Archive for the ‘Saints of the 1990s’ Category

Feast of William Reed Huntington and William Reed Huntington (July 27)   Leave a comment

Above:  Huntington Family Tree

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON (SEPTEMBER 20, 1838-JULY 26, 1909)

Episcopal Priest and Renewer of the Church

grandfather of

WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON (1907-FEBRUARY 18, 1990)

U.S. Architect and Quaker Peace Activist

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INTRODUCTION

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One of the occasional happy accidents of writing hagiographies is starting with one saint and learning about another one.

July 27, in The Episcopal Church, is the Feast of William Reed Huntington (1838-1909).  The official collect for the occasion is:

O Lord our God, we thank you for instilling in the heart of your servant William Reed Huntington a fervent love for your Church and its mission in the world; and we pray that, with unflagging faith in your promises, we may make known to all people your blessed gift of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 489

The assigned readings for the feast in that volume are Job 22:21-28, Psalm 133, Ephesians 1:3-10, and John 17:20-26.

To that commemoration I add this saint’s grandson William Reed Huntington (1907-1990), a Quaker peace activist.

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THE EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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William Reed Huntington was a pioneer and an influential priest in The Episcopal Church.  Our saint, born in Lowell, Massachusetts, on September 20, 1838, was a son of Elisha Huntington (1796-1865) and Hannah Hinckley Freeman (1800-1859).  He, an 1859 graduate of Harvard College, taught chemistry at Harvard in 1859-1860, before studying for the Episcopal priesthood.  Huntington, ordained in 1862, was the Rector of All Saints Church, Worcester, Massachusetts (1862-1883) then Grace Church, New York, New York (1883f).

Huntington was active in denominational affairs in various capacities.  He attended the General Conventions of 1871-1907 as a member of the House of Deputies.  In 1871 Huntington made the first motion for the Church to investigate creating the order of deaconesses.  Evangelical opposition contributed greatly to the 18-year-long delay in establishing that order in The Episcopal Church.  Our saint also prompted the adoption of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888), with roots in The Church-Idea:  An Essay Towards Unity (1870).  At the General Convention of 1880 Huntington made the motion that led eventually to The Book of Common Prayer (1892), a volume he helped to edit.  One of our saint’s liturgical revisions was making the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6) a holy day in The Episcopal Church.  Huntington also composed the collect for the occasion:

O God, who on the mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine only-begotten wonderfully transfigured in raiment white and glistening; Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in his beauty,who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end.

–Quoted in James Thayer Addison, The Episcopal Church in the United States, 1789-1931 (1951), 227

Huntington also perceived no conflict between good science and good religion, especially in the context of debates over Evolution, which he affirmed.  In 1875 he told the Church Congress:

…the theologians must learn to look upon the naturalists as their allies rather than their antagonists….Truth is truth, however, and whencesoever obtained, and we can never have occasion to be either afraid of it or unthankful for it.

–Quoted in Addison, 249

Huntington, aged 70 years, died at Nahant, Massachusetts, on July 26, 1909.  His lifespan barely overlapped with that of the next saint, his grandson.

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THE QUAKER PEACE ACTIVIST

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The Huntington family produced some distinguished contributors to society.  In the generation of the first saint’s grandchildren, for example, were a state assemblyman (Prescott Butler Huntington, 1905-1988), a monsignor (Christopher Huntington, 1918-2007),  and a Quaker peace activist.

William Reed Huntington (1907-1990), a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Virginia, was an architect by profession.  He was also a Quaker and a peace activist long active in the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).  During World War II he directed a camp for conscientious objectors at Big Flats, New York.  After the war he was a co-commissioner of relief efforts for the AFSC in Europe.  In 1958 Huntington and other Quakers, the crew of the Golden Rule, sailed the vessel to the site of a U.S. nuclear weapons test at an island in the Pacific Ocean; their intention was to disrupt the test.  Caesar’s loyal men, in the name of law and order, obeyed their lord and master, sending the noble, non-violent resisters, who served Christ, the Prince of Peace, their lord and master, instead, to jail for 60 days.  In 1961-1963, during the Algerian War for Independence, our saint was the director of refugee assistance in Algeria and Tunisia.  Then, from 1963 to 1970, he was the representative of the AFSC to the United Nations.  Later Huntington directed the Quaker program at the U.N.

Huntington retired as an architect in 1982.  He died in Norwich, Vermont, on February 18, 1990.  He was 83 years old.

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CONCLUSION

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The William Reed Huntingtons were great men who made their positive marks on human events.  Both of them earned places on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2018 COMMON ERA

PROPER 5:  THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF NISIBIS, BISHOP; AND SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, “THE HARP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GETULIUS, AMANTIUS, CAERAELIS, AND PRIMITIVUS, MARTYRS AT TIVOLI, 12O; AND SAINT SYMPHOROSA OF TIVOLI, MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THOR MARTIN JOHNSON, U.S. MORAVIAN CONDUCTOR AND MUSIC DIRECTOR

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Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth:

Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer,

and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy.

We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit,

and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2:7-11

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 25:1-13

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 726

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Feast of John Hines (July 19)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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JOHN ELBRIDGE HINES (OCTOBER 10, 1910-JULY 19, 1997)

Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church

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Justice is the corporate face of love.

John Hines, 1981

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John Elbridge Hines will probably receive his pledge on The Episcopal Church’s calendar eventually.  The appendix to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016) lists him as one of those

people worthy of commemoration who do not qualify under the “reasonable passage of time” guideline.

–Page A3

That makes sense as a denominational policy.  Nevertheless, more than a reasonable amount of time has passed for inclusion on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

John Elbridge Hines was a prophet, in the highest sense of that word.  He, born in Seneca, South Carolina, on October 10, 1910, graduated from The University of the South then from Virginia Theological Seminary.  Our saint, ordained during the Great Depression, served in the Diocese of Missouri for a few years, during which he imbibed deeply of Social Christianity.  He also married Helen Orwig (1910-1996).  The couple had five children.  As the Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Augusta, Georgia, from 1937 to 1941, Hines was an outspoken critic of racial segregation.  Our saint’s final parish (from 1941 to 1945) was Christ Church, Houston, Texas.

Hines was a bishop most of his life.  From 1945 to 1955 he was the Bishop Coadjutor of Texas; then he was the Bishop of Texas for another nine years.  In Texas Hines helped to found the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the West, in Austin, in 1953.  He also integrated schools.  Then, in 1965, at the age of 54 years, Hines became the Presiding Bishop of the denomination.

