Archive for the ‘Social Gospel’ Tag

Feast of Georgia Harkness (April 21)   1 comment

Above:  My Copy of Toward Understanding the Bible (1952)

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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GEORGIA ELMA HARKNESS (APRIL 21, 1891-AUGUST 21, 1974)

U.S. Methodist Minister, Theologian, Ethicist, and Hymn Writer

Georgia Harkness comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Toward Understanding the Bible (1952) and The Interpreter’s Bible (12 volumes, 1951f), in my library.

Georgia Elma Harkness was a pioneer for women in her Methodist tradition and in the mainstream of Christianity in the United States of America.  She, born in Harkness, New York, on April 21, 1891, was the fourth of four children of Joseph Warren Harkness and Lillie Merrill Harkness.  Our saint, from a progressive and upper middle class family, members of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939), perceived her vocation when an adolescent.  The institutional church had other ideas, however.

Sexism remained a barrier for Harkness, who had received a call to ordained ministry.  She, a graduate of Cornell University (B.A. in Philosophy, 1912), could not matriculate at any of the theological seminaries in the United States because of her chromosomes.  Had Georgia Elma Harkness been George Elmo Harkness, such institutional barriers would not have existed.  After teaching high school for six years, Harkness matriculated at Boston University.  Her gender kept her out of the School of Theology, so she went to the School of Religion instead.  She graduate with her doctorate in 1923.  Her dissertation was, “The Relations Between Philosophy of Religion and Ethics in the Thought of Thomas Hill Green.”

Harkness became an academic.  She taught religion and philosophy courses at Elmira College, Elmira, New York, a women’s college, from 1923 to 1938.  She continued her studies during summers.  Our saint was a summer student at Harvard Divinity School, Yale Divinity School, and Union Theological Seminary, New York City.  She was Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Mount Holyoke College from 1937 to 1940.  The Methodist Episcopal Church ordained Harkness a deacon in 1926 and an elder in 1939.  However, given that no female could yet join a conference, our saint could not yet function as an ordained minister.  Delegates to the Methodist reuniting conference (1939) voted on a resolution to approve the ordination of women.  The resolution failed by a few votes.  The Methodist Church (1939-1968) finally authorized the ordination of women at the General Conference of 1956.  In the meantime, however, Harkness did make history by becoming the first woman to hold the position of professor at a theological seminary in the United States.  She joined the faculty of Garrett Biblical Institute (a predecessor of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary), near Chicago, Illinois, in 1940.  Our saint taught Applied Theology there for a decade then transferred to the Pacific School of Religion, a Congregationalist seminary in Berkeley, California.  Harkness retired in 1960.

Harkness’s liberal tendencies were prominent.  She, a pacifist, wrote materials for the Methodist Board of World Peace.  Economic justice, a major concern of Hebrew prophets, was another priority for our saint.  Harkness, an ecumenist, was active in the World Council of Churches.  She wrote the hymn, “Hope of the World” (1953) for the WCC Assembly of 1954.  Harkness also supported civil rights for African Americans and confronted Karl Barth (1886-1968) to his face (at the first WCC Assembly, in 1948) over his opposition to feminism.

Harkness wrote other hymns, too.  “Hope of the World” has become her most popular hymn.  Other titles were:

  1. “The Earth Thou Givest, Lord, is Thine;”
  2. “Tell it!  Tell it Out with Gladness;”
  3. “Speak Through the Living Silence;”
  4. “Speak Thou, O Lord, Thy Light;” and
  5. “God of the Fertile Fields.”

Harkness also served as one of the Consulting Editors of The Interpreter’s Bible in the 1950s.

Harkness had a practical bent and wrote most often for general audiences.  She preferred to write books many people would read and find useful.  Her publications included the following:

  1. The Church and the Immigrant (1921),
  2. Holy Flame (1935),
  3. The Resources of Religion (1936),
  4. The Recovery of Ideals (1937),
  5. How to Find Prayer More Meaningful (1946),
  6. Prayer and the Common Life (1948),
  7. Conflicts in Religious Thought (1949),
  8. The Gospel and Our World (1949),
  9. Through Christ Our Lord:  A Devotional Manual Based on the Recorded Works of Jesus (1950),
  10. Toward Understanding the Bible (1952),
  11. Christian Ethics:  Emerging Social Trends and the Future of American Christianity (1952),
  12. Eschatology in the Great Poets (1952),
  13. The Sources of Western Culture:  From Primitive Society to the Beginnings of Christian Ethics (1954),
  14. Religious Living (1958),
  15. The Bible Speaks to Daily Needs (1959),
  16. Does God Care? (1960),
  17. The Providence of God (1960),
  18. John Calvin:  The Man and His Ethics (1963),
  19. The Glory of God:  Poems and Prayers for Devotional Use (1963),
  20. The Methodist Church in Social Thought and Action (1964),
  21. The Dark Night of the Soul (1965),
  22. Disciplines of the Christian Life (1967),
  23. A Devotional Treasure from the Early Church (1968),
  24. Grace Abounding (1969),
  25. The Ministry of Reconciliation (1971),
  26. Women in Church and Society:  A Historical and Theological Inquiry (1972), and
  27. Understanding the Kingdom of God (1974).

For the sake of clarity, I make clear what Harkness meant by “liberal” and “liberalism” before I continue.  She described herself as a “chastened liberal,” standing between the overly optimistic Social Gospel of Walter Rauschenbush (1861-1918) and the Neo-orthodoxy of Karl Barth, Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) and H. Richard Niebuhr (1894-1962).  Harkness, writing in Toward Understanding the Bible (1952), noted the common ground between liberalism and Neo-orthodoxy (acceptance of science, rejection of fundamentalism, et cetera) then argued that the difference was one of emphasis.  She wrote that Neo-orthodoxy emphasized human weakness and sinfulness but that liberal Christianity emphasized that

man is made in the spiritual image of God, and, as God’s supreme creation, is a living soul with a great, God-given responsibility to honor and obey him.

–124

Consistent with Harkness’s stance vis-à-vis Neo-orthodoxy, she stood with the Eastern Orthodox by rejecting original sin.  She told The Christian Century, regarding original sin,

The faster it goes, the better.

