Archive for the ‘Federal Council of Churches’ Tag

Feast of G. Bromley Oxnam (August 13)   1 comment

Above:  The Cover of the Dust Jacket to A Testament of Faith (1958)

Image Source = archive.org

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GARFIELD BROMLEY OXNAM (AUGUST 14, 1891-MARCH 12, 1963)

U.S. Methodist Bishop

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INTRODUCTION

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Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

–John 14:15, Revised Standard Version (1952)

Bishop Oxnam liked to quote that verse.  For him, Christian faith was not a doctrinal confession one signed at the bottom of the page.  No, Oxnam’s Christian faith was a love-infused lifestyle. This lifestyle entailed obeying Matthew 25:31-46.

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

–Matthew 25:40b, Revised Standard Version (1952)

Oxnam was, in many ways, a counterpoint to his fellow bishop and contemporary, Gerald Kennedy (1907-1980).  Yet both men had much in common.  And both of them earned their places here, on my Ecumenical Calendar.  (I admit, though, that I feel more affinity for Bishop Oxnam than with Bishop Kennedy.)

Richard Brookhiser, writing derisively of Oxnam in the February 1992 issue of First Things, commented:

Theologically, Oxnam was a liberal by default, since he barely thought of theology at all.

Yet, as I have written repeatedly in lectionary-based devotions at some of my other weblogs, deeds reveal creeds.  As one thinks, one is.  And as one thinks, one acts.  In Hebrew theology, God is like what God has done and does.  Ergo, we are like what we have done and do.  And, as the Letter of James tells us:

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.

–2:26, Revised Standard Version (1952)

Oxnam showed his faith by his works (James 2:26).

I could continue to paraphrase Oxnam, but his words are better than mine in expressing his faith.  So, without further ado:

I find it hard to understand men who “accept Christ” and then become sadistic as they deal with others who try to “love God with heart and mind and soul, and brother as self,” but who cannot in honesty accept the obscurantism that is presented as “the faith,” especially when the presentation is accompanied by the clanking of Inquisition chains and the fires at the stake.  The coercion by the bigoted is in itself a rejection of the spirit of Christ.  He relied on the compulsion of love.  If I were called upon to choose one word to describe Christianity, it would be love.  I believe nothing can separate us from the love of God.  I believe God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.  I believe God sent Jesus because He “loved the world.”

A Testament of Faith (1958), viii-ix

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THE FIRST FORTY-THREE YEARS

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Oxnam, born in Los Angeles, California, on August 14, 1891, moved away from his family theological roots.  They were conservative.  Our saint’s father, a mining engineer and a mine owner, oversaw the construction of chapels for inhabitants of mining camps.  Oxnam’s mother was a charter member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.).  At age 17, at a revival, our saint vowed to become a minister.

Oxnam left the conservative religion of his youth behind and embraced the Social Gospel.  He graduated from the University of Southern California (B.A., 1913) then Boston University (S.T.B., 1915).  Our saint, who married Ruth Fisher on August 19, 1914, had joined the Southern California Conference of the old Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939) as a licensed preacher the previous year.  The Conference ordained him a deacon in 1915 then an elder in 1917.

After serving in Poplar, California, Oxnam became the pastor at the Church of All Nations, Los Angeles, California (1917-1926), in the Eastside.  The Church of All Nations was a multi-ethnic, immigrant, and impoverished flock.  Our saint presided over an extensive network of social services, openly identified with labor unions, opposed nativism and xenophobia, suggested that teachers’ informed opinions should influence educational policies, aroused suspicions that he was a communist, and ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the school board.  He also taught social ethics at the University of Southern California.  In fact, Oxnam was neither a communist nor a Marxist; he was a Christian Socialist.

Then Oxnam turned to academia full-time.  He was a Professor of Social Ethics at Boston University (1927-1928).  Next, our saint made his mark as the President of DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana (1928-1936).  Oxnam, a pacifist, first made participation in the R.O.T.C. optional.  (It had been mandatory.)  Then, in 1934, he presided over the end of the R.O.T.C. at DePauw University.  He also helped students to find jobs in New Deal programs, expanded library holdings, and increased attendance at voluntary chapel services.  These were dignified services; Oxnam insisted on that.

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BISHOP OXNAM

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Oxnam became the then-youngest Methodist bishop in the United States in 1936; he was 45 years old.  (Gerald Kennedy broke that record, at age 40, in 1948.)  Our saint was based in, in order:

  1. Omaha, Nebraska (1936-1939);
  2. Boston, Massachusetts (1939-1944);
  3. New York, New York (1944-1952); and
  4. Washington, D.C. (1952-1960).

