Sally Geis, advocate for social justice, dies Nov. 16

November 22, 2015
Sally Brown Geis
Sally Brown Geis, a well-known advocate for social justice and equality for all persons, died Nov. 16 in Denver, Colorado, at the age of 87.

A longtime member of University Park United Methodist Church in Denver, Geis was a leader in the Rocky Mountain Conference, and internationally. She served as a delegate to general and jurisdictional conferences, and as a member of the General Board of Church and Society, the General Council on Finance and Administration and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. Geis helped found Africa University in Zimbabwe and the United Methodist Theological Seminary in Moscow, Russia.

Most notably, Geis was a member of the Judicial Council, the church's highest court.

Geis also served on the United Methodist Task Force on Homosexuality in the early 1980s, seeking to change the church's negative attitude toward homosexual persons including opening the ordained ministry to LGBT persons.

Bishop Elaine J. W. Stanovsky said, "Sally was a beacon of clear thinking, passionate witness, and unwavering advocacy for church that puts inclusion and grace first. She challenged every dividing wall she ever bumped into."

As a longtime member of the Rocky Mountain Global AIDS Fund Committee, Geis also sought to overcome the stigma against persons living with HIV and AIDs. It was through this work and her involvement at Iliff School of Theology that the Reverend Dr. Donald Messer came to know her.

"We lost a wonderful Christian woman," he said. "Not unexpected, but her death at age 87 yet brings a sense of deep loss."

Together, Messer said they planned the Iliff Week of Lectures, which brought 700 people to campus annually in January, and co-authored three books: Caught in the Crossfire: Helping Christians Debate Homosexuality, How Shall We Die? Helping Christians Debate Assisted Suicide and The Befuddled Stork: Helping Persons of Faith Debate Beginning-of-Life Issues.

Geis was born on March 20, 1928 in Salina, Kansas. She did her undergraduate at Stanford University, earning a degree in Chinese studies and learning about Buddhism. Her son Raym wrote that she had hoped to worked in China, but 1950s politics changed her plans. She married Robert B. Geis in 1951, also of Salina, Kansas, and they had two sons, Raym and Jim. Bob preceded Sally in death, passing away in 2008. He was a naval fighter pilot.

After having their sons, Geis returned to school to earn her Ph.D in sociology from the University of Denver and taught at Colorado Women's College, the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and Iliff.

Rev. Catherine Kelsey, a professor at the Iliff School of Theology, said that "even late in her life, Sally was a generous mentor and fiercely protective friend to me as a younger woman in leadership. She always advocated stepping up into the fullness of one's relational influence, particularly for justice and for spiritual depth."

A memorial service for Geis will be scheduled in the spring at University Park UMC. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Iliff School of Theology at https://apps.iliff.edu/give.