Yet Harkness, like Reinhold Niebuhr, recognized the power of sin in people and in social institutions.

By theological position, by the way, is Neo-orthodoxy.   I also describe myself as a theological, social, and political liberal.  I use “liberal” more broadly than Harkness did.

Harkness, 83 years old, died in Claremont, California, on August 21, 1974.

Engaging with writings of Georgia Harkness will provide one with much food for ethical and theological thoughts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 5, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL RAHNER, JESUIT PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF AMBROSE PHILLIPPS DE LISLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CONVERT, SPIRITUAL WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF SPIRITUAL WRITINGS; FOUNDER OF MOUNT SAINT BERNARD ABBEY

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER MACASSOLI OF VIGEGANO, FRANCSICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUSEBIUS OF CREMONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ION COSTIST, FRANCISCAN LAY BROTHER

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Georgia Harkness,

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 Orange Scott (February 6)   Leave a comment

Above:  Wesleyan Chapel, Seneca Falls, New York, Site of the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848

Image in the Public Domain

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ORANGE SCOTT (FEBRUARY 13, 1800-JULY 31, 1847)

U.S. Methodist Minister, Abolitionist, and first President of the Wesleyan Methodist Connection

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Ye are the salt of the earth:  but if the salt have lost his savour, wherefore shall it be salted?

–Matthew 5:13a, Authorised Version

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One, acting on faith, may retreat from the world, giving up hope of transforming it for the better.  Alternatively, one acting on faith, may act in revolutionary ways that improve one’s society.  One may think of the world as the camp of Satan, therefore, give up on it.  A better attitude is to think of the world as one’s neighborhood, for which one is partially responsible.

Orange Scott acted in revolutionary ways to improve his proverbial neighborhood.

Scott, from a poor family and lacking much formal education, became a prominent abolitionist.  He, born in Brookfield, Vermont, on February 13, 1800, began working full-time at the age of 12 years.  After his conversion experience at a camp meeting in 1820, our saint joined the Methodist Episcopal Church.  Within a year, the Church had licensed Scott to preach.  He traveled the Bernard Circuit (200 miles long with 30 stations) on feet and a horse.  He, admitted to the New England Conference in 1822, became a Presiding Elder (in today’s terms, District Superintendent) in 1830.  At first, Scott was the Presiding Elder of the Springfield District.  By 1834, however, he served in that capacity in the Providence District.  Our saint, an effective evangelist, expanded his work from saving souls to reforming society.  He, a delegate to the General Conferences of 1832, 1836, and 1840, became an abolitionist in the early 1830s.  Despite warnings to be quiet, he remained vocal.  Scott paid the price by losing his Presiding Eldership after speaking out at the General Conference of 1836.

Scott’s final years in the Methodist Episcopal Church were difficult for him.  He was a pastor in Lowell, Massachusetts, for a year (1836-1837) before spending two years as a traveling agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society.  He, back in the pulpit in 1839, spoke out against slavery again at the General Conference of 1840.  His experience at that gathering convinced him to leave the denomination, which he did on November 8, 1842.  The Wesleyan Methodist Connection organized at Utica, New York, on May 31, 1843.

Scott was active in the new denomination.  He served as its first president (1843-1844) then as its book agent (1844-1847).  Our saint worked himself to death, though.  Scott, aged 47 years, died in Newark, New Jersey, on July 31, 1847.

The Wesleyan Methodist Connection, a predecessor of The Wesleyan Church (formed via merger in 1968), was radical during its earliest decades.  The Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York, hosted the Seneca Falls Convention (1848), about women’s rights.  The denomination attracted social revolutionaries, including feminists (especially suffragettes), temperance activists, pacifists, and abolitionists.  Many Wesleyan Methodist churches were stations of the Underground Railroad.  Early Wesleyan Methodists tended to act on the belief that they could improve society.

As time passed, however, the torch of change passed to the mainline churches, which embraced the Social Gospel then the more sober-minded Neo-orthodoxy.  Wesleyan Methodists opposed these movements, as well as higher Biblical criticism and science; they became fundamentalists preoccupied with personal holiness.  This transition was part of what scholars of religion in the United States call the Great Reversal.

Scott understood the truth, though.  He knew that saving souls was not at odds with being salt and light in the world.  He grasped the importance of leaving the world better than one found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 12, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK J. MURPHY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCISCUS CH’OE KYONG-HWAN, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR, 1839; SAINTS LAWRENCE MARY JOSEPH IMBERT, PIERRE PHILIBERT MAUBANT, AND JACQUES HONORÉ CHASTÁN, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS, MISSIONARIES TO KOREA, AND MARTYRS, 1839; SAINT PAUL CHONG HASANG, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN, AND MARTYR, 1839; AND SAINTS CECILIA YU SOSA AND JUNG HYE, KOREAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MARYTRS, 1839

THE FEAST OF KASPAR BIENEMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOSIAH IRONS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS DAUGHTER, GENEVIEVE MARY IRONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC HYMN WRITER

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Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church.

Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace.

Where it is corrupt, purify it;

where it is in error, direct it;

where in anything it is amiss, reform it.

Where it is is right, strengthen it;

where it is in want, provide for it;

where it is divided, reunite it;

for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior,

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

Ezekiel 34:1-6, 20-22

Psalm 12:1-7

Acts 22:30-23:10

Matthew 21:12-16

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 735

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Feast of A. J. Muste (January 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  A. J. Muste

Image in the Public Domain

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ABRAHAM JOHANNES MUSTE (JANUARY 8, 1885-FEBRUARY 11, 1967)

Dutch-American Minister, Labor Activist, and Pacifist

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Only the nonviolent can apply therapy to the violent.

–A. J. Muste

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A. J. Muste 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).

Muste changed his mind on major points more than once, each time sending his life in a different direction.