Change was in the air, and much of that change was morally correct yet no less jarring and offensive to many.  Civil rights for African Americans were difficult for many white Americans to accept, for racism ran deeply.  Likewise, feminism was challenging patriarchy, which also ran deeply.  The Episcopal Church, long known as “the Republican Party at prayer,” was engaging the winds of change.  Many of the leaders were liberal–pro-civil rights, pro-equal rights for women.  Elements of the church resisted these changes, however.  Hines, with his social conscience fully engaged with regard to race, gender, and economics, had to contend with much strong opposition within The Episcopal Church.  He built on the legacies of his two immediate predecessors–Henry Knox Sherrill (1947-1958) and Arthur Lichtenberger (1958-1964).

Much of what was revolutionary in 1965-1974 became mainstream subsequently.  The new Presiding Bishop marched at Selma, Alabama, in 1965; that was a controversial decision.  In 1971 Hines led a campaign to divest from South Africa, a proposition that aroused much opposition in much of U.S. Right Wing as late as the early 1990s.  In the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan, who told Archbishop Desmond Tutu that the dark-skinned majority of South Africa would have to wait for their rights, Reagan opposed divestment.  Yet, according to Tutu, divestment was crucial to ending Apartheid.  Hines also favored expanding roles for women in the church–including as lectors, as delegates to the General Convention, and as deacons, priests, and bishops.  He retired in 1974, just as the dispute over the ordination of women as priests became more of an issue.  Also, there were no female bishops in The Episcopal Church or the wider Anglican Communion until 1989.  for a few years after that the election and consecration of a female bishop was a major story in the ecclesiastical press.  As of 2018, however, it has become routine.  Hines also presided over the early stages of liturgical revision, early steps toward The Book of Common Prayer (1979), a volume objectionable to many conservatives at the time, as now.  Some of them found all or much of this change so offensive that they committed schism from The Episcopal Church.  Then many of them committed schism from each other, hence the confusing organizational mess that is Continuing Anglicanism in the United States.  Many of the allegedly theologically pure were apparently purer than others of their number.  Donatism ran amok and became cannibalistic.  (I, an ecclesiastical geek, have a long attention span and a tendency to pay attention to minor details, but even I find divisions in Continuing Anglicanism confusing.  Most of the divisions are over minor theological points, actually.  Collegiality, one of the great traditions of Anglicanism, is in short supply.)

Hines, invoking hindsight, was honest about the lofty goals and mixed legacy of the General Convention Special Program (GCSP), created in 1967.  The GCSP awarded grants, with the purpose of fostering racial justice, economic justice, and self-determination.  One of the conditions for a grant was not to advocate for violence.  The initial lack (in 1967-1970) of veto power by the local bishop was an especially controversial point.  In 1970 the establishment of that veto power, with a mechanism for overriding it, meant that no grants led to embarrassing headlines, as during the first three years of the program.  The GCSP, cut back in 1973, did not survive the 1970s.  After 1973, however, funding for work among Hispanics and Native Americans increased.  Nevertheless, the damage from 1967-1970 was done.  Many people had left The Episcopal Church in protest, and many parishes and some dioceses had, for a few years, withheld funding from the national church.

Hines, who understood that the institutional quest for justice was important than complacent, oblivious tranquility and internal reconciliation, retired three years early, in 1974.  He and Helen moved to North Carolina before relocating to Texas in 1993.  She, aged 85 years, died on May 17, 1996.  Our saint, aged 86 years, died in Austin on July 19, 1997.

The legacy of John Elbridge Hines should remind us of the moral necessity of applying Christian principles to pressing social issues, of creating justice, and of recognizing our individual, collective, and institutional complicity in injustice.  His legacy should also remind us that strong opposition to confronting injustice exists even within the church, and that doing the right thing will often come at a high cost.  We must still do the right thing, though.  The legacy of Bishop Hines should teach us these lessons.  Whether it does is up to us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE DAY OF PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS COLUMBA OF RIETI AND OSANNA ANDREASI, DOMINICAN MYSTICS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELIOT, “THE APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE HAWTHORNE LATHROP, FOUNDRESS OF THE DOMINICAN SISTERS OF HAWTHORNE

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant John Elbridge Hines,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Duncan Montgomery Gray, Sr. and Jr. (July 15)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Episcopal Flag

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, SR. (MAY 5, 1898-JUNE 27, 1966)

father of

DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, JR. (SEPTEMBER 21, 1926-JULY 15, 2016)

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Episcopal Bishops of Mississippi and Advocates for Civil Rights

Case Studies in the Radicalism of Liturgy

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I have sworn to practice and maintain segregation in the Episcopal Church in Mississippi, and I am not alone….It should be the painful duty of the Right Rev. Duncan M. Gray to publicly rebuke his son, and all other priests in the Diocese of Mississippi preaching integration….Let’s get red-hot on the subject–if the race-mixers don’t resign and leave, I say, throw them out bodily, if necessary.

–White supremacist and (from 1963) murderer Byron de la Beckwith (1920-2001), writing in the Jackson Daily News, 1956; quoted in Taylor Branch, Pillar of Fire:  America in the King Years, 1963-65 (New York:  Simon & Schuster, 1998), 113

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INTRODUCTION

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The Fifth, Seventh, and Ninth Bishops of Mississippi were Duncan Montgomery Gray–Senior, Junior, and III.  Duncan Montgomery Gray, III (Coadjutor, 2000-2003; diocesan, 2003-2015), has gone into retirement.  His grandfather and father have joined the Choir Eternal.  These three bishops’ progressive theologies and social consciences contradicted political and social norms in a state so reactionary that it operated the notorious State Sovereignty Commission (1956-1977) and, for a time, banned broadcasts of Sesame Street (1969-), due to the racially integrated cast.

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TWO DUNCANS

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Duncan Montgomery Gray, Sr., born on May 5, 1898, in Meridian, Mississippi, was an integrationist.  He, a deacon in 1925 and a priest the following year, served in Canton, Lexington, Columbus, Macon, and Greenwood before becoming the Bishop of Mississippi in 1943.  He, elected on January 19, 1943, served from May 12 of that year to June 27, 1966, when he died.

