Sunday, April 25, 2010


Douglas Horton (born July 27, 1891, Brooklyn, New York; died August 21, 1968, Randolph, New Hampshire) was an American Protestant clergyman and academic leader who was noted for his work in ecumenical relations among major Protestant bodies of his day. In his roles as a denominational executive, international ecclesiastical figure, and academic leader, Horton strongly advocated efforts undertaken by churches to unite organizationally with each other, even those of unlike theological and governmental persuasion.

Horton entered the ministry of the Congregational churches in 1915 (which became the Congregational Christian Churches in 1931), after graduating from Princeton University and Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. He first served the First Congregational Church in Middletown, Connecticut, as both associate pastor and senior pastor. This pastorate was followed by stints in Brookline, Massachusetts and Chicago; the Chicago congregation he served was a federation between the Congregational Christian Churches and the northern Presbyterians.

All the while, Horton engaged his interest in inter-church relations by participating in bodies that eventually became the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches. He demonstrated a peculiar desire to, in the "Faith and Order" components of world ecumenical discussion, advance the notion that God desired for those Protestant churches separated for generations due to minor conflicts over theology and, more speciously, ethnic and socioeconomic differences to overcome the alienations of the past and join forces to bring a stronger Christian witness to a world beset by wars, poverty, and increasing indifference or hostility toward spiritual matters. Horton was undergirded in his thinking to a considerable measure by the influence of neoorthodoxy, espoused by the likes of Karl Barth, one of whose books Horton translated into English.

Due to his acumen and the keen ecumenical leanings of the CC Churches, Horton became the denomination's minister and general secretary in 1938, which gave him the leadership of the main national decision-making entity within the group. In that position, Horton would make his greatest contribution: overseeing the process of his church entering into a full organizational merger with a denomination governed by presbyterian polity, the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Talks which began between leaders of the two churches in the 1930s blossomed into full-fledged preparations throughout the 1940s that brought about an actual plan by the end of that decade.

Horton and advocates of the merger, however, encountered a vociferous minority of CC pastors and laity who argued that the merger would threaten the autonomy of the local congregations by the introduction of presbyterian governance practices from the E&R Church, and that, legally, the General Council, the national legislative body, had no authority to enter its congregations into such a union in the first place. A Brooklyn church successfully sued in 1949 to restrain the merger from proceeding; in arguments before the appellate court, Horton and another CC leader, Truman Douglass, articulated that the General Council understood itself to be legally separate from the constituent congregations and not immediately subject to its directives, although admitting that it, likewise, had no power to compel participation in a merger. The court viewed these perspectives favorably, and the restraint was overturned in 1953. This enabled the final stages of the merger process to proceed, to the point of the actual union on June 25, 1957; the merged body took the name United Church of Christ.

Before the merger was consummated, however, Horton had resigned his position as CC executive to assume the position of dean of the Harvard Divinity School, in 1955. The Rev. Fred Hoskins succeeded Horton as the final CC minister and general secretary; he became one of the first co-ministers of the new UCC. At Harvard, Horton expanded upon his inter-church interests, bringing new programs to the school such as religious studies and a chair in Roman Catholic theology. A one-time moderator of the International Congregational Council, Horton took on the leadership mantle of the WCC's Faith and Order Commission beginning in 1957. It was from that vantage point that Horton was invited to observe the Second Vatican Council; he compiled material for a four-volume journal of the proceedings.

Horton retired from Harvard in 1960 and died eight years later in retirement. Horton was married to Mildred H. McAfee.

Quotes attributed to Horton:

Abuse a man unjustly, and you will make friends for him.

Action cures fear, inaction creates terror.

Although it is generally known, I think it's about time to announce that I was born at a very early age.

As the fly bangs against the window attempting freedom while the door stands open, so we bang against death ignoring heaven.

Be your own hero, it's cheaper than a movie ticket.

Beauty is variable, ugliness is constant.

Being sorry is the highest act of selfishness, seeing value only after discarding it.

Boring people are a reflection of boring people.

Change occurs in direct proportion to dissatisfaction, but dissatisfaction never changes.

Conscience is the window of our spirit, evil is the curtain.

Death is feared as birth is forgotten.

Death is the final wake-up call.

Desperation is like stealing from the Mafia: you stand a good chance of attracting the wrong attention.

Drive slow and enjoy the scenery - drive fast and join the scenery.

First rule of Economics 101: our desires are insatiable. Second rule: we can stomach only three Big Macs at a time.

Good ideas are a dime a dozen, bad ones are free.

Growing old is not growing up.

Happiness in the present is only shattered by comparison with the past.

He stands erect by bending over the fallen. He rises by lifting others.

If food were free, why work?

If the destination is heaven, why do we scramble to be first in line for hell?

If wishes were fishes we'd all be throwing nets. If wishes were horses we'd all ride.

If you love something let it go free. If it doesn't come back, you never had it. If it comes back, love it forever.

Life is good when we think it's good. Life is bad when we don't think.

Live to learn, learn to live, then teach others.

Love is a given, hatred is acquired.

Love is seeing without eyes, hearing without ears; hatred is nothing.

Materialism is the only form of distraction from true bliss.

No one can drive us crazy unless we give them the keys.

Perfection is perfectly simple; fouling things up requires true skill.

Remember only the good, the bad will never forget you.

Seeing the light is a choice, not seeing the light is no choice.

Smile, it's better than a poke in the eye.

Smile, it's free therapy.

The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity.

The key to heaven's gate cannot be duplicated.

The more we are filled with thoughts of lust the less we find true romantic love.

There is no bad in good.

Thinking good thoughts is not enough, doing good deeds is not enough, seeing others follow your good examples is enough.

Thought precedes action, action does not always precede thought.

Thoughts are the gun, words are the bullets, deeds are the target, the bulls-eye is heaven.

To awake from death is to die in peace.

To buy happiness is to sell soul.

To hit bottom is to fall from grace.

We are all serving a life sentence, and good behavior is our only hope for a pardon.

When all is lost, ask the I.R.S. - they'll find something.

When my horse is running good, I don't stop to give him sugar.

While seeking revenge, dig two graves - one for yourself.

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