Alum Stories

Remembering Alumna Rosalie Jane Bentzinger, Who Paved a Way for Women and Deacons

Rosalie Jane Bentzinger 1924-2020

Garrett Biblical Institute alumna, Rosalie Jane Bentzinger (GBI 1958) of Donnellson, Iowa, died on October 25th at the age of 96. Among her numerous contributions and life of service to the church, Bentzinger was instrumental in the formation of Diaconal Ministry as an important part of laity in service to the Church. As a seminary community we offer our condolences to her family and loved ones and we give thanks be to God for Rosalie Bentzinger and her remarkable legacy. We are extremely proud to call her alumna as she exemplifies a long-standing commitment Garrett-Evangelical holds to the formation of Deacons, harkening back to the Chicago Training School for City, Home, and Foreign Missions, founded in 1885 by Lucy Rider Meyer.

What follows are three tributes from Garrett-Evangelical faculty members: Dr. Margaret Ann Crain, Dr. Virginia A. Lee, and Dr. Jack L. Seymour. To read more about Bentzinger, see her obituary below.

Dr. Margaret Ann Crain, Professor Emerita of Christian Education Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, has just completed a manuscript on the creation of the permanent ordained deacon in The United Methodist Church, which is now awaiting publication. In preparation for this project, titled Advancing the Mission: The Order of Deacon in The United Methodist Church, Dr. Crain interviewed Rosalie Bentziner. “I interviewed Rosalie a couple of times in the process of writing this narrative because she was critically important at the beginning. At age 96, she was clear and delightfully helpful.” In honor and memory of Bentzinger, Dr. Crain has lifted up two quotations from her manuscript:

In November of 1991, GBHEM published an Occasional Paper written by Rosalie Bentzinger titled, “Putting an End to the Confusion: A Renewed Order of Deacon.” She began with a rebuke to those who were asking “what do diaconal ministers want?” She wrote, “It is a frequently asked question, but it does not strike at the heart of the matter.” Instead, Bentzinger identified the real questions: “What does the church need in order to be faithful to its call to continue Christ’s ministry? What structures enable persons to be in ministry and which block and impede their serving?” (1991, 1).

Joaquin Garcia, who worked with her, recalled her commitment to the ministry. “Her integrity and vision were always out front, leading every step of the way! It was not OUR ministry, but that of Jesus Christ.” Bentzinger was committed for the UMC to develop a diverse and inclusive order of deacon.

“She led with clarity and strength, always keeping the mission of the church at the front of the discussion,” said Dr. Crain. “Rosalie was just the leader the UMC diaconate needed as it became established. I am deeply grateful for her life and ministry.”

-Rev. Dr. Margaret Ann Crain, Emerita Professor of Christian Education, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

During the 1990’s when I began to pursue doctoral work in Christian Education as a diaconal minister, there were few, if any scholarships for doctoral work available. Rosalie Bentzinger was a tireless advocate for the ministry of the diaconate and when she retired, GBHEM created a scholarship for diaconal ministers (and later deacons) who were pursuing doctoral degrees in Christian Education. As the inaugural recipient of that scholarship, GBHEM made it possible for me to travel to Nashville to receive this honor and scholarship which was presented by Rosalie Bentzinger. Without her advocacy for the diaconate and without the financial help of that scholarship, I would not be where I am and doing what I do. I will always be thankful for the life, faith, and ministry of Rosalie Bentzinger. That scholarship continues to be given by GBHEM to United Methodist deacons pursuing doctoral studies in Christian Education.

-Rev. Dr. Virgina A. Lee, Associate Professor of Christian Education and Director of Deacon Studies, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Rosalie Bentzinger was an outstanding church leader. She led the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the UMC in a steady, quiet, and powerful way in developing a vision for and the structures to support diaconal ministries. An outstanding local church educator, she taught, stood for justice, worked for inclusion, and expanded the leadership of the church.

-Dr. Jack L. Seymour, Professor Emeritus, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Rosalie Jane Bentzinger, aged 96, of Donnellson, Iowa died on October 25th at her home in the care of Every Step Hospice. Her life began and ended in the room where she, her siblings and her mother were born.

Her birth was on August 9th, 1924 to Carl M. and Edna Jane (Benjamin) Bentzinger. She was preceded in death by her parents and her brother, Richard Alvin Bentzinger. She is survived by her sister, Margaret Bentzinger Gregory and nieces and nephews: Rosalie Jane Gregory Mills, Carl Gregory, Rebecca Bentzinger, Sarah Bentzinger Clarahan, John Bentzinger and Philip Bentzinger. She has seven great nieces and nephews.

Rosalie was a graduate of Ottumwa High School, Iowa Wesleyan College and Garrett Theological Seminary. She holds honorary doctorate degrees from Iowa Wesleyan, Westmar College and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Throughout her adult life, she had a distinguished career in service to the United Methodist Church. Her passion was for Christian Education and she was elected president of the Christian Educators’ Fellowship (CEF) – a newly formed national organization. She was consecrated as a Diaconal Minister (now the order of Deacon) in 1977.

Rosalie held Christian Educator positions at Methodist Churches in Ottumwa, Iowa; Columbus, Ohio; Webster City, Iowa; and Park Ridge, Illinois. She was the manager of the Iowa Area Methodist Book Center in Des Moines. In the 1970s, she joined the Iowa United Methodist Council on Ministries in Des Moines and traveled around the state in support of Christian Educators.

Rosalie was instrumental in the formation of Diaconal Ministry as an important part of laity in service to the Church. From 1979 – 1994, she served as the Associate General Secretary of the Division of Diaconal Ministry for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry at the national United Methodist Headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. In this position, she traveled around the USA and the world. Rosalie was a key member of the team that helped to begin the formation of Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. She coordinated the design of the School of Education and traveled to Africa 5 times to advise and consult with the faculty. This project was very exciting for her and the overwhelming success of the Africa University gave her great joy.

Upon retiring from the General Board of Higher Education in Nashville. Rosalie and her sister Margaret moved to Donnellson Iowa and lived in the house in which they were raised. They became active members of their home church, Donnellson United Methodist Church and participated in many community activities. Rosalie served on the Board of the Donnellson Public Library. She was a proud member of PEO and Pi Beta Phi. She generously supported Heifer International and causes related to world peace, education, the environment and social justice.

Rosalie writes of her life and career: “As I take risks, I realize that the Christian’s call is to live ‘on the brink’, sacrificing comfort for growth and significant service. As is often true with ministry, I have never really known how significant or effective my efforts have been. I only know I have had many unusual opportunities for service; an abundance of hard work with wonderful colleagues; and much joy along the way.”