Fr. Antony Bell, RIP
It is with utmost sorrow we report that Fr. Antony (Carl) Bell, priest of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Topeka, IN, passed into eternal life on the afternoon of June 14, 2006. Raised in Piqua, Ohio, Fr. Bell graduated from Nashotah House seminary to become a priest in the Episcopal Church USA during the tumultuous 1970s. He served a large and prosperous parish in Philadelphia -- which, he would note for purposes of familiarity, appeared in a few shots of the film Trading Places -- and rolled his eyes at the country club lifestyle he was expected to maintain.
As ECUSA accelerated its unbroken slide into apostasy, he sought to defend traditional Christianity "within the system" by transferring to more conservative episcopal oversight in Illinois, before landing in Goshen, IN. Soon, the long arm of apostate church leadership asked Fr. Bell to genuflect to its "liberal" agenda. Casting about for alternatives, he began to investigate the Orthodox Church, and he soon came to believe Orthodoxy was not a safe escape route for Anglicans; it was the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Defying his left-wing detractors, he brought a dedicated and courageous group of parishoners into the Orthodox Church. Members of the Western Rite Vicariate remember Fr. Bell for his powerful sermon at the Western Rite Conference in Oklahoma City.
In the late 1990s, his years of pipe smoking as an ECUSA priest caught up with him, and he was diagnosed with cancer. In 1999, he changed to the Byzantine rite, becoming the third struggling Eastern Rite parish in a rural Mennonite city of 40,000; a number of families left the parish as a result. He also began to go by the priestly name "Antony" rather than "Antony" and to wear his cassock wherever he went.
Fr. Bell had taken a thankless but important job helping abused children when his cancer recurred; he channeled any self-concern into a new position as a chaplain at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. He later moved his parish 45 minutes east of Goshen to the town of Topeka. In recent years, he has remained an active priest to the faithful at Topeka (with help from Fr. George Smith) despite continuing health concerns.
Fr. Bell began entertaining doubts about ECUSA, he said, when he compared a pampered lifestyle to the simplicity of the Gospel. In part his hope for a less self-indulgent path led him first to the Midwest, then to Orthodoxy. When others at Parish Life conferences enjoyed luxurious rooms, he sought out nearby monasteries instead. Parishoners remember his dedication to learning about, teaching about, and most importantly practicing the life of prayer. He was also an avid gardener. He is survived by two sons (at least one in the military) and his wife.
Grant him eternal rest, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.
Requiescat in Pace.
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