Tuesday, April 12, 2016

10 years ago: The death of William Sloane Coffin

On April 12, 2006, Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr. died at the age of 82. Rev. Coffin, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, became a Presbyterian minister, and later was a minister in the United Church of Christ. He was Chaplain of Yale University from 1958-1975, and senior minister at the liberal interdenominational Riverside Church from 1977-1987. Although Rev. Coffin had been a case officer with the Central Intelligence Agency in the early 1950s, he became increasingly disenchanted with the CIA and American foreign policy.

As a clergyman, Rev. Coffin was known for opposing U.S. involvement in various wars and supporting nuclear disarmament, sodomite rights, and about any other politically and theologically liberal cause imaginable, to the point that he became a caricature of a liberal Protestant clergyman. The main thing I remember Rev. Coffin for was his trip to Iran in December 1979 with National Council of Churches President Rev. M. William Howard, Jr. and Most Rev. Dr. Thomas Gumbleton, Roman Catholic Bishop of Detroit, to conduct Christmas "services" for Americans being held hostage by Iranian thugs at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The three stooges clergymen, known for their liberal views on various issues, had been invited to Iran as dupes participants in the propaganda exercise by the Islamist regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. For further reading on this incident I recommend the article Captivity Pageant by Mark Bowden in the December 2005 issue of The Atlantic.

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