His eventual successor was a son, Duncan Montgomery Gray, Jr., born in Canton, Mississippi, on September 21, 1926, to Isabel McCrady Gray (1902-1966).  After graduating from high school in 1944, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy.  The Navy sent Gray, Jr., to Tulane University, where, in 1948, he graduated with his Bachelor of Electronic Engineering degree.  Also in 1948, he married Ruth Spivey (d. 2011), of Canton; they had four children.  Gray, Jr., worked for the Westinghouse Corporation for a few years.  He did well there, but discerned a call to the priesthood.  After graduating from the School of Theology at the The University of the South in 1953 Gray, Jr., joined the ranks of priests; his father ordained him.  For the next 21 years Gray, Jr., served as a parish priest.  He was, for example, the Rector of St. Peter’s Church, Oxford, from 1957 to 1965, and for a time chaplain to Episcopal students at The University of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”).

The apples did not fall far from the trees.  Fortunately, the Grays were good trees.  Bishop Gray, Sr., built up diocesan institutions, founding Rose Hill, the camp and conference center.  (Rose Hill has become the Duncan M. Gray Center.)  In 1954, after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, Gray, Jr., with his father’s support, helped to prepare a diocesan report that condemned racism as sinful.  In 1959 Gray, Sr., made history by integrating St. Andrew’s School, Jackson.  This was the first voluntary school integration in the state.

The integration (1962) of The University of Mississippi was, by necessity, forced.  In September 1962, as violence erupted in Oxford, Gray, Jr., tried in vain to persuade segregationist protesters to choose nonviolence; some of them beat him instead.  On September 30 he reflected:

For these are times which not only try men’s souls, but also infect and poison them.  The seeds of anger and hatred, bitterness and prejudice, are already widely sown, and as Christians, we need to do our utmost to uproot and cast them out.

That work of reconciliation defined the ministry of Gray, Jr.  As the Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Meridian (1965-1974), he helped to rebuild African-American churches Klansmen had firebombed.  Gray, Jr., also served on several civil rights boards, such as the Mississippi Council on Human Relations (1963-1967) and the Mississippi Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1967-1973).

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BISHOP GRAY, JR.

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When 1974 dawned Gray, Jr., was the Vice President of the Executive Committee and the Chairman of the Commission on Ministry of the Diocese of Mississippi.  Before the year ended he was the Bishop of Mississippi.  For 19 years Gray, Jr., shepherded the diocese faithfully.  He also supported the revision of The Book of Common Prayer and the ordination of women as priests and bishops.  Will Campbell (1924-2013), the bishop’s biographer, explained our saint’s support for civil rights and other forms of social justice by citing “the radicalism of liturgy.”  Gray, Jr., from 1991 to 1997 the Chancellor of The University of the South, retired as Bishop of Mississippi in 1993.  Later he served as the Interim Dean of the School of Theology.

Gray, Jr., aged 89 years, on July 15, 2016, in Jackson, Mississippi.

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CONCLUSION

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I have little doubt that, in time, The Episcopal Church will add one or both of these bishops to its calendar of saints.  The institutional church must take its time; I respect that.  However, I need to take no more time than I have taken already.  I, having previously created a stand-alone Feast of Duncan Montgomery Gray, Sr., years ago, then having scrapped it recently as part of the renovation of this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, transfer that feast to July 15 and add his now-deceased son to it.

I also wish Bishop Duncan Montgomery Gray, III, longevity and excellent health as I announce my (hopefully long-term) plans to add him to this commemoration one day.

On a personal note, I have long taken the naming of cats, noble creatures, seriously.  One of the cats who enriched my life for a few years was a gray tabby with some Maine Coon contributions to his DNA.  This pacific vehicle of grace bore the name Duncan Gray, named in honor of the three Bishops Gray.  Never have I given a feline a more honorable and noble name.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAW KUBSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servants Duncan Montgomery Gray, Sr., and Duncan Montgomery Gray, Jr.,

to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, 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

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Myles Horton (July 10)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of the State of Tennessee

Image in the Public Domain

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MYLES FALLS HORTON (JULY 9, 1905-JANUARY 19, 1990)

“Father of the Civil Rights Movement”

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From my mother and father, I learned the idea of service and the value of education.  They taught me by their actions that you are supposed to serve your fellow men, you’re supposed to do something worthwhile with your life, and education is meant to help you do something for others.

–Myles Horton

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Myles Horton was a radical, by the standards of his time.  He was so radical that he dared to love like Jesus and confront institutionalized economic and racial structures of injustice.

Horton, born in Savannah, Tennessee, on July 9, 1905, grew up in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  His parents were Elsie Falls and Perry Horton.  Our saint, who started working in factories as an adolescent, became a labor rights activist at an early age.  He went on to study at Cumberland University, Union Theological Seminary, and The University of Chicago before studying folk schools in Denmark while traveling in Europe.  Then Horton’s work kicked into high gear.

In 1932, with help from his former professor, Reinhold Niebuhr, who wrote a fund-raising letter, Horton opened the Highlander Folk School, then called the Southern Mountain School, at Monteagle, Tennessee.  At the folk school people learned job skills and labor organizing tactics.  Racial integration was also a reality at Highlander Folk School, which became deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement.  Many Southern African Americans, including Rosa Parks, studied there.  Luminaries who taught at Highlander Folk School included Rosa Parks; Fannie Lou Hamer; Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Eleanor Roosevelt.  In the late 1950s, for example, Roosevelt was teaching civil disobedience tactics at the folk school.  She traveled in the company of another elderly woman, without armed guards, as members of the Ku Klux Klan sought to assassinate the former First Lady.

Horton and the Highlander Folk School became targets of harassment and violence.  In 1986 Horton told Sojourners magazine that he had suffered broken ribs, a broken collar bone, a skull fracture, the knocking out of teeth, the slashing of his arms, and incarceration.  The school became a target for various law enforcement agencies, the Ku Klux Klan, and other members of the paranoid and fearful far Right Wing who mistook racial integration for a communist plot.  U.S. Senator James O. Eastland of Mississippi attempted to close the school.  The State of Tennessee succeeded briefly in 1962, but Horton moved the school to Knoxville and reopened it as the Highlander Research and Education Center.  Since 1972 the school has been in New Market.

Horton, who retired as leader of the school in 1973, continued as an activist until he died of brain cancer at New Market on January 19, 1990.  He was 84 years old.

The website of the Highlander Research and Education Center identifies the school’s mission and tactics:

We work with people fighting for justice, equality, and sustainability, supporting their efforts to take collective action to shape their own destiny.

