The Rev. Canon Philip E. Barber III, PhD

An obituary written by Deborah Barber


Philip E. Barber was born in Houston, Texas, 14 December 1937, of typical Anglo-Celtic Texan stock. He was raised in Texas, Louisiana, and Virginia. While his father worked at the Navy Yard in Washington DC, Phil attended Washington and Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia and later graduated from Tyler High School in Tyler, Texas in 1955. He was baptized and confirmed in the Protestant Episcopal Church in that year at the age of 18.

Phil attended Rice University in Houston, Texas, where he met Patricia Ann Tighe, whom he later married. During summers he worked as a roustabout with wildcatter crews in the east Texas oil fields. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy, minoring in German and History, in 1959 (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa). He was a Fulbright Student in Philosophy for 1959-60 at the Universität Heidelberg and was a guest member of the Old Catholic Church in Germany.

He then attended Yale University Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut, where he served as teaching assistant and earned a Bachelor of Divinity in 1963, and Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) in 1964. He was made deacon in 1963 and ordained priest in 1964 by Bishop Hines of Texas. His daughter Deborah Elaine Barber was born in 1962 in Pasadena, Texas. According to family lore, Phil shipped his wife off to her parents’ home in Texas to give birth so his child wouldn’t be born a Yankee.

In 1964 the Barber family moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where Phil studied in the Brown University Graduate Department of Religious Studies and passed his doctoral preliminary examinations in 1967 (“A.B.D.”). From 1967 to 1972 he was Instructor in History and taught freshman History of Western Civilization and upper-division Ancient History courses at Southeastern Massachusetts University. His son Piet Edward Barber was born (a Yankee) in Providence in 1972. During these years Phil served the Episcopal Church with interim substitute work, conducting services at churches throughout New England. He also served in the Chaplain Corps of the United States Naval Reserve. His household was known for taking in international students for sumptuous holiday meals and for hosting jolly parties that entertained university students, faculty and staff alike until all hours of the night. The house itself was known for its book-lined walls, its rotating menagerie of adopted housecats, turtles, and injured birds, and its prodigious back yard tomato crop.

In 1977 Phil moved to Washington DC and completed a Clinical Pastoral Internship in Mental Health in the Protestant Chaplains Office and the Clinical Pastoral Education Program at St. Elizabeths Hospital. Then the rest of the Barber family moved to Arlington, Virginia and Phil started work with the Library of Congress as a Religion and Philosophy Subject Cataloger. At the LC he was a member of the Professional Guild, AFSCME 2910, and served for more than 20 years as steward, secretary, and steward director, interacting with management at all levels and participating in negotiations from the section to the bargaining-unit level. He conducted further studies at the Naval War College (via the Washington Off-Campus Seminar) and graduated “with highest distinction” in 1981.

Phil retired as Navy Reserve Lieutenant Commander in 1982, having lost his Ecclesiastical Endorsement from the Episcopal Church over refusal to accept women’s ordination and Prayer Book revision. His marriage to Patricia Barber ended in divorce. He entered the Orthodox Church and was chrismated into the Orthodox Church in America, where he served as a layman, choir member, reader, and parish officer (including congregation president). He met Diane Capetz at the Library of Congress in 1989, when they were both participants in an experimental approach to cataloging. They married in 1992 and they made their home in Fairfax, Virginia.

Phil was later received into the priesthood of the Anglican Catholic Church, Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic States, by Archbishop (then Bishop) John T. Cahoon. He served as Rector of St. George’s Church in Temple Hills, Maryland and then as Rector of the Church of the Ascension in Centreville, Virginia. Bishop Council Nedd II named him a Canon. After leaving the ACC he became a member of the Episcopal Missionary Church, where he was named non-parochial Canon in the Diocese of the East. He was also an Anglican priest associate of the Lutheran Church International. Throughout his life he was known in many churches for being a brilliant preacher and teacher, a warm and kind mentor, and for his startling tendency to wear cowboy boots under his vestments.

Phil received his doctorate in Christian Theology in May 2006 from the Graduate Theological Foundation in South Bend, Indiana, with a dissertation entitled “Gifts and Creatures: The Reformation Doctrine of the Eucharistic Presence Exhibited in the Anglican Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper.” His coursework over the years focused on Historical, Doctrinal, and Philosophical Theology, with attention to New Testament Exegesis. During his studies he utilized his gift for learning languages, including German, Dutch, French, New Testament Greek, Italian, Latin, and Spanish, a love shared by his children and grandchildren. His family will tell you that he never hesitated to correct their grammar in any language.

Phil retired as a Senior Cataloging Specialist in 2007, with more than 30 years’ Federal service. Following his retirement, he served as an adjunct instructor in Religion and Philosophy at the Virginia Campus of the Valley Forge Christian College for three years, a role that he particularly treasured. His health prevented him and Diane from traveling internationally as much as they would have liked, but they enjoyed many trips to Virginia’s beautiful Blue Ridge and wine country.

After a series of long hospital stays and cascading problems involving heart failure and an intractable infection, Phil was released to hospice care in the home of his son Piet and daughter-in-law Stacy. His wife, children and six grandchildren are grateful that they had time to enjoy good food, good music and memories with him at home. On April 30, 2017, he peacefully passed from the loving arms of his family into those of his Savior.

A scholarship fund in Phil’s memory has been established at the University of Valley Forge, Virginia Campus. Donations may be made to:
The Rev. Canon Dr. Philip Barber, III Scholarship Fund
University of Valley Forge – Virginia Campus
13909 Smoketown Rd.
Woodbridge, VA 22192