Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Roger L. Shinn Jan. 6, 1917 - May 13, 2013 Protestant Pastor Linked Faith to Social Causes

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Roger L. Shinn Jan. 6, 1917 - May 13, 2013 Protestant Pastor Linked Faith to Social Causes

Article excerpt

The Rev. Roger L. Shinn, an educator, administrator and author who championed the ecumenical movement and social activism in Protestant churches as their growth peaked in the 1950s and '60s, died May 13 at his home in Southbury, Conn. He was 96.

Perhaps Rev. Shinn's signal moment came after the 1957 merger of two mainstream denominations, the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches, to form the United Church of Christ. He was the principal author of the statement of faith for the denomination, which is still used in words close to his original. (References to God as a male, for example, have been made gender-neutral.) Rev. Shinn's personal journey included fighting in the Battle of the Bulge as an infantryman in World War II and winning a Silver Star for valor. He later counseled conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War.

At Union Theological Seminary in New York City, Rev. Shinn studied with giants of 20th-century religious thought -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich -- and was himself later the Reinhold Niebuhr professor of social ethics at Union.

He helped shape the flurry of theological debate that followed World War II, arguing for a sharper sense of ethical and social responsibility on the part of moderate Protestant churches (Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians and kindred denominations) whose membership peaked in the early 1960s at 31 million.

The discussion reflected a gnawing need to make sense of a postwar world so emptied of certainties that many clergy members felt compelled to offer evidence on why God still lived.

Rev. Shinn's answer to the "Is God dead?" question was that old ideas of God died repeatedly. "But it is not God who is changing," he said in a 1966 interview with The Boston Globe, "only our own concepts and broadening cosmic horizons. …

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