That remains radical in much of the U.S. society and body politic in 2018, unfortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION

THE FEAST OF SAINT ENRICO RUBUSCHINI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND SERVANT OF THE SICK; AND HIS MENTOR, SAINT LUIGI GUANELLA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF SAINT MARY OF PROVIDENCE, THE SERVANTS OF CHARITY, AND THE CONFRATERNITY OF SAINT JOSEPH

THE FEAST OF ANNA LAETITIA WARING, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER; AND HER UNCLE, SAMUEL MILLER WARING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVAN MERZ, CROATIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC INTELLECTUAL

THE FEAST OF JOHN GOSS, ANGLICAN CHURCH COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND WILLIAM MERCER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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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

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Gerald and Betty Ford (July 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford at the Republican National Convention, 1976

Photographer = John T. Bledsoe

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-08487

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GERALD RUDOLPH FORD, JR. (JULY 14, 1913-DECEMBER 26, 2006)

President of the United States of America and Agent of National Healing

husband of

ELIZABETH ANN BLOOMER WARREN FORD (APRIL 8, 1918-JULY 8, 2011)

First Lady of the United States of America and Advocate for Social Justice

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The long national nightmare is over.  Our Constitution works.

–President Gerald Ford, August 9, 1974

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INTRODUCTION

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With this post I merge two feasts.  Doing so is consistent with one of my purposes in renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  That goal is to emphasize relationships and influences.

The Fords were decent people who did much to leave the United States of America better than they found the country.  They were what the U.S.A. needed immediately after the presidency of Richard Nixon.

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GERALD, NÉ LESLIE

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Leslie Lynch King, Jr., entered the world at Omaha, Nebraska, on July 14, 1913, as his parents’ marriage was crumbling.  When Leslie, Jr., was two weeks old his mother and father separated; they divorced before the end of the calendar year.  Dorothy Ayer Gardner King and her young son moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to be close to her parents.  On February 1, 1916, Dorothy married paint salesman Gerald R. Ford.  Leslie, Jr., informally Gerald, Jr., for a long time, legally became Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr., on December 3, 1935.  In the meantime he had worked in the paint store, become an Eagle Scout, and been a fine student and athlete in public schools then at the University of Michigan (1931-1935).

Ford rejected opportunities to become a professional football player, opting instead to coach boxing and varsity football.  His busy work schedule delayed his admission to Yale Law School until 1938.  While at Yale Ford found time to work on the presidential campaign of Republican nominee Wendell Willkie in 1940.  Our saint, who graduated from Yale Law School in 1941, practiced law in Grand Rapids, where he also taught business law and worked as a football line coach at the University of Michigan.

Ford served in the military during World War II.  In April 1942 he became an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve.  After teaching physical fitness at the pre-flight school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Ford transferred to the U.S.S. Monterey in 1943.  He served in the Pacific Theater and nearly died.  Lieutenant Commander Ford received an Honorable Discharge in February 1946.

Ford returned to Grand Rapids, where he resumed the practice of law.  Politics beckoned, however.  So did love.

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GERALD AND BETTY

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Elizabeth Ann Bloomer, born at Chicago, Illinois, on April 8, 1918, was also contributing to society.  She grew up in Grand Rapids, where her father, Stephenson Bloomer, had died when she was 16 years old.  Betty graduated from high school, taught dancing to children, worked with troubled children, studied dancing under Martha Graham, and worked as a fashion consultant in a department store.  Betty also married William C. Warren, an insurance agent, in 1942.  Unfortunately, he was also an alcoholic and a cruel man.  That marriage ended in divorce in 1947.

Gerald and Betty married at Grace Episcopal Church, Grand Rapids, in 1948.  They remained husband and wife until Gerald’s death in 2006.  The couple had four children from 1950 to 1957.

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CONGRESSMAN FORD

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Isolationism in foreign policy was a Republican tradition, one Senators Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., and Robert A. Taft practiced.  There was also an internationalist wing of the Republican Party, however.  In 1948 the U.S. Representative for the district containing Grand Rapids was Bartel Jonkman, an isolationist Republican.  Ford, whom World War II had transformed into an internationalist, successfully challenged Jonkman and won the general election in the fall.

Ford, whose ambition was to become the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, remained in the U.S. House until December 1973–for a total of twenty-four years, eleven months, and three days.  He, a member of the Appropriations Committee for most of that time, was a much-respected and well-liked member of that chamber.  Ford described himself as

a moderate in domestic affairs, an internationalist in foreign affairs, and a conservative in fiscal policy.

Perhaps Ford went overboard with his fiscal conservatism.  (A good idea, taken too far, becomes a bad idea.)  One biographer, looking back on Ford’s presidency, described him as the kind of man who would help a poor child individually then veto a school lunch bill.  Nevertheless, Ford was always a decent, compassionate man.  Our saint, who served on the Warren Commission, became the Minority Leader in 1965, opposed much of the domestic program of the Johnson Administration, and was skeptical of President Lyndon Baines Johnson‘s military escalation in Vietnam.

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VICE PRESIDENT FORD

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In October 1973 Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, guilty of illegal perfidy, resigned as part of a deal with Attorney General Elliot Richardson.  Meanwhile, the Watergate scandal, of President Richard Nixon‘s creation, was rapidly consuming his administration.  Nixon, under the terms of Amendment XXV (1967) of the Constitution, nominated the respected and popular Ford to fill the vacancy Agnew had created.  Many of those in Congress who voted to confirm Ford as Vice President knew they were also selecting the next President of the United States.

Ford was Vice President of the United States from December 6, 1973, to August 9, 1974–nine months and three days.  At first Ford was skeptical of the allegations against Nixon, his old friend.  Yet, as evidence piled high, Ford became skeptical of Nixon then turned against him.  On August 6, 1974, at a Cabinet meeting, Nixon said he would not resign, despite the certainty of imminent impeachment in the House of Representatives and the long odds of avoiding conviction and removal from office in the trial in the Senate.  After that meeting Ford told Nixon,

I can no longer defend you.

Two days later, when Nixon, for his own reasons, announced his resignation, he regretted having appointed Ford to the Vice Presidency.

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PRESIDENT FORD

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On the morning of August 9, 1974, Nixon said farewell to the White House staff and left Washington, D.C.  If he had not resigned, his fate would have been conviction and removal from office in the Senate trial; the margin would have exceeded the Constitutional minimum of two-thirds.  At Noon, at the White House, Chief Justice Warren Burger administered the oath of office to Ford.

Ford was the President of the United States from August 9, 1974, to January 20, 1977–two years, four months, and eleven days.  Perhaps he was in an impossible predicament, given the widespread distrust of the presidency and of Washington officialdom due to the combination of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.  Two successive Presidents from different parties had self-destructed politically.  Both had lied to the public.  One had committed criminal acts.  Meanwhile, a Vice President had also committed criminal deeds and had to resign.  The country needed a decent, honest man as the President of the United States more than ever.

