CPSP Mourns the Death of Bill Alberts
by Raymond J. Lawrence
Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D., a long-time member of CPSP, certified Diplomate Supervisor (1997), and active in the Concord, NH Chapter, died with the coming of this vernal equinox on March 21. Bill leaves behind his wife of forty-five years, Eva, four daughters and a son, seven grandchildren, and eight grandchildren. Our deepest sympathy goes to Bill's family and loved ones.
Bill was a social justice warrior before such a term existed. He took up urban ministry in Boston at the Old West Church when the Southern New England Conference of Methodist Churches decided to reopen the church. From antiwar protests to draft card-burnings, Bill worked closely with the "hippies" camped out on the Boston Commons. He also wrote an article, “Boston City of Renewal or Repression,” published by the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, presenting the issues and challenges facing the city administration and citizens in response to the presence of so many young people.
In February 1970, Old West housed 130 members of the Venceremos Brigade traveling from Canada to Cuba to work on the sugar cane harvest there. This action cost the church its insurance. In May 1972, the church served as the headquarters for the People’s Coalition for Peace and Justice, which organized nonviolent antiwar demonstrations at the nearby federal buildings.
The diversity of urban persons coming to the Old West included LGBTQ persons. Alberts performed a wedding for two men in 1973, Bob Jones and Harry Freeman. Two days after the wedding, Bill's Methodist District Superintendent met secretively with Alberts's former psychiatrist to solicit an evaluation that would declare Alberts mentally ill.
Fighting hard against the backlash and damages he received, Bill sued his former psychiatrist for breach of confidentiality and sued the church leaders as well. The case went beyond the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Council in 1985, which had ruled in Bill's favor. He took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear it. The “William E. Alberts v. Donald T. Devine & Others” case created new case law both protecting physician-patient confidentiality and holding liable not only the physician but anyone who induces the physician to breach confidentiality.
In 1992, Bill became a hospital chaplain at the Boston Medical Center, where he served until his retirement in 2011. Starting in 2004, Bill became a regular writer for Counterpunch, which gave him a platform to share his reflections on people of faith addressing racial injustices, economic inequality, U.S. imperialism, and LGBTQ liberation. He also published articles in Pastoral Report and in the Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling. In October 2017, Rev. William “Bobby” McClain, a close colleague, invited him to preach in a United Methodist congregation for his first return visit to a Methodist pulpit. In 2019, he was honored as a distinguished alum of Boston University School of Theology.
The author of several books, Bill's works can be found on Amazon: A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity (2012); The Counter Punching Minister (who couldn't be "preyed" away), (2014); and The Minister Who Could Not Be "Preyed" Away, (2020).
A memorial service honoring Bill's life will take place at a future date. The CPSP community will miss this crusader for justice.
Raymond J. Lawrence, General Secretary