Our saint, born in Zierkzee, The Netherlands, on January 8, 1885, to Martin and Adriana Muste, came from a Dutch Reformed family.  He, his parents, and his siblings, seeking economic opportunity, emigrated in 1891.  They settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, joined the Dutch Reformed Church there, and naturalized in 1896.  The working-class congregation that shaped Muste was quite conservative–diehard Republican and puritanical.  Dancing, attending plays, and listening to secular music were allegedly sinful.

Muste, intelligent, was a fine student.  He, the valedictorian of Hope College in 1905, taught Greek and Latin at Northwestern Classical Academy (now called Northwestern College), Orange City, Iowa.  Then our saint studied at New Brunswick Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, New Jersey, from 1906 to 1909.  After ordination into the ministry of the Reformed Church in America (1909), Muste married Anna Huizenga before the end of the year.  The couple raised three children.

Muste liberalized significantly during 1909-1914, his tenure as pastor of Fort Washington Collegiate Church, Washington Heights, New York, New York.  He questioned the religious strictness of his youth, accepted the Social Gospel, and earned a degree from Union Theological Seminary.  Muste had changed so much in 1912 that he cast his vote for Eugene Victor Debs, nominee of the Socialist Party, in the presidential election of 1912.

Muste was theologically honest.  By 1914 he no longer accepted the Westminster Confession of Faith, so he resigned his pastorate.  Our saint served as the pastor of Central Congregational Church, Newtonville, Massachusetts, for about three years.  (Muste succeeded Jay Thomas Stocking in that role.  Stocking’s immediate predecessor was Ozora Stearns Davis, who served in 1900-1904.)  Muste, a pacifist, founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1915.  In 1917, after the United States entered World War I, Muste resigned his pastorate under pressure.  Our saint volunteered for the Civil Liberties Bureau (a precursor of the American Civil Liberties Union) in Boston, in 1918.  He defended draft resisters.  Later that year, in Providence, Rhode Island, our saint joined the Quakers.

Muste became a labor union activist in 1919 and remained active in the cause for the rest of his life.  For sixteen weeks that year, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, workers went on strike.  They had a just cause; they worked 54-hour-long work weeks for $0.20 an hour.  (That amount, adjusted to inflation and keyed to the Consumer Price Index for 2018, the most recent year I can adjust amounts for inflation, is $2.90.)  Police spies tried to goad workers into committing violence, but Muste encouraged striking workers not to resort to violence.  Police beat him and incarcerated our saint for a week, though.  Later that year, Muste helped to found the Amalgamated Textile Workers of America.  He served as the secretary until 1921.

Muste became a radical–a Marxist-Leninist, even, for a time.  He, the president (1921-1933) of Brookwood Labor College, Katonah, New York, left the American Federation of Labor in 1929.  Our saint helped to found the Conference for Progressive Labor Action.  He also worked to build a labor third party, culminating in the Workers Party of the United States (1934-1936).

Muste changed direction again in 1936.  He left Marxism-Leninism behind and became a minister in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A..  Our saint’s writings, starting in 1936, were clear; the proper revolutionary force was Christianity.  From 1937 to 1940, he was the director of the (Presbyterian) Labor Temple, a mission of the Presbytery of New York to working men of New York City.  Our saint, the Executive Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation from 1940 to 1953), mentored Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), who taught nonviolent resistance tactics to Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968).  Muste’s obvious opposition to Marxism-Leninism, starting in 1936, did not spare him from allegations during the 1950s of being a communist.  He was certainly a consistent pacifist, opposing wars, whether declared or “police actions.”  Muste also spoke out against racism at home and abroad.  Furthermore, he insisted that good housing and proper, affordable health care were human rights.  Those views were sufficient to prompt much criticism of him.

Muste died in New York, New York, on February 11, 1967.  He was 82 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 1, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

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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

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Frank Mason North (December 17)   1 comment

Above:  Frank Mason North

Image in the Public Domain

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FRANK MASON NORTH (DECEMBER 3, 1850-DECEMBER 17, 1935)

U.S. Methodist Minister, Social Reformer, and Hymn Writer

The best of the liberal strain of Christianity has fought for humanitarian causes, including decent standards for low-income housing, workplace safety, and the abolition of slavery and child labor.  From that tradition came Frank Mason North, who understood that morality had to do with much more than personal peccadilloes, and that the Golden Rule applied to societies as well as to individuals.

North, who became a leading advocate of the Social Gospel and Christian Socialism, was a son of Charles Carter North and Elizabeth Mason (North).  Our saint, born in Madison, New Jersey, on December 3, 1850, graduated from Wesleyan University (B.A., 1872; M.A., 1875) and became a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939).  Through 1892 he served as a pastor, serving in Florida, New York, and Connecticut.

North worked beyond the parish level, starting in 1892.  He was an urban missionary headquartered in New York City, through whose harbor immigrants entered the country.  Social concerns, such as urban poverty, mattered much to our saint, also; he was active in the labor movement and the movement to end child labor.  As the Corresponding Secretary of the New York Church Extension and Missionary Society, he also edited the Christian City and helped to draft the Social Creed of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1908).  North was also a founder of the Methodist Federation for Social Service (1907).  Then, in 1912, North made the turn toward foreign missions.  He went to work for the denominational Board of Missions in 1912.  Later, starting in 1919, our saint served as the Secretary of the denominational Board of Foreign Missions.  This work led to him serving on the International Mission Council from 1921 to 1928.  Furthermore, North served on the Methodist Committee on Unification (1920-1928), ahead of the three-way reunion in 1939.

North was also an ecumenist.  He helped to found the Federal Council of Churches (1908) then served as its President (1916-1920).

North married twice.  His first wife was Frances L. “Fannie” Stewart (1848-1878).  The couple had two sons:  Adolphus Stewart (1875-1913) and Mason Longacre North (1877-1878).  North’s second wife was Louise J. McCoy, whom he married in 1885.

North, aged 85 years, died on December 17, 1935.

North’s reputation seems to rest primarily on one hymn, “Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life” (1903).  He wrote at least seven more hymns:

  1. O Master of the Waking World” (1928), a socially-conscious missionary hymn;
  2. Jesus, the Calm that Fills My Breast;”
  3. O Christ, My Lord, Whose Perfect Life;”
  4. The World’s Astir; the Clouds of Storm;”
  5. Thou Lord of Light, Across the Years;”
  6. Touch Thou, O Lord, the Century’s Crest;” and
  7. “Where Lies our Path, We Seek to Know.”