Ford and his appointed Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, were Republicans of a sort that was becoming endangered; they were fighting an uphill battle against the more conservative Goldwater wing of the party.  (For that matter, Senator Barry Goldwater, a libertarian, Western Republican, found himself outflanked by social conservatives in the party during the Reagan Administration (1981-1989).  Some of his libertarian views made him too liberal for certain social conservatives in the mold of the Moral Majority.)  Ford was too liberal for many Republicans and too conservative for many Democrats.  He, with the help of Rockefeller, survived a challenge by Reagan for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976.  At the end of the year Ford narrowly lost the general election to the Democratic nominee, Jimmy Carter, the former Governor of Georgia.  Ford and Carter actually had much in common, in terms of policies.

Ford, as President, struggled with major global issues that affected other world leaders also.  During the Ford Administration South Vietnam collapsed faster than even North Vietnamese generals expected.  Ford was instrumental in the admission of 130,000 South Vietnamese refugees into the United States.  They and their descendants have contributed to American society.  Financial troubles, such as those related to inflation and energy crises, also occurred before and after the Ford Administration and affected the world, from Australia to England.  The Helsinki Accords (1975), which attracted criticism from both Reagan and Carter, proved to be historically important, for they held the Soviet Bloc accountable for violations of human rights.

There was also consistency with the Carter Administration.  Carter, for example, took Ford’s negotiations regarding the Panama Canal to the treaty stage.  Carter also made human rights an emphasis in foreign policy.  Carter Administration diplomacy in the Middle East, culminating in the Camp David Accords (1979), built on diplomacy from the Nixon and Ford Administrations.  Also, Nixon and Ford had done much for diplomacy with the Peoples’ Republic of China.  The Carter Administration opened full diplomatic relations with that country.  Furthermore, Ford had issued an amnesty for Vietnam War-era military deserters and draft dodgers; Carter issued a pardon.

Ford’s pardon of Nixon (September 8, 1974) ensured defeat in the election of 1976.  Ford insisted that the pardon, which carried with its acceptance an admission of guilt, was in the best interests of the country–to help with the healing process.  Vindication of this position came in 2001, when he won the Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

In December 2006, shortly after Ford’s death, biographer Lou Cannon, speaking on National Public Radio, said that our saint

had a practical mind and a noble heart.

Ford applied both of those during his years of public service.  The Nixon Administration had been an imperial presidency.  Ford, in contrast, was an unpretentious, humble man known for his innate decency.

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FIRST LADY

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Betty Ford was controversial.  She, a feminist, supported the Equal Rights Amendment, a position her husband shared.  Unfortunately, that proposed amendment failed to become part of the Constitution.  Betty also held a libertarian (pro-choice) position on abortion and a non-libertarian position on gun control.  Two of her greatest contributions to the country as First Lady pertained to the cancer and mental illness, both of which came with stigmas attached at the time.  (There is still a stigma attached to mental illness.)  Betty shared her diagnosis of breast cancer.  She, like Rosalynn Carter, the next First Lady, spoke out in favor of psychiatric treatment and discouraged stigma related to it.  May we recall that, in 1972, Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern had to drop his first running mate, Senator Thomas Eagleton, from the ticket because Eagleton had once undergone psychiatric treatment.  Furthermore, with regard to cancer, the stigma related to varieties of cancer was a topic in medical dramas of the 1970s.

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AFTER THE WHITE HOUSE YEARS

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The Fords left the White House on the morning of January 20, 1977.  Gerald, nearly Reagan’s running mate in 1980, had not become wealthy in elected and appointed offices.  As a former President of the United States he made real money, giving speeches, writing books, and sitting on corporate boards.  He and Betty also befriended the Carters after the Carter Administration ended.  Ford had both agreed with and criticized Carter from 1976 to 1981, but they found much common ground during the 1981 flight to Egypt, to attend the funeral of Anwar el-Sadat, the assassinated President of Egypt.

Betty, as a former First Lady, continued to help others.  She admitted her alcoholism and entered a treatment program.  Then, in 1982, she founded the Betty Ford Center at Rancho Mirage, California.

Today we know that addiction is a matter of altered brain chemistry.  It is not merely a matter of bad morality and a weak will.  Science argues against old attitudes and stigma in this case.  Nevertheless, old attitudes that disregard the scientific evidence (such as brain scans) persist, so stigmas remain.

Former President Ford remained an honorable man to the end.  He, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999, was a class act.  He advised Bill Clinton to confess during the Lewinsky scandal.  Clinton sought the counsel then declined to heed it, at least when Ford offered it.  In 2001 Ford announced his support for marriage equality for homosexuals, thereby arguing against homophobia.  A few years later he quietly opposed the Second Iraq War during the George W. Bush Administration.  The Republican Party moved past Ford.

The former President died at Rancho Mirage, California, on December 26, 2006.  He was 93 years old.

Betty, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991, lived until the age of 93 years also.  She died at Rancho Mirage on July 8, 2011.

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CONCLUSION

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Mere decency and political civility are virtues that seem to be in short supply in the United States of America in 2018.  The examples of Gerald and Betty Ford remind one of a contentious time when those virtues were more plentiful.  One might legitimately disagree with one or both of them on certain policy issues, but one should acknowledge their great decency and respect their service to the country.  One should join with Jimmy Carter, who at the inauguration in 1977, thanked Gerald Ford for doing much to heal the country.  The wound of Watergate have never healed; they have run that deeply.  The shadow of Watergate, as Bob Woodward has called it, has fallen across all Presidents after Nixon.  The wounds of Watergate have proven too deep for any President or combination of Presidents to heal completely, one should admit.  Yet one should also acknowledge that Ford did his part honestly, humbly, and honorable.