Our saint was active on the denominational level of the old Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939) and the merged Methodist Church (1939-1968). 

  1. He chaired the Division of Educational Institutions, the General Board of Education (1939-1944).
  2. He chaired the Division of Foreign Missions, the General Board of Global Ministries (1944-1952).
  3. He led the Methodist Crusade for World Order (1944-1948).  The Methodist Crusade for World Order opposed a return to pre-World War II isolationism, favored an internationalist foreign policy, and supported the United Nations.
  4. He was active in the Methodist Federation for Social Service (later Social Action), which Frank Mason North (1850-1935) had helped to found in 1917.  The Federation, a target of conservative elements within the denomination, suffered a strong rebuke in 1952.  “Methodist” ceased to be in its name, and The Methodist Church established the new Board of Social and Economic Relations.

Oxnam was also an ecumenist.

  1. He served as the President of the old Federal Council of Churches (1946-1948).
  2. He helped to found the National Council of Churches (1950).
  3. He was one of the Presidents of the World Council of Churches (1948-1954).
  4. He sat on the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches.
  5. Oxnam’s ecumenism had its limits.  It did not extend to fundamentalists and pre-Vatican II Roman Catholics, who thought he was going to Hell anyway.

Despite what Red-baiting conservatives claimed, Oxnam was a patriot. 

  1. He was a staunch man of the Christian Left.
  2. He was a member of the Civil Advisory Committee to the Secretary of the Navy during World War II.
  3. After the war, he chaired the Commission to Study Postwar Relief Conditions in Germany.
  4. He opposed mandatory military training and service in peacetime.
  5. He argued that using atomic weapons was immoral.

In July 1953, Oxnam testified before the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee, which was itself un-American.  He rebutted allegations that he was and ever had been a communist or a Marxist.  Our saint produced evidence to document that charges to the contrary from Representative Donald L. Jackson (1910-1981) were objectively false.  Oxnam also condemned McCarthyism and those who practiced it.

A new breed of self-appointed un-American vigilantes threatens our freedom.  Profaning our American traditions and desecrating our flag, masquerading as defenders of our country against the infiltration of communism and the aggression of Russia, they play the red game of setting American against American, of creating distrust and division, and of turning us from the problems that must be solved in order to become impregnable.  These vigilantes produce hysteria, prepare sucker lists, and live upon the generous contributions of the fearful.  They exploit the uninformed patriot.  They profiteer in patriotism.  These vigilantes do not carry the noosed rope, but they lynch by libel.  They prepare their lying spider-web charts.  They threaten educators and ministers, actors and broadcasters.  Unthinking boards and commissions bow to their tyranny, forgetting that to appease these forerunners of Hitler, of Mussolini, and of Stalin is to jeopardize freedom, and to prepare the wrists for the shackles and the mouth for the gag.  In the name of law, vigilantes break the law.

–Quoted in A Year with American Saints (2006), 281-282

Above:  Wesley Theological Seminary, American University, Washington, D.C,

Image Source = Google Earth

Bishop Oxnam, while based in Washington, D.C., helped to build up the denomination-affiliated American University.  In 1958, he supervised the relocation of Westminster Theological Seminary, Westminster, Maryland (founded in 1882) to the campus of American University.  The relocated seminary became Wesley Theological Seminary.  That year, our saint also helped to found the School of International Service at American University.

Above:  The School of International Service, American University, Washington, D.C.

Image Source = Google Earth

Oxnam, suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, retired in 1960.  He, aged 73 years, died in White Plains, New York, on March 12, 1963.

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EVALUATION

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When evaluating a historical figure, one ought to avoid two opposite errors:  relativizing everything or too much and relativizing nothing or too little.  Timeless standards exist, of course.  Yet context remains crucial.  Also, people change during a lifetime.  To be fair, one must consider that fact.

Oxnam was mostly correct.  He was correct to favor the rights of workers, for example.  He was correct to condemn the greed of those who exploited workers.  He was correct to oppose McCarthyism and to challenge practitioners of McCarthyism to their faces.  Like most Americans, traumatized by World War I, he overreacted in ways that seemed reasonable between the World Wars yet came across as naïve in retrospect after World War II.  

Just as I stand to the left of Bishop Gerald Kennedy, I stand slightly to the right of Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam.  I am a Neo-Orthodox, after all.  I stand with Reinhold, Ursula, and H. Richard Niebuhr in recognizing the limitations of the Social Gospel.  I do so while affirming what was positive about the Social Gospel.