More of our saint’s hymns should become more popular.

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God of compassion and the Incarnation, we thank you for the life, work, and legacy of Frank Mason North,

who understood the importance of domestic and foreign missions, of ecumenism, and of social justice.

We also thank you for his enduring legacy of hymnody as we recognize the continued relevance of his texts.

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

Leviticus 19:1-16

Psalm 100

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

Matthew 28:16-28

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2019 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBERO AND ULRIC OF AUGSBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN AND PEACEMAKER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC SERVANT OF THE POOR AND OPPONENT OF FASCISM

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Feast of William Scarlett (October 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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WILLIAM SCARLETT (OCTOBER 3, 1883-MARCH 28, 1973)

Episcopal Bishop of Missouri, and Advocate for Social Justice

Bishop William Scartlett comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Interpreter’s Bible.

Scarlett, born in Columbus, Ohio, on October 3, 1883, grew up to become a courageous, progressive Christian leader on the vanguard of various moral causes.  He was what certain cynical reactionaries of 2018 would have called a “social justice warrior.”  So were Hebrew prophets.  Our saint, influenced at an early age by Washington Gladden (1836-1918) and Walter Rauschenbush (1861-1918), proponents of the Social Gospel, graduated from Harvard University with his A.B. degree in 1905.  Scarlett, unsure about whether to study for ministry or medicine, worked on a ranch in Nebraska for a year.  He matriculated at the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1906, and graduated three years later.  Our saint, spent the rest of his life in ordained ministry marked by a dedication to social justice dictated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Scarlett cared deeply by outreach to the poor, the rights of industrial workers, civil rights, and other issues germane to human relations.  He was, in order:

  1. Assistant Rector, St. George’s Episcopal Church, New York, New York (1909-1911);
  2. Dean, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Phoenix, Arizona (1911-1922);
  3. Dean, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, Missouri (1922-1930);
  4. Bishop Coadjutor of Missouri (1930-1933); and
  5. Bishop of Missouri (1933-1952).

Friend Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) described our saint as

the conscience of the community.

Scarlett was on the avant-garde of The Episcopal Church with regard to social ethics.  He advocated for the liberalization of the denomination’s stance on remarriage after divorce.  In 1946 our saint edited Christianity Takes a Stand, in which various authors took a stand against societal sins such as racial segregation and the federal government’s recent internment of West Coast Japanese Americans.  Although the House of Deputies, at the General Convention of 1946, consented without debate to sponsor the publication of the book, the majority of Episcopalians were not ready to espouse those positions yet.

Scarlett, a Low Church Episcopalian and self-described Liberal Evangelical who wore a tie in lieu of a clerical collar, was a natural ecumenist.  He cooperated with members of other Christian denominations as easily as he did with Jews.  At Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, our saint scandalized many Anglo-Catholics by encouraging interdenominational Eucharists.  He also scrapped plans for a new Episcopal hospital in the city when he learned of a similar Presbyterian plan.  The result was cooperation, not competition, in the form of St. Luke’s Episcopal-Presbyterian Hospital.  He also favored the merger of The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in the 1940s.  The proposal did not survive the late 1940s.  It would probably have been impractical anyway.

(Aside:  I mean no disrespect to any Presbyterians, but the denominational cultures and certain theological-liturgical factors are too different for merger to be practical.  I suppose that many Presbyterians agree with that assessment.  Cooperation of many issues is feasible and desirable, however.)

Scarlett retired in late 1952.  His successor as Bishop of Missouri was Arthur Carl Lichtenberger (1900-1968), later the Presiding Bishop of the denomination.

In retirement Scarlett wrote the exposition on the Book of Jonah for The Interpreter’s Bible.  He wrote, in part:

If God has a controversy with his people, it is because there has been in our world too little concern for our brother, too little recognition that his fate is bound up in ours, and ours in his, even to the least, too much forgetting that word of old, “We are members of one another” (Eph. 4:25) and if one member suffers, “all the members suffer with it” (I Cor. 12:26).  A plain fact of the nineteen-thirties is that Hitler climbed to power on the backs of the unemployed in Germany, and it was this frustration, this sense of uselessness, in millions of lives that made his way easy.

The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (1956), 877

That is a chilling text in 2018.

The resurgence of fascism and of authoritarianism in general has been current reality in the world, from the Philippines to Europe to Brazil to Turkey to Europe for a few years now.  Many of the enablers of fascist and other authoritarian leaders have been professing Christians.  The call to “Make America Great Again” has echoed pre-World War II movements to make Italy and Germany great again.  The rhetoric of “America First,” originated before World War II in an openly anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi movement to keep the United States out of that war, has returned, still with racist overtones.  Calls for U.S. society and government to practice the Golden Rule have become subversive as many professing Christians have chosen to ignore the demands of that great commandment and embraced xenophobia and nativism, largely out of fear.

I encourage you, O reader, to read Scarlett’s exposition on the Book of Jonah and to oppose–resist–the deplorable resurgence of fascism and of authoritarianism in general.

Scarlett, aged 89 years, died in Castine, Maine, on March 28, 1973.  His wife, Leah Oliver Van Riper (b. 1889), had predeceased him in 1965.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF ALBERTO RAMENTO, PRIME BISHOP OF THE PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERARD OF BROGNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, U.S. METHODIST LAY EVANGELIST, AND ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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

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

Help us, like your servant William Scarlett, 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 Lynn Harold Hough (September 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Lynn Harold Hough

Image Source =  Drew University Library

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LYNN HAROLD HOUGH (SEPTEMBER 10, 1877-JULY 14, 1971)

U.S. Methodist Minister, Theologian, and Biblical Scholar

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Once more we are reminded that only God is to be met with a bended knee.  Even the high must not be given the place of the highest–even the good must not be given the place of the best.  The tragedy of mistaken loyalties is one of the greatest tragedies of the world.  Too late Wolsey realized that he had given to his king, Henry VIII, what belonged only to God.