One should also give all due credit to Betty Ford, especially for calling on people to put away harmful stigmas.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 9, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS STEFAN AND KAZIMIERZ GRELEWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS,  1941 AND 1942

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BUXTEHUDE, LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY DAY AND PETER LAURIN, COFOUNDERS OF THE CATHOLIC WORKER MOVEMENT

THE FEAST OF THOMAS TOKE LYNCH, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servants Gerald and Betty Ford,

to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, 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

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Reinhold, Ursula, Hulda, and H. Richard Niebuhr (July 5)   4 comments

Above:  A Partial Niebuhr Family Tree

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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HULDA CLARA AUGUST NIEBUHR (1889-APRIL 17, 1959)

Christian Educator

sister of

KARL PAUL REINHOLD NIEBUHR (JUNE 21, 1892-JUNE 1, 1971)

United Church of Christ Theologian

husband of 

URSULA MARY KEPPEL-COMPTON NIEBUHR (AUGUST 3, 1908-JANUARY 10, 1997)

Episcopal Theologian and Advocate for Women’s Rights

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HELMUT RICHARD NIEBUHR (SEPTEMBER 3, 1894-JULY 5, 1962)

United Church of Christ Theologian

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A FAMILY STORY

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INTRODUCTION

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Niebuhrs have made vital contributions to Christian theology and public life, especially in the United States.  Reinhold Niebuhr has received the most attention.  His brother, H. Richard Niebuhr, also an influential theologian, has received much attention as well.  They have deserved all the attention they have received.  In the process, however, other Niebuhrs have received too little attention.

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GUSTAV AND LYDIA

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Gustav Niebuhr (1863-1913) was a minister and church planter for the old Evangelical Synod of North America, founded by members of the Lutheran-Reformed Prussian church who had immigrated to the United States.  Gustav, who had arrived in the United States at the age of 18 years in 1881, was a Belle Époque optimistic liberal with pietistic tendencies and a firm grasp of the Greek and Hebrew languages.  He lobbied for his denomination to conduct services in English.  (Attachment to the language of the mother country ran deep among many immigrant Christians in the United States.  This was cultural, liturgical, and psychological, sometimes with a theological veneer.  Among the Swedish-American Lutherans of the old Augustana Synod (1860-1962), for example, some argued that preaching the Gospel in English, not Swedish, would dilute the truth of the Gospel.)

Lydia Hosto (Niebuhr) (1869-1961) was like many wives of ministers; she did much pro bono work in parishes and became, in the minds of many parishioners, an extension of her husband.  She was far more than that, of course.  Her legacy has fallen into the shadows of her husband and two famous sons, unfortunately.  Lydia was sister of Adele Hosto, a deaconess in the Evangelical Synod of North America, and a daughter of Edward Hosto, a missionary of that denomination.

Gustav and Lydia had five children–one daughter and four sons.  One son died as an infant.  The language at home was German.  Gustav alienated Walter, his second child, and discouraged Hulda, his daughter, from pursuing higher education.  Gustav had old-fashioned ideas about gender roles.  He, from 1902 to 1913 the pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Church, Lincoln, Illinois, also served as an administrator at Deaconess Hospital.

Gustav Niebuhr, aged 50 years, died in 1913.

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HULDA (I)

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The eldest of the Niebuhr children was Hulda Clara August Niebuhr, born in 1889.  According to Gustav, her father, a woman was supposed to marry and bear children.  He thought that a woman’s desire for higher education was unseemly and egotistical, as well as a distraction from an interference with marriage and child-bearing.  Hulda pursued higher education anyway.

For her own reasons she never married.

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REINHOLD (I)

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Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr entered the world at Wright, Missouri, on June 21, 1892.  He was the third son and fourth child born to the family  “Reinie” graduated from the denominational college (Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Illinois) and seminary (Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri), as well as Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Connecticut.  He, ordained at St. John’s Evangelical Church, Lincoln, Illinois, served at Bethel Evangelical Church, Detroit, Michigan.  Denominational rules mandated a two-year commitment; he served for thirteen years, until 1928.

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H. RICHARD (I)

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Helmut Richard Niebuhr, the youngest of the five children, entered the world at Wright City, Missouri, on September 4, 1894.  He graduated from Elmhurst College in 1912, Washington University in 1917, Yale Divinity School in 1923, and Yale Graduate School in 1924.  H. Richard, ordained into the ministry of the Evangelical Synod of North America in 1916, pastored an ESNA parish in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1916-1918 then a Congregationalist church in New Haven during his doctoral work there.  For the rest of his career H. Richard was an academic–a professor at Eden Theological Seminary (1919-1922), the President of Elmhurst College (1924-1927), again a professor at Eden Theological Seminary (1927-1931), and finally as a professor (specializing in Christian ethics) at Yale Divinity School (1931-1962).

In 1920 H. Richard married Florence Marie Mittendorf.  One of their children was Richard Reinhold Niebuhr (1926-2017), a professor at Harvard Divinity School from 1956 to 1999, as well as the father of Richard Gustav Neibuhr (b. 1955), usually listed as Gustav Niebuhr.  The grandson of H. Richard Niebuhr has distinguished himself as an award-winning religion journalist (through 2001) and academic (since December 2001).  After his work at Princeton University (2001-2003) (Richard) Gustav Niebuhr joined the faculty of Syracuse University, Syracuse New York, teaching journalism as well as the history of religion.

Harvard Divinity School has honored Richard Reinhold Niebuhr by naming a professorship after him.

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HULDA, REINHOLD, AND LYDIA IN DETROIT

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Gustav Niebuhr died in 1913.  At that time Walter, the eldest son, whom Gustav had alienated, rescued the family financially.  He, a devout Christian, had gone into secular life as a journalist and a businessman, making real money.

The Evangelical Synod of North America assigned the bachelor Reinhold Niebuhr to Bethel Evangelical Church, Detroit, Michigan, in 1915.  The membership stood at 65 when he arrived.  It was also entirely of German extraction.  Hulda and Lydia worked in the parish.  Hulda specialized in religious education for several years.  Lydia was effectively the co-pastor.

At Detroit Reinhold became deeply involved in liberal politics, siding with labor unions, opposing Ku Klux Klan-backed candidates for local offices, and imbibing deeply of Marxian thought (Conflict Theory).  He, shedding Social Gospel optimism and moving toward Christian Realism while writing Moral Man and Immoral Society (published in 1932).  Meanwhile, the Niebuhrs grew Bethel Church to 700 members by 1928.

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HULDA (II)

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Hulda, who had begun her higher education at Lincoln College, Lincoln, Illinois, in 1912, completed her undergraduate degree at Boston University, starting in 1918.  At B.U. she also earned her M.A. in the School of Religious Education and Social Service.  The university became her professional home; she was one of three female assistant professors there in 1927.

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REINHOLD (II)

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By 1928 Reinhold had come to the attention of Henry Sloane Coffin, President of Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York.  Coffin hired the pastor in 1928.  Reinhold and his mother moved to New York City that year; he taught applied Christianity and Christian ethics.  He remained at Union Theological Seminary until declining health forced his retirement in 1960.