Yet, as I have written in this post, I feel more affinity with Oxnam than with Kennedy.  And I count both of them as members of my family of faith.

I invite you, O reader, if you are so inclined, to read Oxnam’s writings available at archive.org:

  1. “The Mexican in Los Angeles from the Standpoint of the Religious Forces of the City” (1921),
  2. Contemporary Preaching:  A Study in Trends (1931),
  3. Personalities in Social Reform (1941),
  4. Preaching in a Revolutionary Age (1944), 
  5. I Protest (1954), and
  6. A Testament of Faith (1958).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, BISHOP AND MARTYR, 107/115; SAINT POLYCARP OF SMYRNA, BISHOP AND MARTYR, 155/156; AND SAINT IRENAEUS OF LYONS, CIRCA 202 

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER AKIMETES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL WOLCOTT, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEFAN WINCENTY FRELICHOWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF MAINZ; AND SAINT BERNWARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF HILDESHEIM

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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 servant G. Bromley Oxnam] to use our freedom

to bring justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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Feast of Frank Laubach (June 14)   Leave a comment

Above:  Frank Laubach Stamp

Image in the Public Domain

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FRANK CHARLES LAUBACH (SEPTEMBER 2, 1884-JUNE 11, 1970)

U.S. Congregationalist Minister and Missionary

“Apostle of Literacy” and “Apostle to the Illiterates”

Frank Laubach comes to this A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Laubach devised and propagated the Laubach Method of teaching literacy.  He taught 100 million people all over the world how to read in 313 languages.  Literacy was an evangelistic tool for Laubach.  It was also a way to improve their lives and the lives of others.

Laubach was a minister and a missionary.  He, born in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 2, 1884, graduated from Princeton University (1909), Union Theological Seminary (1913), and Columbia University (Ph.D., 1915).  He married Effa Emaline Seely, a nurse, in 1912.  The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent the couple to the Philippines in 1915.  For about six years, the Laubachs ministered on Mindanao.  Then, in 1921, our saint joined the faculty of a theological seminary in Manila.  Laubach returned to missionary work among Muslims on Mindanao in 1929.  At this time, he began to use the Laubach Method (entailing graphics, words, and syllables) to teach people to read their language.  Related to the Laubach Method was the principle of “each one teach one.”  Literacy increased greatly.

Starting in 1935, Laubach took his method global.  He, an at-large missionary for the Federal (1945-1950) then the National (1950-1955) Councils of Churches, retired in 1955.  Then our saint kept going.  He founded Laubach Literacy, Inc. (global) in 1955, followed by Laubach Literacy Action (for the U.S.A.) in 1968.

Laubach, author of 56 books (including devotional works) died in Syracuse, New York, on June 11, 1970.  He was 85 years old.

Laubach, like his Puritan forebears, understood the importance of literacy and education.  The Puritans manifested some terrible excesses, including practicing theocracy, outlawing Christmas, exiling religious dissidents, executing Quakers, and, while under the influence of hallucinogenic bread molds, setting scores by executing people falsely accused of being witches.  Nevertheless, when the Puritans were right, they were right.  They knew, for example, that for one to read the Bible, one must be literate.  Literacy education, therefore, is an effective evangelistic tool.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 4, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CEFERINO JIMENEZ MALLA, SPANISH ROMANI MARTYR, 1936

THE FEAST OF ANGUS DUN, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WASHINGTON, AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL MARTYSZ, POLISH ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEAN-MARTIN MOYË, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY IN CHINA, AND FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE AND THE CHRISTIAN VIRGINS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN HOUGHTON, ROBERT LAWRENCE, AUGUSTINE WEBSTER, HUMPHREY MIDDLEMORE, WILLIAM EXMEW, AND SEBASTIAN NEWDIGATE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1535

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Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Frank Laubach,

whom you called to preach the Gospel throughout the world, as he increased rates of literacy.

Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom,

that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 96 or 96:1-7

Acts 1:1-9

Luke 10:1-9

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 716

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Feast of Elias Benjamin Sanford (June 13)   Leave a comment

Above:  Flag of Connecticut

Image in the Public Domain

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ELIAS BENJAMIN SANFORD (JUNE 6, 1843-JULY 3, 1932)

U.S. Methodist then Congregationalist Minister and Ecumenist

Elias Benjamin Sanford comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Sanford was simultaneously of his time and ahead of it.  He transformed his time.