–Dr. Hough’s exposition on Revelation 22:9, in The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 12 (1957), 545

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Lynn Harold Hough, with his Roman collar, Charlie Chaplin mustache, and keen intellect, comes to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via Volume 12 (1957) of The Interpreter’s Bible.

Hough owed much to Eunice Richey Giles (1856-June 3, 1937), his devoted, single mother.  She had married Franklin M. Hough, father of our saint.  The marriage had ended in divorce in 1877, and Eunice had moved back home, to Cadiz, Ohio, when she gave birth to her only child, Lynn Harold Hough, on September 10, 1877.  Eunice, a devout Methodist, raised her son in the faith.  She also worked hard to provide him with the best education possible.  In 1898 he graduated (with his B.A.) from Scio College, Scio, Ohio, where his mother worked as a cook.  Hough, ordained a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939), served in churches in New Jersey, New York, and Maryland from 1898 to 1914.  He also became the head of the household, which included his mother until 1936, when he married.

Above:  Drew Theological Seminary

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Matthew Simpson, ed., Cyclopedia of Methodism, Embracing Its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition, with Biographical Notices, 6h ed. (1876), 315

Hough continued his education, graduating from Drew Theological Seminary (now Drew Theological School, Drew University), Madison, New Jersey, with his B.D. in 1905.

Above:  Garrett Biblical Institute

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Matthew Simpson, ed., Cyclopedia of Methodism, Embracing Its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition, with Biographical Notices, 6h ed. (1876), 389

Our saint, from 1914 to 1918 Professor of Historical Theology at Garrett Biblical Institute (now Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary), Evanston, Illinois, graduated from that institution with his D.Th. in 1918.  Our saint, from 1919 to 1920 the President of Northwestern University, host of Garrett Biblical Institute, established the graduate division of the university’s School of Commerce and laid the foundations, metaphorically speaking, for subsequent improvements at the university.  He resigned for health reasons.

Above:  Central Methodist Episcopal Church, Detroit, Michigan

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Matthew Simpson, ed., Cyclopedia of Methodism, Embracing Its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition, with Biographical Notices, 6h ed. (1876), 294

Hough returned to parish work for the period of 1920-1930.  For eight years (1920-1928) Hough served as the pastor of Central Methodist Episcopal Church (now Central United Methodist Church), Detroit, Michigan.  Our saint was, the “preacher to the intelligentsia,” according to his contemporary, Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), pastor of Bethel Evangelical Church, Detroit, from 1915 to 1928, and a fellow anti-Ku Klux Klan activist.  The outspoken Hough was not shy about expressing his opinions and opposing bigotry.  Our saint stated that the United States should have joined the League of Nations.  He condemned the Daughters of the American Revolution for being critical of Jane Addams (1860-1935).   In 1923 our saint described the second Ku Klux Klan as

the most diabolical organization this nation ever saw.

(That unequivocal statement was quite different from Donald Trump’s statement about the alleged presence of “very fine people” on both sides in he context of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.  That statement’s most avid fans were white supremacists.  This pattern of giving aid and comfort to unapologetic bigots has not surprised me, given Trump’s public statements and over the years, as well as many of his policies, to the present day.  Nativism, xenophobia, and white nationalism have been present in him for a long time.There were no “very fine people” in the Ku Klux Klan, according to our saint.  In 1925 years later Hough’s assertion that Evolution and the Bible were mutually compatible nearly prompted a heresy trial.  Hough was usually a delegate to the denomination’s General Conference, which met every four years, but he was not a delegate in 1928.  The reason for Hough not being a delegate that year was the backlash against his article, “Why Not a Catholic President?” (Plain Talk magazine, 1927).  The article did lead, however, to an honorary degree from the University of Detroit (Roman Catholic).  Of the eleven honorary degrees Hough received, he was proudest of that one.  From 1928 to 1930 Hough was the pastor of the American Presbyterian Church (amalgamated into the Erskine and American United Church, extant 1934-2011; now amalgamated into the Mountainside United Church), Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  During that time he also doubled as the President of the Religious Education Council of Canada.

Hough was active in many organizations, including the Federal Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, the Society for Biblical Literature, the Masonic Lodge, the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939), The Methodist Church (1939-1968), and The United Methodist Church (1968-).  Furthermore, he traveled across the United States and the world, preaching at prominent churches and, in 1934, addressing the League of Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, on “The Church and Civilization.”

Hough returned to academia for good in 1930.  At Drew Theological Seminary he was Professor of Homiletics (1930-1933), Professor of Homiletics and Comprehensive Scholarship (1933-1937), Professor of Homiletics and Christian Criticism of Life (1937-1947), and Dean (1934-1947).  Our saint, a well-read Anglophile with an expansive vocabulary, as well as a firm grasp of history and literature, founded the Department of Christian Humanism at Drew.  He retired in 1947.

Hough, like any properly functioning human being, changed his mind as time passed.  He, a pacifist, initially opposed U.S. entry into World War II.  Our saint was not naïve, though; he recognized the necessity of Allied victory, for the sake of civilization.  Hough, with his customary tolerance, supported the causes of conscientious objectors while supporting the war effort and ministering to military personnel.  He remained committed to peace as he adjusted to reality.  Hough’s theology also changed.  He settled into what he called a “new orthodoxy” more liberal than Fundamentalism, more conservative than Modernism, and distinct from the Social Gospel and Neo-Orthodoxy.  The Social Gospel, Hough argued correctly, was utopian, therefore not realistic.  Neo-Orthodoxy, he insisted, went too far by emphasizing the human inability to arrive at Christian faith.

I reject Hough’s critique of Neo-Orthodoxy.