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REINHOLD AND URSULA

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Ursula Mary Keppel-Compton, born in Southampten, England, on August 3, 1908, would have offended Gustav Niebuhr (1863-1913); he would have accused her of egotism.  Ursula not only pursued higher education, but excelled at it.  She graduated with honors in history and theology from St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, then became the first woman to win a fellowship to Union Theological Seminary, where she, aged 23 years, arrived in the fall of 1930.  Ursula chose not to date Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom she met there; she wrote,

I thought him rather too Teutonic and too Prussian for my taste.

She did fall in love with Professor Reinhold Niebuhr, however.  Ursula had a mind of her own.  She as a lay minister in The Church of England, had dared to preach, thereby doing what only men were officially supposed to do in that milieu at that time.  She married Reinhold at Winchester Cathedral in December 1931.  During their marriage (1931-1971) the couple debated theology.  Ursula remained in the Anglican tradition; she was an Episcopalian.  Reinhold likewise remained true to his background as it turned into the Evangelical and Reformed Church (in 1934) then the United Church of Christ (in 1957).

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URSULA

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Ursula was a formidable scholar.  She had an interest in Biblical archeology.  Her thesis at Union Theological Seminary was “Ultimate Moral Sanction as According to the New Testament.”  Ursula also taught the history of religion at Columbia University and founded then chaired the Department of Religion at Barnard College, retiring in 1960, when her husband retired from Union Theological Seminary.

Ursula scaled back her career due to Reinhold’s declining health.  In 1952, while returning from a meeting with his friend Adlai Stevenson, Reinhold suffered a stroke.  He was able to continue to teach until 1960 and publish into the 1960s.  In his last major work, Man’s Nature and His Communities (1965), Reinhold acknowledged Ursula’s influence on his evolving thought.

In recent years some scholars have asked to what extent Ursula and her husband were co-authors.

Ursula, aged 90 years, died at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on January 10, 1997.

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HULDA (III)

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Hulda spent 1928-1946 in New York, New York.  She began work on a doctorate at Union Theological Seminary ad the Teachers College of Columbia University (as part of a joint program of the two institutions) and was A.B.D. (All But Dissertation).  From 1930 to 1945 she was a religious educator at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church.  Hulda also wrote two books and six articles about the religious education of children from 1928 to 1944, and was an adjunct faculty member at New York University from 1938 to 1946.

In 1946 moved to Chicago, Illinois, to accept a position at the Presbyterian College of Christian Education, associated with McCormick Theological Seminary.  She became an Associate Professor of Religious Education.  Upon the merger of the college and the seminary in 1949, she joined the faculty of the seminary, which made her its first female full professor in 1953.  Hulda, who shared her home with her mother, wrote two more books and 18 more articles.

In one of those articles, “Red Roses and Sin” (1958), Hulda wrote:

We bemoan the fact that our church members do not know the Bible, while at the same time we waste opportunities to make it available to them.  Children (not to mention adults) like to hear good stories told and retold.  The Bible teems with dramatic material that can be presented to them in story form.

Hulda, who emphasized teaching children in ways in which they learned best, died on April 17, 1959, one month shy of retirement.  She was about 70 years old.

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H. RICHARD (II)

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To make decisions in faith is to make them in view of the fact that no single man or group or historical time is the church; but that there is a church of faith in which we do our partial, relative work and on which we count.  It is to make them in view of the fact that Christ is risen from the dead, and is not only the head of the church but the redeemer of the world.  It is to make them in view of the fact that the world of culture–man’s achievement–exists within the world of grace–God’s Kingdom.

–H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (New York:  Harper & Row, 1951), 256

H. Richard, quite an influential theologian, as well as the only member of the family in his generation to earn a doctorate, thought and wrote deeply about the relationship of faith to culture.  In the seminal Social Sources of Denominationalism (1929) he wrote of secular influences, such as race, social class, regionalism, and nationalism–or institutional religious life.  Then, in The Church Against the World (1935) and The Kingdom of God in America (1937), H. Richard emphasized spiritual influences on culture.  In The Meaning of Revelation (1941) he pondered the relationship of Christian community to the revelation of God, the absolute, and argued that the revelation of God is relative and in the context of faith community, which functions as a safeguard against many excesses of members of that community.  Perhaps H. Richard’s most influential work was Christ and Culture (1951), in which he argued against separation from the world as well as accommodation to it.  The majority Christian position, he wrote, is a synthesis of Christ and culture.  H. Richard did not approve of that either; he preferred Christ as the transformer of culture.

Stanley Hauerwas is one of the theologians who has simultaneously critiqued and affirmed the theology of H. Richard and Reinhold Niebuhr.

H. Richard, not yet retired, died on July 5, 1962.  He was 67 years old.

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REINHOLD (III)

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Harlan Ellison has said that being consistent requires one to remain as poorly informed as one was the previous year.  Reinhold Niebuhr, who changed his mind many times during his nearly 70 years of life, valued avoiding naïveté and hypocrisy, not seeking consistency with himself when he was younger.  Thus he, once a pacifist, a socialist, and a Social Gospeller, rejected many former opinions.  Reinhold became a champion of Neo-orthodoxy (which retained the social justice aspects of the Social Gospel while rejecting the optimism that World War I had belied) and Christian Realism.  He was too liberal for many conservatives and too conservative for many liberals.  Reinhold’s theology recognized the reality of the gray, not just the black and the white.  He came to support the George Kennan-style Containment policy during the Cold War, and condemned Senator Joseph McCarthy as an agent of evil.  Reinhold, who supported U.S. involvement in World War II, opposed the war in Vietnam, as did Kennan.

The author of the Serenity Prayer (in the 1930s) won the Presidential Medal of Honor in 1964, helped settle refugees in the 1930s, came to oppose Christian attempts to convert Jews, and influenced a host of influential people, including Martin Luther King, Jr.; Senator John McCain; and Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.  Reinhold was Obama’s favorite theologian.

Reinhold broke religion into two categories–prophetic religion and priestly religion.  He defined prophetic religion as the source of human religious consciousness.  Reinhold was critical of priestly religion, which he defined as that which people use to replace, blunt, or domesticate true religion, that is prophetic religion, which is essential to human personality (cheapened by modern industrial society) as well as societal cohesion.

That societal emphasis, which Reinhold had in common with H. Richard, informed an understanding of original sin–more than individual, corrupting society and social institutions.  Therefore only God can usher in the Kingdom of God.

Sorry, Walter Rauschenbusch, whom I also esteem highly.

Reinhold died at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on June 1, 1971.  He was 78 years old.