Once upon a time, in the United States of America, anti-Roman Catholicism was a dominant characteristic of Protestantism.  (It remains a dominant characteristic of fundamentalism and much of evangelicalism.  The mainline has repented of its anti-Roman Catholicism.  For example, the United Church of Christ, with Puritan/Congregationalist heritage, has become a haven for married former Roman Catholic priests seeking a way to continue in ordained ministry.)  This bias was the mirror image of a negative Roman Catholic attitude toward other branches of Christianity prior to the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), when the rest of we Christians, whether Protestant, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, or Oriental Orthodox, formally became “separated brethren.”  This was a declaration that echoed Pope Leo XIII (d. 1903).  Not all American Protestants were anti-Roman Catholic, just as not all American Roman Catholics thought that non-Roman Catholic Christians were bound for damnation.  Nevertheless, these hardline attitudes were baked into religious cultures.  In 1928, when the Democratic Party nominated Governor Alfred Smith for the presidency, Smith’s Roman Catholicism became a political issue.  During the primary season of 1960, when Senator John F. Kennedy campaigned for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, his Roman Catholicism became a political issue.  George L. Ford, Executive Director of the National Association of Evangelicals, wrote a pamphlet, A Roman Catholic President:  How Free from Church Control?  (I own a copy of this pamphlet.)

Above:  The Cover of the Pamphlet

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Sanford’s life and ministry played out in the culture of anti-Roman Catholic Protestantism.

That summary is objectively accurate.  Know, O reader, that I refuse to condone religious bigotry.  I come from a Protestant background, mainly United Methodism in the rural South.  I, an Episcopalian, consider myself an Anglican, not a Protestant.  To be precise, I describe myself as an Anglican-Lutheran-Catholic, for “Anglican” and “Episcopalian” cover a great range of theological ground.  I affirm Transubstantiation, all seven sacraments, and the 73 book-canon of scripture.  How can I be a Protestant?  I am too Protestant to be a Roman Catholic and too Roman Catholic to be a Protestant.  And, as anyone who follows, this, my Ecumenical Calendar, should know, names of many Roman Catholics, whether Venerables, Beati, fully canonized, or not formally recognized, are present here.  To paraphrase what Martin Luther may or may not have said at the Diet of Worms (1521), I will do no other.

Above:  The Former First United Methodist Church, Thomaston, Connecticut

Structure erected in 1866

Congregation seemingly closed in 2018

Image Source = Google Earth

Sanford was originally a Methodist.  He, born in Westbrook, Connecticut, on June 6, 1843, graduated from Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut (B.A., 1865).  Our saint served as a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church (extant 1784-1939) in Thomaston, Connecticut, from 1865 to 1867.  Then he became a Congregationalist.  Our saint spent the first half of 1868 traveling in Europe.

Above:  The United Church of Christ in Cornwall, Cornwall, Connecticut

Structure erected in 1842

Image Source = Google Earth

Sanford, back in the United States, served as a Congregationalist minister in rural Connecticut.  He also studied at Yale.  Our saint’s first parish in his new denomination was First Congregational Church, Cornwall, Connecticut (1868-1872).  For the next decade, he supplied in Northfield and Thomaston, Connecticut.  Sanford’s final pastorate was the First Congregational Church in Westbrook, Connecticut (1882-1894).

Above:  First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Westbrook, Connecticut

Image in the Public Domain

Sanford made the transition to ecumenical Protestant work.  He, the Editor of Church Union magazine since 1873, served as the Secretary of the Open and Institutional Church League (founded in 1894, from 1895 to 1900), committed to opening church buildings for social service.  In that same vein, our saint served as the General Secretary of the National Federation of Churches and Christian Workers from 1900 to 1908.  Sanford generally opposed the organic union of denominations on the grounds that mergers brought branches of Protestantism closer to “submission to Rome.”  In context, Sanford’s Protestant ecumenism was a way of resisting Roman Catholicism.  He helped to found the Federal Council of Churches (1908-1950), a forerunner of the National Council of Churches (1950-).  Our saint served as corresponding secretary (1908-1913) then as a honorary secretary (1913-1932) of the Federal Council of Churches.

Sanford, 89 years old, died in Middlefield, Connecticut, on July 3, 1932.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Lord Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd, thank you for tending to us, members of your flock.

May we, rejoicing in your work of breaking down barriers,

recognize each other as sheep of your flock, and therefore, work together, for your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Isaiah 49:1-6

Psalm 95

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

John 17:20-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARK THE EVANGELIST, MARTYR, 68

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Feast of John S. Stamm (March 21)   1 comment

Above:  Bishop John S. Stamm, 1939

Image Source = Raymond M. Veh, Thumbnail Sketches of Evangelical Bishops (1939)

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JOHN SAMUEL STAMM (MARCH 23, 1878-MARCH 5, 1956)

Bishop of the The Evangelical Church then the Evangelical United Brethren Church 

Bishop John S. Stamm comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Interpreter’s Bible, for which he wrote the introduction to and the exegesis of Galatians for Volume X (1953).