Hough, being a staunch Methodist–a thoroughgoing Methodist, not a Baptist masquerading as one, per the old joke that a Methodist is a Baptist who can read–placed a high premium on the power of human free will.  He came very close to putting the Pelagianism in Semi-Pelagianism.  Karl Barth (1886-1968) and Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), leading Neo-Orthodox theologians, had Reformed backgrounds, however.  Barth, a minister in the Swiss and Reformed Church, emphasized divine actions, not human ones.  Niebuhr, a minister in the Prussian Evangelical (Lutheran-Reformed) tradition, rejected the Social Gospel as placing too little stress on sin and assuming too much human agency.  He emphasized original sin, which he redefined beyond an individual focus to have a strong societal, institutional component.  Barth was probably more optimistic than the sometimes grimly realistic Niebuhr.  Original sin, having corrupted human nature, institutions, and societies, severely hampered one’s ability to act morally, even when one was trying very hard to do so, Niebuhr taught.  My reading of Barth and Niebuhr has convinced me that they were mostly correct.

I am, by the way, an Anglican-Lutheran Single Predestinarian, so my theology makes room for free will to have a role in salvation for those not predestined to Heaven.  My critique of Hough is that he placed too much emphasis on free will.  I hold that nobody finds God, but that God finds people.  Via free will those not destined to Heaven may obey the invitation of the Holy Spirit and say “yes” to God, and therefore find salvation and eternal life, in the Johannine sense of eternal life, which is knowing God via Jesus.

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Hough wrote prolifically.  His catalog included 35 books (about one a year for a while) and many articles.  In retirement he, a visiting professor at various elite institutions off-an-on, wrote for The Interpreter’s Bible in the 1950s.  He wrote the exposition on the Book of Revelation in Volume 12 (of 12), published in 1957.  (I quoted a portion of that exposition at the beginning of this post.)

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Hough also wrote “The Message of the Book of Revelation,” spanning pages 551-613 of Volume 12.

Hough, a Victorian in terms of morality, resided with his Eunice, mother (or rather, she lived with him) until 1936, when, at the age of 58 or 59, he married.  Our saint’s wife was Blanche Horton Trowbridge, a 57-year-old widow of a Congregationalist minister.  She had also been a missionary in Turkey then Egypt for a quarter of a century.  Sadly, Eunice Hough, who had devoted her life to her only child, died in New York City on June 3, 1937, after an automotive accident.  She was about 81 years old.  The Houghs died less than a year apart; the cause of death in both cases was heart attack.  Blanche, aged about 92 years, died on August 3, 1970.  Lynn, aged 93 years, died on July 14, 1971.

One might justifiably ask why Hough, one of the most famous preachers of his time, has fallen into obscurity.

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I also composed the collect and selected the passages of scripture.

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Compassionate God, you have created us in your image and endowed us with intellect.

We thank you for your servant Lynn Harold Hough,

who loved you with all his heart, mind, and strength, and who loved his neighbors as he loved himself.

May we likewise recognize your presence in history, literature, and each other,

as well as employ our intellects fully, as we confront forms of bigotry;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who,

stretching his arms on the hard word of the cross beckoned all the world to himself.

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

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-15

Psalm 1

Philippians 2:1-11

Matthew 7:24-27

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK AND MISSIONARY TO THE ALEUT

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY SUMNER, FOUNDRESS OF THE MOTHERS’ UNION

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Feast of Walter Rauschenbusch (July 24)   4 comments

Above:  Walter Rauschenbusch

Image in the Public Domain

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WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH (OCTOBER 4, 1861-JULY 25, 1918)

U.S. Baptist Theologian of the Social Gospel

Episcopal feast day (since 2009) = July 2

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To concentrate our efforts on personal salvation, as orthodoxy has done, comes close to refined selfishness.

–Walter Rauschenbusch, Christianizing the Social Order (1912)

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God commands us to care actively for the poor.  Moses understood this, as did Hebrew prophets, Jesus of Nazareth, and Walter Rauschenbusch.  “Us” is plural and, in this case, includes religious institutions.

Walter Rauschenbusch, born in Rochester, New York, on October 4, 1861, shifted from his conservative upbringing.  His father, Karl August Rauschenbusch, and his mother, Caroline Rhomps Rauschenbusch, were German immigrants.  Karl had arrived in the United States as a pietistic Lutheran missionary.  He became a Baptist eventually and, from 1858 to 1890, taught at Rochester Theological Seminary, Rochester, New York, specializing in Anabaptist history.  Unfortunately, the Rauschenbusch marriage was unhealthy, filled with verbal abuse from Karl.

Our saint grew up a conservative, individualistic Baptist, mostly in Rochester.  He spent 1865-1869 in Germany, and the summers of 1869-1879 working on a farm in Pennsylvania, however.  In 1879 Rauschenbusch reported a conversion experience and made a profession of faith.  For the next four years he studied in Westphalia (and briefly in Berlin), graduating with honors in classical studies, having become expert in German, Hebrew, French, Greek, and Latin.  Rauschenbusch returned to Rochester in 1883, to prepare for ordained ministry.  He graduated from the seminary’s German department in 1885 and from the seminary the following year.

In 1886, however, Rauschenbusch, influenced by critical scholarship, had begun to question the orthodoxy of his youth.  His time as pastor of Second German Baptist Church, in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York City, led our saint further to the left.  Rauschenbusch, confronted by crime, poverty, unemployment, disease, and malnutrition, first addressed those problems with warm-hearted and individualistic pietism, which he came to conclude was insufficient.  The crucible of Hell’s Kitchen led Rauschenbusch to reject the distinction between social work and “Christian work” favored by many on the Right then, as now.  In Rauschenbusch’s mind the bridge between social work and “Christian work” was the Kingdom of God, which he defined as the “reign of love.”  The church, he argued, is “the social factor in salvation.”

Rauschenbusch, who went deaf in 1888, left his parish in 1891.  For the next few years he traveled in Europe, studying Fabian Socialism in England and the New Testament in Germany.  He came to identify as an “evangelical liberal.”  Our saint, back in New York City, married teacher Pauline E. Rother of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The couple had five children.

In 1897 Rauschenbusch joined the faculty of Rochester Theological Seminary, teaching New Testament interpretation in the German department as well as civics and natural sciences in the college.  He became the Professor of Church History five years later.  Rauschenbusch was obscure when we went overseas on a sabbatical in 1907.  When he returned, however, he was famous, for Christianity and the Social Crisis (1907) had sold well, going into six editions in two years.  Rauschenbusch fit in well with the Progressive Era.

