched by Bill---and there are many of us---to live life with intention, good humor, integrity and above all, faith, in service to the neighbor. May we honor him in this way. I miss you, my friend. I give thanks to God for having shared some time with you on this earth. May you rest in peace, good and faithful servant. Until we meet. Cheryl Stuart Florida-Bahamas Synod Vice President
From the city of CLEARWATER
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved City Manager Bill Horne. Mr. Horne died the afternoon of Aug. 14 a suspected heart attack. Our thoughts are with his wife, Loretta, during this difficult time, as well as other family members. Mr. Horne led our city as city manager for more than two decades and was looking forward to his retirement on Sept. 3. A retired U.S. Air Force colonel, he began his career with the city of Clearwater in 1998 as general support services administrator. The next year, he became assistant city manager. In July 2000, he was named interim city manager and then became city manager the following year. "We have lost a patriot, mentor, leader, public servant, veteran, and role model. I lost my friend," said Mayor Frank Hibbard. "Our community was richer for having Bill Horne, and today we are poorer for having lost him. His impact in Clearwater and beyond will live on tangibly and in our hearts. Rest In Peace, my friend."
Assistant City Manager Micah Maxwell is now serving as Interim City Manager.