Stamm belonged to an Arminian tradition.  The Church of the United Brethren in Christ (1800-1946) and the Evangelical Association (1816-1922) began as German-speaking counterparts to the English-speaking Methodist movement.  The ironically-named United Evangelical Church (1891-1922) reunited with the Evangelical Association, from which it had broken away, to create The Evangelical Church (1922-1946).  The Church of the United Brethren in Christ merged with The Evangelical Church to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church (1946-1968).  This denomination merged with the reunited Methodist Church (1939-1968) to create The United Methodist Church.

John Samuel Stamm was a son of Swiss immigrants.  His parents were Hans (George) Stamm (1854-1918) and Anna Maria (Mary) Stamm (1854-1950).  Our saint, born in Alida, Kansas, on March 23, 1878, grew up in the Evangelical Association.  The first two decades of his life were not conducive to education; he had completed five grades before his twentieth birthday.  Stamm, who had a conversion experience at age 18, matriculated at North Central College, Napierville, Illinois, in 1898.  The college, like many similar institutions at the time, had a preparatory academy attached to it.  Our saint started at the academy before moving on to the postsecondary program.  In 1909, at the age of 31 years, he completed his undergraduate degree.  The following year, he graduated from Evangelical Theological Seminary, attached to North Central College.  Then he earned his M.A. degree from The University of Chicago.

Stamm, a minister, spent most of his career above the congregational level.  He served in churches in Missouri (Bloomington and Glasgow) and Illinois (Manhattan, Downers Grove, and Oak Park) before becoming a professor at Evangelical Theological Seminary (1918-1926).  Then he became a bishop in 1926.  Stamm worked first out of Kansas City, Missouri (1926-1934), then Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (1934f).  Along the way, he fell in love with Priscilla Marie Wahl (d. 1955).  He wed her in Manhattan, Illinois, on March 9, 1912.

Stamm was active on the Conference level of his denomination.  He was, at different times, the President of the Sunday School Board, the Chairman on the Commission on Policy and Program, and the Missionary Secretary of the Young People’s Alliance.

Stamm was active on the denominational level, beyond his duties as a bishop.  He was the President of the Evangelical School of Theology, Reading, Pennsylvania (1934-1941).  As of 1939, our saint also led the denominational Board of Publication, the Superannuation Fund, the Church Extension board, the Christian Social Action committee, and the Commission on Church Federation and Union.  Stamm was, therefore, deeply involved in the 1946 merger that formed the Evangelical United Brethren Church.

Stamm, the author of Evangelism and Christian Experience, was also an ecumenist.  He served as the President of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches (1945-1949), the Federal Council of Churches (1948-1950).  Furthermore, Stamm helped to found the World Council of Churches (1948) and sat on its Central Committee (1948-1954).  If that were not enough, he also helped to create the Revised Standard Version (1946, 1952) of the Bible.

Stamm received more degrees later in life.  These were:

  1. Doctor of Divinity (1927), Evangelical Theological Seminary;
  2. Doctor of Laws (1936), Albright College;
  3. Doctor of Humane Letters (1949), North Central College; and
  4. Doctor of Sacred Theology (1951), Dickinson College.

In 1950, at the age of 72 years, Stamm retired from episcopal ministry.  He remained active in other capacities for years.  Our saint died on Kansas City, Missouri, on March 5, 1956, at the age of 77 years.  The cause of death was pneumonia, after a pelvic fracture.

Bishop John S. Stamm got a late start to his ministry, but he did much once he got underway.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN JULIAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF ALEXANDER MEN, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1990

THE FEAST OF LADISLAO BATTHÁNY-STRATTMANN, AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND PHILANTHROPIST

THE FEAST OF LOUISE CECILIA FLEMING, AFRICAN-AMERICAN BAPTIST MISSIONARY AND PHYSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT PALLOTTI, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY FOR THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE, THE UNION OF CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE, AND THE SISTERS OF THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE

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Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servant John Samuel Stamm,

who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock;

and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life,

we may by grace grow into the full stature of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978). 38

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Feast of Elmer G. Homrighausen (January 19)   4 comments

Above:  Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey

Image Source = Library of Congress

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ELMER GEORGE HOMRIGHAUSEN (APRIL 14, 1900-JANUARY 3, 1982)

U.S. German Reformed and Presbyterian Minister, Biblical Scholar, and Professor of Christian Education

Elmer G. Homrighausen comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume XII (1957), for which he wrote the exposition of 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude.