Rauschenbusch, not a dogmatic theologian, was a practical one instead.  He, influenced by Frederick Denison Maurice and Charles Kingsley, pondered institutional and societal sins more than individual ones.  Therefore Rauschenbusch emphasized the need for societal and institutional revolution–the spirit of Christ transforming all human affairs–while recognizing economics as part of the Kingdom of God, or “the reign of love.”  For our saint war was inconsistent with the Kingdom of God, Christianity, and human progress.

Rauschenbusch’s theology was optimistic.  In this respect it was a product of its time, La Belle Époque, destroyed by World War I.  His theology had much to recommend it, as subsequent critics Reinhold Niebuhr and H. Richard Niebuhr noted while disagreeing with its optimism.  Rauschenbusch, who published his Taylor Lectures at Yale University as A Theology of the Social Gospel (1917), lived long enough to witness the Great War and grieve over it.  He died of cancer at Rochester on July 25, 1918.  Rauschenbusch was 56 years old.

The Neo-orthodox critique of Rauschenbusch’s theology is correct; only God can usher in the Kingdom of God.  Nevertheless, one can learn much of value from our saint, for institutionalized sin does exist, and individual good deeds are insufficient to correct it.  We need for Christ to transform culture, as Rauschenbusch and H. Richard Niebuhr agreed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY; AND HIS SON, WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY; HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET AND RELIGIOUS WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICHT AND LIEGE, AND FLORBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND SAINTS OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

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Almighty God, whose prophets taught us righteousness in the care of your poor:

By the guidance of your Holy Spirit, grant that we may do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in your sight;

through Jesus Christ, our Judge and Redeemer, who lives and reigns

with you and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 55:11-56:1

Psalm 2:1-2, 10-12

Acts 14:14-17, 21-23

Mark 4:21-29

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 736

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Feast of Reinhold, Ursula, Hulda, and H. Richard Niebuhr (July 5)   15 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 Washington Gladden (July 2)   2 comments

Above:  Theodore Roosevelt and Washington Gladden at Columbus, Ohio, 1900

Image Creator = Bain News Service

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-06699

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WASHINGTON GLADDEN (FEBRUARY 11, 1836-JULY 2, 1918)

U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Hymn Writer, and Social Reformer

In 2009 The Episcopal Church added Washington Gladden to its calendar of saints, with a feast day of July 2, shared with Walter Rauschenbusch and Jacob Riis.  However, I have decided, during this time of renovation of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, to break up that commemoration.

Gladden was a revolutionary in his time.  If he were alive in 2018, he would still be revolutionary in many theological and political circles.

Gladden’s destiny was ordained ministry.  He, born at Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania, on February 11, 1836, was a son of Solomon and Amanda Daniels Gladden.  Solomon died prior to our saint’s sixth birthday.  Washington’s uncle and grandfather helped to raise him.  They, realizing that the farm was not where he belonged, encouraged our saint to leave.  He followed their advice.  Gladden, educated at Owego Academy then at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, entered the Congregationalist ministry in 1859, at the age of 23 years.

Gladden had a varied ministerial career.  His first pastorate was First Congregational Church, LeRaysville, Pennsylvania (1859-1860).  Our saint overworked himself at First Congregational Church, Brooklyn, New York (1860-1861), so he transferred to a less stressful position at a church in Morrisania, New York (1861-1866).  There he was active in the Union war effort, serving on the Christian Commission and meeting President Abraham Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant in the field.  Ministry in North Adams, Massachusetts, followed from 1866 to 1871.  For three years our saint served as the religion editor of The Independent.  In that capacity he exposed political corruption in New York.  Then Gladden served at North Congregational Church, Springfield, Massachusetts (1874-1882) and First Congregational Church, Columbus, Ohio (1882-1914).  Along the way Gladden served as one of two Associate Editors of The Pilgrim Hymnal (1904) and as Moderator (1904-1907) of his denomination, the National Council of Congregational Churches in the United States.

Gladden’s partner in life for nearly half a century was his wife, Jennie Cohoon, of Brooklyn.  They wed on December 5, 1860.  She died on May 8, 1909.  The couple had one son, George Gladden, a journalist and encyclopedia editor.

Gladden, the author of more than 32 published works, received high honors and advocated for social justice.  Roanoke College awarded our saint a D.D. in 1882.  The University of Wisconsin granted Gladden a LL.D. the previous year; the University of Notre Dame followed suit in 1895.  For a Roman Catholic university to honor a Protestant clergyman in that way in that era was remarkable.  Our saint was also a pioneer among U.S. ministers in siding with labor unions against exploitative employers during frequently violent strikes.  “Predatory wealth” (Gladden’s term) in U.S. society troubled his social conscience.  Thus he favored the Progressive Era policy of breaking up monopolies.  He also spoke out against Jim Crow laws.

Gladden also wrote at least four hymns, which I have added to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.

Gladden, retired from active ministry in 1914, died at Columbus, Ohio, on July 2, 1918.  He was 82 years old.

I grew up singing “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee” in a pietistic, individualistic, and conservative milieu in southern Georgia.  I was unaware of the hymn’s Social Gospel meaning at the time.  So was the rest of the congregation, probably.  Gladden’s theology would have angered many of the people in the pews, had they known of it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 25, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARK THE EVANGELIST, 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 servant Washington Gladden,

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 John H. W. Stuckenberg (May 28)   Leave a comment

Above:  Pennsylvania College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Publisher and Copyright Holder = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-18248

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JOHN HENRY WILBURN STUCKENBERG (JANUARY 6, 1835-MAY 28, 1903)

German-American Lutheran Minister and Academic

Born as Johann Heinrich Wilbrand(t) Stuckenberg

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I favor a progressive Christianity based on the living teachings of Christ and his Apostles.  I am opposed to the stagnation created by religious dogmatism and traditionalism, and wish none of my possessions to be used in the interest of this stagnation.

