William J. Doorly, 81, minister, author

WilliamJ. Doorly
WilliamJ. Doorly
Posted: January 21, 2011

Dr. William J. Doorly, 81, of Bryn Mawr, a Presbyterian minister, educator, and author of six books drawn from studies of ancient Israel, died of esophageal cancer Sunday, Jan. 9, at Bryn Mawr Hospital.

Dr. Doorly taught biblical studies at Neumann University in Aston from the mid-1990s until 2002. For several years, until becoming ill in 2008, he was an interim preacher at Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.

Dr. Doorly's first book was the publication of his doctoral thesis, The Prophet of Justice, in 1989. His last was The Laws of Jahweh, published in 2002.

His great love was studying the Bible, especially the Old Testament, said his wife, Elba Santamarina Doorly.

In recent years, Dr. Doorly, a dedicated ecumenist, was an active participant in the community life program at Thomas Paine Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Collegeville, Main Line Unitarian Church in Devon, and Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.

"He was a lovely, meek, and humble man who evolved throughout his lifetime," she said.

A native of Kensington, Dr. Doorly graduated from Northeast High School. He graduated from Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church in 1950, earned a bachelor's degree from Temple University in 1954, and earned a master's degree in divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1957. Later, he earned a doctorate in divinity from Lancaster Theological Seminary.

In the 1950s, after his ordination as a Presbyterian minister, Dr. Doorly served in a church in Newark, N.J.

In the early 1960s, he was pastor at Palethorp Presbyterian Church in Kensington, where he met his future wife. From the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, he ministered in inner-city churches while working for human services organizations.

He was a parole officer in Philadelphia, worked in conflict resolution for the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, and was a referral counselor for Regional Office of Economic Opportunity and a technical information specialist for CORA Services in Philadelphia.

Dr. Doorly performed magic tricks to pay college tuition and was a "passionate" musician, playing blues and jazz piano, his wife said. He had traveled to Africa, Asia, Europe, and South and North America.

In addition to his wife of 43 years, he is survived by a son, Mark; a daughter, Louise; a brother; and a sister.

An ecumenical memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 22, at Main Line Unitarian Church, 816 Valley Forge Rd., Devon.


Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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