Archive for the ‘Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’ Tag

Feast of Samuel Hanson Cox and Arthur Cleveland Coxe (July 20)   2 comments


Above:  Library, New York University, 1904

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-det-4a11791



U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Abolitionist

father of


Episcopal Bishop of Western New York, Hymn Writer, and Translator of Hymns


Today I add a father and a son to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

Samuel Hanson Cox (1793-1880), born in Rahway, New Jesey, grew up a Quaker.  He renounced that denomination to serve in the United States armed forces during the War of 1812.  After that conflict Cox became a Presbyterian minister, serving at Mendham, New Jersey (1817-1821) then at the City of New York (1821-1834).  In 1932 he cofounded the University of the City of New York, now New York University, where he taught theology.  Cox’s opposition to slavery offended a sufficient number of people that a mob sacked his home and church building during the anti-abolitionist riots in 1834, forcing him to leave the city for safety.  So Cox became the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, not yet part of the City of New York.  He also began to teach Ecclesiastical History at the Union Theological Seminary in time.  Cox, a prominent New School Presbyterian, served as the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (New School) in 1849-1850.

[Historical Note:  The organizational roots of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1789-1838) went back to 1706, when The Church of Scotland founded the Presbytery of Philadelphia.  The PCUSA (1789-1838) divided over, among other things, the Second Great Awakening.  The Old School opposed it while the New School accommodated itself to the movement.  Just to confuse people, I suppose, each body which formed from the 1838 schism called itself simply the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.  The New School divided over slavery 1858, with the United Synod of the South forming.  The Old School split likewise in 1861, spawning the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America.  The PCCSA absorbed the United Synod of the South in 1864 and renamed itself the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) in 1865, after the Confederacy had ceased to exist.  The two PCUSAs reunited in 1869-1870 as the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (what else?).  This body merged with the United Presbyterian Church of North America in 1958 to create The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., which reunited with the almost entirely Southern PCUS in 1983 to form the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).]

Cox retired in 1854.  He died at Broxville, New York, in 1880.

Cox had two sons, both of whom became Episcopal clergymen and added “e” to the last name.  One son, Samuel Hanson Coxe, Jr., served parishes in the State of New York.  The other son, Arthur Cleveland Coxe, rose to the office of bishop.

Arthur Cleveland Coxe was born at Mendham, New Jersey, in 1818, during his father’s tenure as the Presbyterian minister there.  Coxe attended the University of the City of New York, which his father had cofounded.  Coxe published throughout his life, beginning with poetry during his freshman year of college.  He graduated in 1838 then matriculated at General Theological Seminary.  Coxe, ordained to the Diaconate in 1841 and the Priesthood the next year, served at St. John’s Church, Hartford, Connecticut, from 1842 to 1854; Grace Church, Baltimore, Maryland, from 1854 to 1863; and Calvary Episcopal Church, New York, New York, from 1863 to 1865.  In 1865 Coxe became the Bishop Coadjutor of Western New York, having already declined an opportunity to become the Bishop of Texas.  His tenure as Bishop Coadjutor lasted for just a few months, for the bishop died, making Coxe the next bishop, a post he held for the rest of his life.

Coxe published prose and poetry, including hymns.  He wrote the following text in 1850:

Saviour, sprinkle many nations,

Fruitful let Thy sorrows be;

By Thy pains and consolations

Draw the Gentiles unto Thee.

Of Thy cross, the wondrous story,

Be it to the nations told;

Let them see Thee in Thy glory

And Thy mercy manifold.


Far and wide, though all unknowing,

Pants for Thee each mortal breast;

Human tears for Thee are flowing,

Human hearts in Thee would rest.

Thirsting, as for dews of even,

As the new-mown grass for rain,

Thee they seek as God of heaven,

Thee as man for sinners slain.


Saviour, lo!  the isles are waiting,

Stretched the hand and stained the sight,

For Thy Spirit, new-creating,

Love’s pure flame and wisdom’s light;

Give the word, and of the preacher

Speed the foot and tough the tongue,

Till on earth by every creature

Glory to the Lamb be sung.

Coxe was a humble man, one who, until the last four years of his life, refused to let any of his hymns appear in official Episcopal hymnals, even though he served on the denominational Hymnal Commission.  Of Coxe Robert Guy McCutchan wrote the following:

Bishop Coxe was a man of unusual gifts:  great personal charm, wonderful eloquence, a scholar of distinction, and a poet whose master-motive was his love of Christ, his love of souls.