–John H. W. Stuckenberg’s Last Will and Testament (June 6, 1898)

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The Reverend John H. W. Stuckenberg was a scholar, pastor, chaplain, sociologist, map collector, and theological liberal.  He, born as Johann Heinrich Wilbrand(t) Stuckenberg in Bramsche, Hanover, on January 6, 1835, was the fifth of six children of Hermann Rudolph Stuckenberg and Anne Marie Biest Stuckenberg.  The family emigrated to the United States in two phases.  Hermann and a daughter arrived first, in 1837.  The remainder of the family came two years later.  The Stuckenbergs lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before leaving for Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1843.  Johann, his name Anglicized as John, was a pious and intellectual young man who grew up in a bilingual home.  Although German was the main language at home, he made English his primary language.

Above:  Wittenberg College, Springfield, Ohio, Circa 1910

Copyright Claimant = Charles F. Bowden

Image Source = Library of Congress

Stuckenberg had a lifelong interest in sociology.  He attended Wittenberg College (now University), Springfield, Ohio, from 1852 to 1857.  There he focused on sociology, philosophy, and theology.  After graduating as the valedictorian on June 28, 1857, our saint studied at Wittenberg Theological Seminary.  He graduated the following year.

Stuckenberg became a minister.  He served as the pastor of a struggling congregation in Davenport, Iowa, in 1858 and 1859.  Next he studied theology further at the University of Halle, in Germany, from 1858 to 1861.  Our saint was working toward a doctorate, but the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War and a lack of funding interfered with his plans.  In 1861-1862 and again from October 1863 to June 1865 Stuckenberg was a pastor in Erie, Pennsylvania.  From September 1862 to October 1863 Stuckenberg was the chaplain of the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteers, U.S. Army.  Our saint, an opponent of slavery and a critic of the foul language of General Winfield Scott Hancock, kept a diary, published posthumously (in 1995) as I’m Surrounded by Methodists….  This document has become the only published account of that unit of the U.S. Army.

As I had not slept any night before and had run about all day, ministering to the sick I felt very tired in the afternoon and was urged by Mrs. Wittich, and by Mrs. and Miss Coleman (at whose house I took my breakfast while at the Ferry) to remain till morning.  But I feared our regiment would move on and perhaps get into a battle, so I started the ferry at 4:20 P.M.  I got a chance to ride several miles in an ambulance.  When I got to our camp I found that the regiment had gone, so I started in pursuit and walked at a quick rate till nearly nine o’clock.  As I was very tired and still some miles from our regiment I went into a house and stayed there for the night.  The old lady and son-in-law (Mrs. Hagar) and one daughter were strong secesh.  The other daughter was Union, her husband a Un[ited] Breth[ren] preacher, being in our army.  Mrs. Hagar asked me whether I considered slavery a sin; on replying that I did, she became very much incensed and asked me whether I took the Bible for my guide?

–Stuckenberg, from the entry for November 10, 1862, at Warrenton, Virginia

In June 1865 Stuckenberg left for Germany, where he studied theology at the Universities of Göttingen, Berlin, and Tubingen (one semester each).

Stuckenberg, back in the United States in the Autumn of 1866, served as a pastor in Indianapolis, Indiana, from January 1867 to April 1868, when he left to serve at another church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, until August 1873.  He married Mary Gingrich (1849-1934), a former parishioner from Erie, Pennsylvania, on October 27, 1869.  Our saint, part of the old General Synod (1820-1918), wrote The History of the Augsburg Confession (1868) and served as Professor of Theology at Wittenberg College from August 1873 until 1880, when he resigned for health-related reasons.

The Stuckenbergs lived in Berlin, Germany, for about 14 years, starting in August 1880.  He served as an early pastor of the American Church there.  The couple returned to Berlin for a visit in November 1901, for the laying of the cornerstone of the new building.

The Stuckenbergs, back in the United States in 1894, settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Our saint was primarily an academic from 1894 until his death in 1903.  Theological developments at Wittenberg College soured Stuckenberg on his alma mater, so he transferred his favor to the progressive Pennsylvania (now Gettysburg) College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  He left his estate (including his collection of maps) and papers to that institution of higher learning.  [Aside:  Unfortunately, the author of the biography of John H. W. Stuckenberg at the webpage of the Special Collections and College Archives at Gettysburg College seems not to know consistently that “Stuckenberg’s” is a singular possessive adjective, not a plural noun.]  Stuckenberg traveled to Germany and England for occasional research.  Our saint, in London in April and May 1903, fell ill and required surgery.  At the time Mary was in Berlin.  She departed for London yet arrived too late; her husband had died during surgery.

Stuckenberg was a proto-Social Gospeler.  He, the author of Christian Sociology (1880), argued that authentic Christianity makes a concrete difference in society, influencing public policy for the better in lasting ways.  Our saint also insisted that human history is moving toward shalom, which makes no room for social class distinctions.

Stuckenberg, the author of many articles, also wrote the following books:

  1. The Life of Immanuel Kant (1882);
  2. The Final Science; or Spiritual Materialism (1885);
  3. Introduction to the Study of Philosophy (1888 and 1896);
  4. The Age and the Church (1893);
  5. The Social Problem (1897);
  6. Introduction to the Study of Sociology (1897);
  7. Sociology: The Science of Human Society (1903)–Volumes I and II.

Stuckenberg had also helped to translate K. R. Hagenbach’s German Rationalism, In Its Rise, Progress, and Decline into English (1865).

Stuckenberg was a great figure in U.S. Lutheranism.  Unfortunately, he has fallen through the cracks of scholarship with the passage of time.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; FATHER OF MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOWER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [John H. W. Stuckenberg 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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A NOTICE REGARDING STUCKENBERG’S ANGLICIZED NAME:

As I prepared this post I read different versions of Stuckenberg’s Anglicized full name.  I read “John Henry Wilburn Stuckenberg” in the published version of his Civil War diary.  The biography at Gettysburg College listed his Anglicized name as “John Henry Wilbrand Stuckenberg.”  However, I found both “John Henry Wilbrandt Stuckenberg” and “John Henry Wilburn Stuckenberg” at archive.org.

KRT

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