Homrighausen came from the Reformed tradition.  He, son of Henry and Sophia, entered the world in Wheatland, Iowa, on April 14, 1900.  The family was German Reformed, members of the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS), which merged into the Evangelical and Reformed Church (ERC) in 1934, which merged into the United Church of Christ (UCC) in 1957.  The religion of Homrighausen’s youth and early adulthood was stern; fear of divine judgment was always present.  After nearly dying as a child, he was thankful for every day of the rest of his long life.

Homrighausen became a scholar and a German Reformed minister.  He studied at Mission House College, Plymouth, Wisconsin, from 1921 to 1923.  Mercersburg Theology, or relatively High Church Reformed theology with an emphasis on sacraments and liturgy, began to influence our saint there.  In 1923, before transferring to Princeton Theological Seminary as a senior, married Ruth W, Strassburger.  The Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy divided the faculty.  Our saint identified as a Modernist.  (The couple went on to raise six children.)  He graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary and became an ordained minister in 1924.

Above:  The Former First English Reformed Church, Freeport, Illinois

Image Source = Google Earth

Homrighausen’s first pastorate was the First English Reformed Church (now Bethany United Church of Christ), Freeport, Illinois, where he served from 1924 to 1929.  Our saint applied Mercersburg Theology to help resolve a difficult situation.  Some of the leaders of the congregation were members of the Ku Klux Klan.  This appalled Homrighausen and many of his parishioners.  Our saint understood that the honor, integrity, and unity of the congregation were at stake.  He practiced reconciliation, followed by a communion service.  Then Homrighausen initiated outreach to African Americans in the community.

Above:  The Former Carrollton Avenue Reformed Church, Indianapolis, Indiana

Image Source = Google Earth

Homrighausen served as pastor of the Carrollton Avenue Reformed Church, Indianapolis, Indiana (now St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, Carmel, Indiana), from 1929 to 1938.  While there, he earned his Ph.D. (1929) and Th.D. (1930) from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, as well as his M.A. from Butler University, Indianapolis (1931).  Homrighausen also worked as a lecturer in church history at Butler University from 1931 to 1938.

Homrighausen liberalized in academia and became a Barthian.  Our saint stood in the theological center and criticized positions to his left and his right.  The relationship between church and culture interested him.  Homrighausen read the writings of St. Justin Martyr (d. 166/167) during the process of loyalty to empire versus loyalty to the Kingdom of God.  Our saint found in St. Justin Martyr openness to the truth, regardless of its source, while affirming Christ as the Savior.  Doctrinal rigidity was not a virtue, according to Homrighausen.  Neither was setting social progress in opposition to perceived orthodoxy.  And, in the theology of Karl Barth, our saint found a Christocentric theology.

NOTE:  I identify as a Modernist, for I accept science.  I, as a generally liberal person, think of myself as occupying a center-left position on the spectrum.  I tend to be more conservative in liturgical matters–traditional worship please, preferably Rite II from The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  And, if if I see so much as a guitar or a tambourine, I will kvetch inwardly.  I like the Roman Catholic Church’s “Seamless Garment” theology of life, with some caveats regarding tactics, never ideals.  I understand church history well enough to be able to rattle off instances of ecclesiastical leaders, from antiquity to the present day, deploying “orthodoxy” against necessary and proper social progress.  I make no excuses for that.  I also know of examples of the predictable, reflexive tendency in much of the Christian Left to focus on social progress in reaction against false, reactionary orthodoxy.  Social progress is a principle firmly entrenched in the Law of Moses, the Hebrew Prophetic tradition, and the Gospels, therefore in actual Jewish and Christian orthodoxy.  Actual orthodoxy, with the Golden Rule, facilitates social justice. 

Homrighausen worked full-time at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1938 to 1970.  He was, in order, the:

  1. Thomas Synnott Professor of Christian Education (1938-1954),
  2. Chairman of the Department of Practical Theology (1953-1960),
  3. Charles R. Erdman Professor of Pastoral Theology (1954-1970) and
  4. Dean (1955-1965).

