William Edward Farley, a scholar and writer on constructive systematic theology, died Dec. 27. He was 85.
A memorial service was held for him at Nashville’s Second Presbyterian Church Jan. 3.
A Presbyterian pastor, Farley was the Drucilla Moore Buffington Professor of Theology, emeritus, at Vanderbilt Divinity School.
Farley was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. He earned degrees from Centre College and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary before enrolling at Union Theological Seminary. He earned a doctorate in philosophical theology in 1957 from Columbia University.
“Edward Farley was a renowned philosophical theologian and superb teacher, whose two books on theological education had deep impact on how seminary educators think about their work. He was also a composer, professional jazz musician, student of world literature and skilled amateur naturalist — in short, one of the best minds and most learned leaders of his generation of Presbyterian ministers,” said Barbara Wheeler, founder of Auburn Theological Seminary’s Center for the Study of Theological Education.
He taught at DePauw University and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary before coming to Vanderbilt in 1969. Farley is the only theologian to have won Vanderbilt’s Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research, which he received in 1991.
Farley authored 12 texts, including a memoir, and delivered a number of named lectures.
An avid musician, Farley’s Symphonic Poem was played by the Louisville Symphony Orchestra. He sang in the Bach Choir, Pittsburgh Opera Chorus and Theater Nashville productions.