Archive for the ‘G. Bromley Oxnam’ Tag

Feast of Robert Guy McCutchan (September 12)   15 comments

Above:  Part of the Title Page of Our Hymnody (1937)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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ROBERT GUY MCCUTCHAN (SEPTEMBER 13, 1877-MAY 15, 1958)

U.S. Methodist Hymnal Editor and Hymn Tune Composer

Pseudonym = John Porter

Robert Guy McCutchan comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Methodist Hymnals of 1935 and 1966.

McCutchan was one of the great American hymnodists.  He made his mark in the field of hymnal companion volumes with Our Hymnody (1937), the companion to The Methodist Hymnal (1935).  This hymnal companion volume has earned its reputation as the first substantial work in its genre in the United States.  The book, at 619 pages long, indicated meticulous attention to details.  It may have been the most detailed and thoroughly researched hymnal companion volume in the United States until the companion to The Hymnal (1941) of the Evangelical and Reformed Church.   Armin Haeusslder’s The Story of Our Hymns (1952) was 1902 pages long.  Since then, the four-tome companion to The Hymnal 1982 (1985) of The Episcopal Church may have claimed the title of the most thorough hymnal companion. 

Carlton R. Young, writing in Companion to the Hymnal (1970), the mate of The Methodist Hymnal (1966), issued his evaluation of our saint:

McCutchan’s motto might well have been the first line of the hymn “Let all the world in every corner sing.”  He devoted himself to bringing hymns into men’s lives.

–605

McCutchan, born in Mount Ayr, Iowa, on September 13, 1877, spent his life in music.  He studied at Park College, Parkville, Missouri, then at Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa (B.M., 1904).  In 1904, our saint began to teach voice at Baker University, Baldwin College.  He also founded the conservatory at that institution of higher education.  After teaching music privately in Berlin and Paris in 1911, McCutchan returned to the United States.  He, the Dean of the School of Music (1911-1937) at DePauw University (1911-1937), served under future bishops Francis J. McConnell (1871-1953; President, 1909-1912) and G. Bromley Oxnam (1891-1963), President from 1928 to 1936.  McCutchan retired in 1937.

Above:  Part of the Title Page of The Methodist Hymnal (1905)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The time for Methodist hymnal revision had come around again.  Decades had passed since the publication of The Methodist Protestant Church Hymnal (1901) and The Methodist Hymnal (1905).  The hymnal of 1905 had been a joint project of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  Steps toward the new hymnal started in 1928.  In 1931, in the depths of the Great Depression, the three denominations cooperated on a joint hymnal.  That year, McCutchan also became the editor.

Above:  Part of the Title Page of The Methodist Hymnal (1935) Prior to the Merger of 1939

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

McCutchan had his bona fides.  He had collaborated on Better Music in Our Churches (1925) and Music in Worship (1927).  Our saint had also served as the music editor of the American Junior and Church School Hymnal (1928).  And he had written monographs and articles.  Furthermore, McCutchan had composed three hymn tunes (FOWLER, DEPAUW, and OXNAM) and two responses (“The Beatitudes of Our Lord” and “Thy Testimonies are Very Sure”), which he eventually included in The Methodist Hymnal (1935).

Above:  Part of the Title Page of The Methodist Hymnal (1935) After the Merger of 1939

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

McCutchan had a strong sense of propriety.  While serving as the hymnal editor, he composed three more hymn tunes (ALL THE WORLD, MASEFIELD, and TIPLADY) and another response (“O Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness).  These, included in The Methodist Hymnal (1935), bore the alleged name of the composer:  John Porter, born in 1877.  In Our Hymnody (1937), McCutchan wrote:

“John Porter” is the nom de plume if a hymn-writer who prefers to remain anonymous.

–32

Elsewhere, McCutchan explained:

It simply would not do for it to be known that the editor was their composer.

–Quoted in Carlton R. Young, Companion to the Hymnal (1970), 605

McCutchan also harmonized the hymn tune CAMPMEETING, found in The Methodist Hymnal (1966) and The United Methodist Hymnal (1989).

McCutchan’s subsequent publications included:

  1. Aldersgate, 1738-1938 (1938),
  2. Hymns in the Lives of Men (1945),
  3. Hymns of the American Frontier (1950), and
  4. Hymn Tune Names:  Their Sources and Significance (1957).

McCutchan, as a hymnologist, was ecumenical and down-to-earth.  He was a Methodist, of course, and he spent much time thinking about the realities of music in churches ranging from rural, wood-frame structures to Gothic buildings in urban settings.  His work entailed collecting many American hymnals and song books–more than a thousand at the time of this death.  He bequeathed that collection to the associated colleges at Claremont, California.  And McCutchan devoted much time to music in Adventist, Brethren, and Congregationalist churches, too.  He devoted his life to helping worshipers in churches sing great hymns.

McCutchan suffered from cancer during his final years.   His wit, according to his widow, 

came to his aid and those who cared for him through all the difficult days.

–Quoted in Young, Companion to the Hymnal (1970), 606

McCutchan, aged 80 years, died in Claremont, California, on May 15, 1958.  His first wife, Carrie, had predeceased him.

McCutchan spent his life well, in the service of God.  He spent that life in the field of hymnody. 

Hymns, being sung theology, have long been crucial to the faith of many Christians.  St. Paul the Apostle quoted a portion of a hymn in Philippians 2:6-11.  Many people have matched the words and tunes of hymns they have used to renew their faith.  And many have derived spiritual highs from wonderfully-composed and beautifully-performed descants.  McCutchan’s contribution to church music and his grasp of hymnody mattered greatly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF NAZARETH, HUSBAND OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

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Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially Robert Guy McCutchan)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

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

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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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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