Rev. Dr. Roger L. Shinn, Theologian, Dies at 96

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The Rev. Dr. 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 on May 13 at his home in Southbury, Conn. He was 96.

The New York Times

Roger L. Shinn in 1966.

His family announced his death.

Perhaps Dr. 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.) Dr. 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, Dr. 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.

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