Our Hymnody:  A Manual of The Methodist Hymnal, 2d. ed.  (Nashville, TN:  Abingdon Press, 1937, pages 149-150)

Bishop Coxe spoke out on a variety of issues.  He opposed any translation of the Bible other than the Authorized (King James) Version. (I disagree with him on that point.  That translation is, for me, properly a museum piece.)  He also opposed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and defended the Apostolic nature of Anglican orders.  (I agree with him on both of those counts.)  But, regardless of how much I agree or disagree with Bishop Coxe, I honor him for his work for God.  And I honor his father’s efforts for God and the enslaved.






For Further Reading:

Samuel Hanson Cox:

Arthur Cleveland Coxe:


Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servants

Samuel Hanson Cox and Arthur Cleveland Coxe,

who were faithful in the care and nurture of your flock.

We pray that, following their examples and the teachings of their holy lives,

we may by your grace attain our full maturity in Christ,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

Feast of Milner Ball (April 6)   Leave a comment

Image Source = University of Georgia Law School Tribute Page

(Link located in this post)


Presbyterian Minister, Law Professor, Witness for Civil Rights, Humanitarian

From time to time one finds one’s self in the company of greatness.  The greatest of people are those who improve the lives of others, often facing scorn for part or much of their efforts.  Years and decades later, admirers speak of how courageous these great people were, but such high praise was scarce at the time.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1936, and educated in Georgia and Tennessee public schools, Milner Ball earned his A.B. degree from Princeton University and his Master of Divinity from Harvard University.  A man possessed of a keen intellect and deep Christian faith, he studied with Karl Barth and became a Presbyterian minister.  Lifelong concerns for social justice led Ball to support causes usually described as liberal.  In the 1960s, for example he was openly pro-civil rights.  After a stint as pastor in Manchester, Tennessee, he became the Presbyterian campus minister at The University of Georgia (UGA).  There his demonstrated belief in racial equality aroused much opposition at the recently (1962) integrated campus.  The last straw, however, came when Ball became a delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention, but not as a member of the Lester Maddox-approved delegation.  Ball, joined the Julian Bond-led delegation instead.

Ball, fired from his position, entered law school and commenced a career of public service via the law.  Graduating first in his class from the UGA Law School, Ball served as former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk’s representative to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1971 and 1972.  Then he taught law at Rutgers University from 1972 to 1978 before returning to UGA as a law professor.  He retired in 2006.

A prolific scholar, Ball wrote many law review articles and four books:  The Promise of American Law:  A Theological, Humanistic View of Legal Process (1981), Lying Down Together:  Law, Metaphor, and Theology (1985), The Word and the Law (1993), and Called by Stories:  Biblical Sagas and Their Challenge for Law (2000).  A specialist in environmental law, tribal law, constitutional law, and the intersection of theology and law, Ball challenged his students and readers to improve the lives of the less fortunate and to work for justice.  Law, he wrote, ought to be a force which transfigures society and builds up human community.

Ball’s work extended far beyond Athens, Georgia.  He taught overseas (in Argentina, France, Belgium, England, and Iceland) over the years and served as a judge on the International People’s Tribunal in Hawaii (1993).  Ball was also a member of the Theological Anthropology Project at the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton University.  And his influence continues through the careers of his law students.

Locally in Athens, Ball was instrumental in the Athens Justice Project, which, in the words of its website, “assists low income individuals with pending criminal charges in achieving a fair legal outcome and in becoming productive, law-abiding community members.”  Such work, truly a living memorial to Ball’s commitment to social justice, reflects his active belief in helping the disadvantaged and building up human community.  The Athens Justice Project was just one of Ball’s many community-building activities, with others including a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter.

Ball received many civil rights and public service honors.  It is appropriate then that the Working in the Public Interest (WIPI) Law Conference established the Milner S. Ball Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

Our love for our neighbors, Jesus said, must be active.  The obligation to love our neighbors as ourselves requires us to reach out to those who need the assistance we can offer.  Following our Lord in this way will cause us to cross lines some of our neighbors consider improper, for we human beings cling to social injustices which benefit us, if only psychologically.  But crossing these lines is part of God’s mandate upon our lives.  Jesus disregarded such barriers, as the canonical Gospels record.  He was (and is) the Master; a servant is not above his or her master.

Milner Ball followed his master faithfully.  He and I participated in the life of the same parish, crossing paths.  Knowing him, even casually, was a great honor.





For More Information:

UGA Law School Tribute Page


A collect and the readings for a Renewer of Society, according to Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), the hymnal and worship book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

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 Milner Ball, to work for justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name, 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