Bishop Robert Hume Cochrane, VI Bishop of Olympia, 1924-2010
BISHOP ROBERT HUME COCHRANE DIES MAY 7, 2010 AFTER BATTLE WITH CANCER
Sixth Bishop of Olympia championed lay leaders, refugees, companion relationships
SEATTLE—The Rt. Rev. Robert Hume Cochrane, sixth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, died early Friday morning, May 7, 2010 after a battle with cancer. He was 85.
“Bishop Cochrane was, even before the beginning of my episcopacy, a huge support to me,” reflected the Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel, current Bishop of Olympia. “[His wife] Terry has been an equally important support to my wife. We were both blessed to share a pleasant hour or so with them both just a week prior to his death. He had a profound impact on this diocese as well as the greater church. He will be deeply missed here, not only as a former bishop but, for me, as a wise and trusted mentor and colleague.”
Cochrane, who said he “never expected to be in this position,” was the only bishop in the history of the Diocese of Olympia to be chosen from among its own clergy. Early on, he identified evangelism and mission as priorities of his episcopate.
“My vision in ministry is for evangelization so unashamed that it will produce strong congregations all over the diocese,” Cochrane said in his 1980 address to convention. During his episcopacy, 12 new congregations formed in the Diocese of Olympia. In 1982, he reminded the diocese of its commitment to evangelism and church growth.
“Starting now, let us stop being ‘God’s frozen people,’ and with confidence and daring let us commit ourselves—each one of us—to the mission of presenting Jesus into the world,” he said. “To be a community in Christ means that we must interact with each other. We must be mutually responsible to each other. We must be interdependent. All of these things must take place if we are to carry our mission as a diocese—the mission to which we have committed ourselves.”
Cochrane will be remembered for his contributions to lay ministry, the connections he established with other denominations and his commitment to helping people of need, regardless of their religious affiliation. While bishop, he co-wrote the Episcopal Church canon authorizing lay Eucharistic ministers to take communion from the church to the sick and shut-in.
In the late 1970s, thousands upon thousands of refugees fled Southeast Asia. Under Cochrane’s leadership, the Refugee Resettlement Ministry, an affiliate of Episcopal Migration Ministries, was created to help refugees start new lives in the Seattle area. Though the countries of origin have changed over the years, this ministry continues today. Cochrane called the refugee program “second to none.”
Cochrane and his friend Raymond Hunthausen, Roman Catholic Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle, established a covenant between the Diocese of Olympia and the Archdiocese of Seattle in which the two churches agreed to work for unity, pray for one another and work together in Western Washington for social justice and the common good.
“We are the only dioceses on the West Coast which have entered into a covenant relationship to pray for one another, to work together in those areas where we can work together and I just rejoice in that,” Cochrane reflected in 1985.
The Episcopal Church during Cochrane’s episcopate faced what he called “outright divisiveness that threatens to weaken and even possibly to split the Episcopal Church” regarding the ordination of women, revision of the Book of Common Prayer and human sexuality.
“Men and women of conscience and integrity stand on both sides of each issue,” Cochrane said in his bishop candidate interview, “but there is also much narrowness and intransigence on both sides as well as a distinct lack of Christian love.”
Throughout his tenure, Cochrane called attention to the needs of the hungry and victims of any catastrophe. His episcopate also saw the adoption of the diocese’s largest budget up to that point ($1,328,893 in 1980); the establishment of a diocesan Board of Directors and development fund campaign; resolution asking for the release of American hostages in Iran; increased pensions for retired clergy and clergy widows; a change in the diocesan Constitution and Canons to include feminine as well as masculine references where appropriate; requirement of an independent CPA audit of all diocesan accounts; implementation of a diocesan clergy compensation program that established annual evaluation of salary ranges; and the creation of the archivist position.
Caring and down-to-earth, Cochrane took great joy in preaching and teaching about the Gospel, talking to children of the diocese, laughing with his family and cheering on the Seattle Mariners and Seahawks, regardless of their records. In his retirement, he enjoyed gardening and traveling with Terry to visit their children and grandchildren; reading and studying current biblical scholarship; performing occasional Sunday supply and confirmation services at the request of the bishop; and serving as a board member for Episcopal Retirement Communities and Palestinian Concerns Group.
Also known for his beautiful singing voice, Cochrane’s love of music began as a child chorister in church and continued throughout his life. A member of the original Robert Shaw Chorale, Cochrane also was a member of the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Church Music, which produced the current Hymnal 1982.
While attending Brooklyn College in 1942, Bishop Cochrane entered the U.S. Army, where he was trained as a medical soldier and served as a hospital medic in England and combat infantry medic in Germany. He attained the rank of sergeant and after World War II returned to the same college, where in 1947 he met Theresa (Terry) M. Tripi and later earned a B.A. in English and speech. Bob and Terry were married June 9, 1951, shortly after he earned an M.Div. from General Theological Seminary. General awarded Cochrane an honorary D.D. in 1976.
Cochrane was ordained to the diaconate in March 1951 and to the priesthood Nov. 3, 1951. He was consecrated the sixth Bishop of Olympia on Jan. 25, 1976, succeeding the Rt. Rev. Ivol Ira Curtis. Before serving as rector at Christ Church, Tacoma (1969-1976), Cochrane served congregations in Delano, Calif.; Reno, Henderson and Las Vegas, Nev.; and Salt Lake City, Utah. He officially retired as Bishop of Olympia on Jan. 1, 1990.
The oldest of three children, Cochrane was born July 9, 1924 in Charleston, SC and raised in Brooklyn, NY by Raven and William Arthur Cochrane. Prior to becoming bishop, Cochrane served the Episcopal Church at the national, provincial and diocesan levels. He also served as chaplain to Episcopal students at Tacoma’s Pacific Lutheran University and the Tacoma Police Department, and was president of the Family Counseling Service of Tacoma/Pierce County. He is survived by his wife, Terry; their sons, Michael (Maria) and Stephen; two grandchildren, Graham (Shay) and Wesleigh; and one great-grandchild, Chloe.
A service celebrating Cochrane’s life and ministry takes place at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 29 at St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle, 1245 10th Ave. E, Seattle, WA 98102. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Diocese of Olympia, 1551 10th Ave. E, Seattle, WA 98102, to support mission work throughout Western Washington, or to the Virginia Mason Foundation, 1218 Terry Ave., PO Box 1930, Seattle, WA 98111-9866, for cancer research.