Feast of William Adams Brown (December 30)   2 comments

Above:  Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York, 1910

Image Source = Library of Congress

Image Copyrighted by Irving Underhill

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-74646

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WILLIAM ADAMS BROWN, SR. (DECEMBER 29, 1865-DECEMBER 15, 1943)

U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Theologian, and Social Reformer

William Adams Brown, Sr., comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

William Adams Brown, Sr., born in New York, New York, on December 29, 1865, grew up in a devout family with multi-generational ties to Union Theological Seminary.  He spent much of his life working at that institution.

Our saint, a son of Mary Elizabeth Adams and John Crosby Brown, a merchant banker, was well-educated.  After private education, he attended St. Paul’s Preparatory School in Concord, New Hampshire, followed by five years (four years as an undergraduate and one year as a graduate student) at Yale University.  Then Brown matriculated at Union Theological Seminary.  He graduated in 1890 then studied in Germany for two years.  Adolf von Harnack was one of his professors.

Brown taught at Union Theological Seminary from 1892 to 1936, when he retired.  He was an Instructor of Church History (1892-1893), an Instructor of Systematic Theology (1893-1898), the Roosevelt Chair of Systematic Theology (1898-1930), and a Research Professor in Applied Christianity (1930-1936).  Faith was active for Brown.  It led him to oppose corruption (Tammany Hall) in municipal politics and government and fight against prostitution and liquor.  Active faith also led Brown to lead the Missions Committee of the New York Presbytery of New York (Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.), the Board of Missions of the PCUSA, the Department of Research and Education (Federal Council of Churches), the Religious Education Association, and the American Theological Association.

That active faith also made Brown a target for many conservative Presbyterians.  He was on the side of Modernism in the Modernist-Fundamentalist controversy in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  Community outreach to poor immigrants via the American Parish on the Upper East Side and the Labor Temple in the East Village placed our saint in the midst of alleged hot beds of socialism.  In 1895, he helped to form the Union Settlement in East Harlem.  Students from Union Theological Seminary volunteered to provide community services.  Brown, speaking at Harvard in 1910, allegedly committed heresy in “The Old Theology and the New.”  The General Assembly of 1914 acquitted him.

Brown was also an active wartime ecumenist.  In 1917 and 1918, he served as the Secretary General of the Wartime Commission of the Churches.  He helped to arrange for Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish military chaplains, and to advise regarding religious issues.

Brown married Helen Gilman Noyes in 1892.  The couple had four children:  John Crosby (b. 1892), William Adams Jr., (b. 1894), Winthrop Gilman “Bob” (b. 190?), and Helen (1910-1928; died of polio before she would have matriculated at Vassar College).

Brown, aged 77 years, died in New York, New York, on December 15, 1943.  He left a fine legacy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 5, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONIO MARY ZACCARIA, FOUNDER OF THE BARNABITES AND THE ANGELIC SISTERS OF SAINT PAUL

THE FEAST OF GEORGES BERNANOS, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF HULDA NIEBUHR, CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR; HER BROTHERS, H. RICHARD NIEBUHR AND REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIANS; AND URSULA NIEBUHR, EPISCOPAL THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH BOISSEL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND MARTYR IN LAOS, 1969

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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2 responses to “Feast of William Adams Brown (December 30)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Charles Augustus Briggs and Emilie Grace Briggs (June 14) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. What a fine man…he certainly dealt with his share of controversy!

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