Homrighausen, a recipient of many honorary degrees, was also active beyond the seminary.  He traveled the world, preaching, from 1941 to 1971.  Starting in the 1930s, our saint was active in the movement to found the World Council of Churches, formed in 1948.  Then he became a leader of that organization.  Likewise, Homrighausen filled leadership roles in the Federal Council of Churches and its successor, the National Council of Churches.  Our saint also served as the Vice Moderator of The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

Homrighausen, aged 81 years, died in Princeton, New Jersey, on January 3, 1982.

Princeton Theological Seminary has created the position of Elmer G. Homrighausen Professor of Christian Social Ethics.  While preparing this post, I read the list of faculty members of the seminary.  I noticed that this position was vacant.  I found names of previous Homrighausen Professors in Internet searches, however.

Homrighausen left a fine and faithful legacy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PASSAU

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

THE FEAST OF RAYMOND BROWN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

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O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Elmer G. Homrighausen and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRODEGANG OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDMUND KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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Feast of Frederick Hermann Knubel (May 22)   Leave a comment

Above:  Logo of the United Lutheran Church in America

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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FREDERICK HERMANN KNUBEL (MAY 22, 1870-OCTOBER 16, 1945)

President of The United Lutheran Church in America

This post depends almost entirely upon The United Lutheran Church in America, 1918-1962, begun by E. Theodore Bachmann, who died before he completed the process of writing the volume.  His wife, Mercia Brenne Bachmann, finished the book, which Paul Rorem edited.  The Fortress Press, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, published the volume in 1997.

Lutheran history interests me.  I find that learning about various strands of that tradition enriches my life.  I am glad to know about Frederick Hermann Knubel and to write about him.

One strand of Lutheranism in the United States dates to the colonial era, predating the founding of the Ministerium of North America (later renamed the German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States) in 1748.  Subsequent Lutheran history reveals the formation of offshoot synods and other synods, most of them defined by state lines or by regions.  One can also read of the formation of the federation (as opposed to denomination) called The Evangelical Lutheran General Synod of the United States of America in 1820 and of the continuing formation of synods, not all of which affiliated with the General Synod.  Lutheran history also tells of the defection of the synods comprising The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Confederate States of America in 1863, known as The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America from 1866 to 1886, when the addition of the Holston and Tennessee Synods created The United Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the South.  Furthermore, one can read of the split of the synods comprising the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America from the General Synod (1820) in 1867.

Frederick Hermann Knubel hailed from the Synod of New York and New Jersey, affiliated with the General Synod (1820).  Our saint, born in Greenwich Village, New York, New York, on May 22, 1870, grew up in a devout German Lutheran family.  He was the fourth child and first son of Frederick Knubel (a successful businessman) and Anna Knubel (Knubel), each of whom came from a different branch of the same family in Bremerhaven, Bremen, Germany.  Frederick the elder, a pillar of the church, was a trustee of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, just two blocks away from the family’s home.  Young Frederick, a second-generation American, grew up in a bilingual home.

Our saint planned originally to follow in his father’s footsteps, but changed his mind at the age of 19 years.  The vocation to ordained ministry led young Knubel away from the City College of New York and Packard’s Business College to Pennsylvania College (now Gettysburg College) then to the seminary, both in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  He spent six years in Gettysburg, starting in 1889.  The theological position of the seminary was a mild confessionalism that emphasized the catholic, not the exclusive, nature of Lutheranism.  That stance, which defined the General Synod, also marked Knubel’s theology subsequently.

The seminary graduate married in 1895 then spent a year with his wife in Leipzig, Germany.  Knubel married Christine Ritscher, of Jersey City, New Jersey, in June.  Our saint’s parents helped generously with finances as our saint studied theology at Leipzig University.  Decades later Knubel recalled,

When I left Gettysburg, I felt I had the answers.  But after a year at Leipzig I had a far deeper appreciation of the questions.

Back in the United States Knubel built up a new congregation.  He, ordained in New York City on October 17, 1896, became a mission developer for the Synod of New York and New Jersey.  From 1897 to 1918 he was pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement, a mission of St. John’s, Greenwich Village.  (Since 1927 the congregation has been Our Saviour’s Atonement Lutheran Church, due to a merger with the Church of Our Saviour.)  Atonement was Knubel’s only pastorate.  In 1907 it had about 1,000 baptized members, ranging from the rich to the poor.  A decade later that number had increased to about 3,500.  At Atonement Knubel demonstrated his support for the deaconess movement.  Deaconess Jennie Christ, who became our saint’s second wife decades later, arrived in the parish in 1903.

