Pamela Chinnis VIRGINIA BEACH - Pamela Chinnis, a long-time advocate for women's rights who served as the first woman in a number of leadership roles in the Episcopal Church and academia, died Aug. 24 in her home in Virginia Beach of pneumonia. During her life she worked steadily to expand opportunities for women both within the church and the broader community. She was 86. Chinnis, a native of the Ozarks from the tiny town of Galena, Mo., (pop. 493), moved to the East Coast to attend The College of William and Mary. Majoring in psychology, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and later returned to the college as an instructor in psychology. Chinnis remained involved with William and Mary, ultimately serving as the first woman president of its Alumni Society and as a member of the Board of Visitors, its governing body. In 1976 she was awarded the Alumni Medallion - the highest award the Alumni Association can bestow on a graduate. She held Honorary Doctorate of Divinity degrees from Yale Divinity School and Virginia Theological Seminary, among others. Chinnis lived in Washington from 1948 through 2001. She began her leadership service to the church after she joined the Church of the Epiphany in the 1950s. There, she became the first female warden and then the first female senior warden. She also worked with Episcopal Church Women, a volunteer group within the Episcopal Church, serving first at the local and then at the national level. The group elected her as its president in 1976. Her involvement in the national Episcopal Church expanded when Chinnis was elected by the Washington D.C. diocese to serve as one of its representatives to the House of Deputies, the church's lay legislative body, in 1991. At the time, the question of the ordination of women within the Church was deeply undecided. Chinnis devoted herself with others to advocating the ordination of women as priests and subsequently as bishops. Within the House of Deputies she served as its vice president and then as its president. As president, Chinnis was the first woman to hold that position. She held the office for three terms - the maximum allowed - from 1991 to 2000. In addition, within the National Church she served on the church's Executive Council and was on the board of the National Coalition for Women's Ordination to the Priesthood and Episcopacy in the Episcopal Church. Chinnis was also involved in the church internationally and across denominations. As a member of the Anglican Consultative Counsel, she worked to facilitate coordination of Anglican Churches globally. She was appointed in 1998. She also served on the World Council of Churches, leading the Episcopal Church's delegation to that body. She was later elected to the Central Committee of the Council. Within the United States, Chinnis also served as a member of the governing board and executive committee of the inter-denominational National Council of Churches, a partnership of approximately 37 Christian groups. Chinnis was preceded in death by her parents and brother, John F. Pauly Sr. She is survived by her daughter Ann of Virginia Beach and her son Cabell of Los Altos, Calif., two nephews and a niece, and her former husband, Carter C. Chinnis Sr., of Richmond. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Washington National Cathedral to assist in earthquake repairs. The family extends its deepest thanks to Baylake Assisted Living for their loving care. A graveside service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, at Galena Cemetery under the direction of Manlove-Stumpff Funeral Home, Crane, Mo.
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Published in The Virginian Pilot on Aug. 31, 2011