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CONCLUSION

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One may disagree respectfully and civilly with any of these four saints on various matters.  Yet, if one is honest, one cannot fail to recognize their contributions to the Church, and societies.  Of course Christian educators should use effective pedagogical methods.  Of course churches and societies influence each other, for good and ill.  Of course corrupt social institutions, which even the most pious institutions, which even the most pious cannot avoid, involve those pious people in societal sins, so that, as the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) affirmed in 1962, in a statement with Niebuhrian influences:

Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God.

–Quoted in The Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1965), 332

I wonder what these four Niebuhrs would write and say about today.  I wonder what advice Hulda would offer to contemporary Christian educators, given the shortened attention spans and the ubiquity of screens and smart phones.  I wonder what critiques H. Richard, Reinhold, and Ursula would offer for U.S. foreign and domestic policy.  I also wonder how they might adapt their critique of industrial society in the context of post-industrial society–an information economy amid globalization.  I wonder what they would make of social media.  They would offer discomforting words of wisdom, I suspect.  And those words of wisdom would not fit into sound bytes.

I also wonder about another matter.  I collect and consult calendars of saints.  A wide variety of these calendars exists.  Not one, to my knowledge, lists any of these four Niebuhrs as saints.  That surprises me.  Anglican and Lutheran ecclesiastical calendars count legacies, not miracles.  Certainly I am shocked not to find H. Richard and Reinhold Niebuhr on any Anglican or Lutheran calendar of saints.  During this process of renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days–with this post, in fact–I hereby merge the former feasts of Reinhold Niebuhr and H. Richard Niebuhr as I add Ursula Niebuhr and Hulda Niebuhr to the commemoration.  They deserve it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM COWPER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN AT JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servants Hulda, Reinhold, Ursula, and H. Richard Niebuhr,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Christian de Cherge and His Companions (May 21)   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of Northern Algeria

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Rand McNally World Atlas–Imperial Edition (1968)

Tibhirine is northwest of Médéa, southeast of Cherchel, and southwest of Blida.

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CHRISTIAN DE CHERGÉ (JANUARY 18, 1937-MAY 21, 1996)

Prior of the Trappist Monastery of Our Lady of Atlas, Tibhirine, Algeria

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If it should happen one day—and it could be today—that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country. I ask them to accept that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure. I ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering? I ask them to be able to associate such a death with the many other deaths that were just as violent, but forgotten through indifference and anonymity.

–From the Last Testament of Christian de Chergé, translated by the Monks of Mount Saint Bernard Abbey, Leicester, England

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The story of the monks of Tibhirine became the basis of the movie Of Gods and Men (2010).

In the early hours of March 27, 1996, twenty soldiers of the Armed Islamic Group (G.I.A.) burst into the Monastery of Our Lady of Atlas, Tibhirine, Algeria.  They abducted seven monks:

  1. Father Christian de Chergé, the Prior;
  2. Brother Luc (born Paul Bechier), a physician;
  3. Father Christophe Lebreton;
  4. Brother Michel Fleury;
  5. Father Bruno (born Christian LeMarchand);
  6. Father Célestin Ringeard; and
  7. Brother Paul Favre-Miville.

During a civil war in Algeria the G.I.A. wanted all foreigners to leave the country–or else.  The monks had remained, despite many warnings.  The Islamist group hoped to swap the monks for prisoners, but the French government refused to negotiate with terrorists.  The G.I.A. beheaded the monks on May 21.  Two monks–Father Jean-Pierre and Father Amédée, hid successfully from the terrorists on March 27.  These fortunate men told the story of the others.

The monks of Tibhirine understood the difference between Islam and Islamism.  They lived peaceably among Muslims, with whom they prayed and who came to the monastery for medical care.  The villagers certainly were not violent toward the monks.  Extremists were, unfortunately.

Christian de Chergé was a peaceful and tolerant man.  He, born in Colmar, France, on January 18, 1937, was the second of eight children born into a devout Roman Catholic family.  In 1959 our saint was a French soldier stationed in Algeria during the war for independence.  One of his friends was Mohammed, a police officer and a devout Muslim.  When a rebel attempted to ambush de Chergé, Mohammed, acting on his faith, saved our saint’s life.  The police officer became the victim of an assassination that day or the next one.  De Chergé never forgot his friend’s action and the high price he paid for it, and looked forward to meeting him again in the communion of saints.  De Chergé went on to become a priest in 1964 and a Trappist monk at Aiguebelle five years later.  He transferred to Tibhirine in 1971.  Our saint became an avid student of the Koran.  Villagers reciprocated his respect for them, Algeria, Islam, and Muslims.

Unfortunately, extremists, who did not know de Chergé and his fellow monks, acted out of a toxic stew of hatred, intolerance, and narrow nationalism.  The G.I.A., fighting a civil war against the less than warm-and-fuzzy military-controlled Algerian government, started killing foreigners who remained in the country after December 1, 1993.

The rest is history.

And you also, the friend of my final moment, who would not be aware of what you were doing. Yes, for you also I wish this “thank you”—and this <adieu>—to commend you to the God whose face I see in yours.

And may we find each other, happy “good thieves,” in Paradise, if it pleases God, the Father of us both. Amen.

–From the Last Testament of Christian de Chergé, translated by the Monks of Mount Saint Bernard Abbey, Leicester, England

To repay violence with violence, hatred with hatred, intolerance with intolerance, and evil with evil is tempting and morally incorrect.  Shall we consider the scriptures?

Never pay back evil for evil.  Let your aims be such as all count honourable.  If possible, so far as it lies with you, live at peace with all.  My dear friends, do not seek revenge, but leave a place for divine retribution; for there is a text which reads, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay.”  But there is another text:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; by doing this you will heap live coals on his head.”  Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

–Romans 12:17-21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Also:

Do not repay wrong with wrong, or abuse with abuse; on the contrary, respond with blessing, for a blessing is what God intends you to receive.

–1 Peter 3:9a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Besides, forgiveness is a better and more difficult path to trod.

De Chergé forgave his murderer in advance, for he wrote the first draft of his Last Testament on December 1, 1993, two and a half years before he died.

De Chergé puts me to shame.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PRISCILLA LYDIA SELLON, A RESTORER OF RELIGIOUS LIFE IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF THEODORE CLAUDIUS PEASE, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of love in the hearts

of your holy Martyrs of Tibhirine, Algeria:

Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love,

that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their examples;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 15:15-21

Psalm 124 or 31:1-15

1 Peter 4:12-19

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 715

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