The Knubels had two children, both of whom spent their lives in Christian service.  Frederick Knubel Ritscher (1897-1957), a minister, served as a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation, Rochester, New York, from 1921 to 1944 then as the President of the Synod of New York and New England (in The United Lutheran Church in America) from 1945 to 1957.  Helen Knubel (1901-1992), who contracted polio at the age of 16 years and spent the rest of her life confined to a wheelchair, became the greatest Lutheran archivist in North America.

Our saint was an ecumenist.  He belonged to Koinonia, a group of Lutheran clergymen in New York City founded in 1896.  The members hailed from various synods–Missouri, Joint Ohio, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, and affiliates of the General Synod (1820) and the General Council (1867).  At each meeting a member presented a paper, which the group discussed.  Sometimes the ministers took communion, despite the policy of closed communion in some of the synods.  In January 1916 Knubel was a General Synod delegate to an American regional missionary conference related to the Faith and Order movement, a precursor of the World Council of Churches.  Some other U.S. Lutheran bodies, distrustful of unionism, boycotted the gathering, however.

1917 and 1918 were eventful years in U.S. Lutheranism.  1917 was the four hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  It was also the year the United States entered World War I.  That conflict stirred up intolerance domestically.  German Americans and other groups of foreign origin became suspect to many.  Danish, Swedish, German, and Norwegian Americans, among others, became targets of state laws that banned church services in foreign languages.  Vigilantes attacked churches of Christian Reformed, ethnic Lutheran, and other affiliations.  This period expedited the transition to the English language in more than one denomination.

The member synods of the General Synod were among the oldest of the U.S. Lutheran bodies, and were therefore more culturally assimilated than the two Danish-American synods, for example.  Nevertheless, even the General Synod Lutherans had to defend their American patriotism in 1917 and 1918.  Outside pressure on Lutherans from nativists, combined with the anniversary of the Reformation, spurred on inter-Lutheran ecumenism.  The National Lutheran Commission for Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Welfare formed on October 19, 1917; Knubel became its president.  Also, the Lutheran Brotherhood of America formed on November 6, 1917, and the National Lutheran Council came into being in September 1918.  In 1917 three Norwegian-American synods, which had already produced The Lutheran Hymnary (1913), reunited to constitute the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, later renamed the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Meanwhile, the reunion of the General Synod, the General Council, and the United Synod of the South, which had produced the Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church (1917), was proceeding according to schedule.

The United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA), a denomination, although not a relatively decentralized one, formed in New York City on November 14, 1918.  Knubel, who had served on the Deaconess Board and the Inner Mission Board of the General Synod (1820), became the first president of the new body.  He served a consecutive series of two-year terms until December 31, 1944.  Knubel presided over the consolidation of ULCA, formed with overlapping magazines, agencies, and synods.  He also shepherded ULCA through good times and bad times, from the Roaring Twenties through the Great Depression, and into World War II.

Knubel was an advocate of ecumenism.  He favored the Federal Council of Churches, a predecessor of the National Council of Churches.  He, a mildly Confessional Lutheran, laid the foundation for greater Lutheran unity as he led his denomination into dialogues with more conservative bodies, including the Missouri Synod and the 1930-1960 iteration of The American Lutheran Church.  They objected to, among other facts, ULCA’s rejection of Biblical inerrancy.  ULCA’s position was that the Bible is authoritative because it communicates the Word of God, defined as the saving message of God.  During World War II U.S. Lutheran denominations cooperated in providing pastoral care to German prisoners of war and increased their collaboration in domestic missions.  Knubel approved of this ecumenical activity.

On the personal front, Christine Ritscher Knubel, our saint’s wife since 1895, died in December 1923.  He married Deaconess Jennie Christ in 1925.  In 1944 Knubel, whose health was failing, did not seek another term as president.  The convention elected Franklin Clark Fry (1900-1968), to succeed him.  Knubel’s retirement was brief; he died on October 16, 1945.  His children and second wife survived him.

From the beginning of Knubel’s tenure to the end thereof, membership in ULCA had increased from 1.1 million to 1.7 million.

At Knubel’s funeral, held at Our Saviour’s Atonement Church, New York City, Fry said of his predecessor,

God gave our father a marvelous degree of wisdom….By his gracious Christian churchmanship, loving and shepherding men of various views, many a breach was prevented and many a wound never occurred.  This was what made our Church strong.  Indeed, it has gone far to make it possible….There need be no turning back for the United Lutheran Church, there can be a steady going forward into the future.  It will be a natural outgrowth of our late president’s judgment and his vision.

Frederick Hermann Knubel served God faithfully during his 75 years.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 22, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT SEAGRAVE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Frederick Hermann Knubel,

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), page 60

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