by William J Murray, Chairman – Religious Freedom Coalition
The Very Reverend Keith Roderick, our brother in the Lord and a member of the Board of Directors of the Religious Freedom Coalition, has passed away. Father Keith, as most called him, died in his sleep at home at age 61 greatly to be missed by the oppressed of this world. He will be missed by many around the world.
Father Keith Roderick was no new comer to the cause of oppressed Christians around the world. In 1982 he founded the Society of St. Stephen for religious prisoners of conscience and their families. He was also Co-Director of the International Task Force on Soviet Jewry. These groups advocated for and assisted persecuted Christians and Jews in the former Soviet Union.
Before 9-11, when most Westerners had not heard of the extremism of Islam, he helped to found the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR), for which he had been Secretary General since 1992. He also served for several years as the Washington, D.C. representative for Christian Solidarity International and as co-director of the Sudan Campaign. Over the years Father Keith redeemed slaves and persecuted Christians from Sudan and South Sudan.
The Very Reverend Keith Roderick also participated in numerous fact finding missions including several with me. During one of those missions to Jordan and Lebanon he worked tirelessly to assist Christians who had been forced to flee Iraq during the ten year war fought there by American forces against al-Qaeda and other like groups.
Father Keith also assisted in programs with the Institute on Religion and Democracy and its president Faith McDonald. Most of his adult life the major concern of Father Keith was the oppressed for the cause of the Lord.
As a member of the Board of Directors of the Religious Freedom Coalition for more than a decade he was invaluable. At the time of his death Father Keith was one of the operating directors of the Religious Freedom Coalitions program, Christmas for Refugees. The program, begun in 2013, operated a first of its kind Christmas dinner for Christian refugee children from Syria. The dinner program began in Jordan and Father Keith was using his numerous contacts in Lebanon for a 2014 expansion of the program in that nation. He saw the need and was helping to fill it.
At the time of his death he was serving the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield, Illinois full time as Provost of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. Father Keith had previously served under the Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman in the Diocese of Quincy as the Episcopal Church’s only Canon for Persecuted Christians.
A memorial service in Washington, D.C. in celebration of his life will be held later in the spring of 2014.
Father Keith is survived by his wife Mary Beth, their six children, one grandchild, both his parents and his brothers and sisters.
Father Keith will be greatly missed by all those who worked with him on numerous projects to assist the oppressed as well as those in his congregation, family and friends. He was a man who stood tall, with a gentle heart and a gentle hand.