Yale Divinity School to Host Celebration Honoring the Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr.

On April 28–29 Yale Divinity School will host a celebration of the public witness and ministry of William Sloane Coffin Jr., a towering figure of political activism and an icon of the socially conscious 1960s.

Coffin preached as the University Chaplin from the late 1950s to mid–1970s, but his influence extended far beyond Yale’s Battell Chapel. By his example he helped to galvanize Americans against the Vietnam War, and he was in the forefront of the struggle for civil rights and social justice. At Yale—from which he earned two degrees— Coffin inspired, challenged, and reshaped the contours of university ministry. His activism on occasion prompted clashes with the Yale administration and alumni, but in 2002, a quarter–century after his departure from Battell, the University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.

A highlight of the two–day celebration will be a Thursday night reception and banquet at the Yale University Commons, “An Evening with Bill Coffin,” at which Coffin will join more than 200 Yale graduates who were personally touched by his ministry – including Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau and Yale/Dallas Cowboys football great Calvin Hill. Also attending will be Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary, who joined Coffin on his journey through the turbulent civil rights and Vietnam years.

A worship service and several panels will be held in connection with the event, all of which are free and open to the public. However, those wishing to attend the April 28 reception and banquet must register in advance by the end of the day on April 22. The registration fee is $40 per person.

Coffin left Yale in December 1975 and two years later assumed the senior minister position at historic, multi–racial Riverside Church in New York City. At Riverside, he devoted his energies to a variety of human rights causes, including disarmament and the fight against world hunger, poverty and homelessness. He left Riverside Church in 1987 to become president of SANE/FREEZE, which was renamed Peace Action in 1993. In retirement, he has written several national best sellers.

For more information, go to http://www.yale.edu/divinity/news.coffin.html.

Following is a schedule of events:

April 28

11 a.m.–3 p.m., Battell Chapel, corner of College and Elm streets, “God and War at Yale,” a symposium sponsored by Historians Against the War, Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice, Yale Alumni for Social Justice and the Yale Peace Coalition.

5 p.m., Marquand Chapel, Yale Divinity School, “Faith & Activism: the Legacy of the Sixties Generation,” panel discussion.*

6:30 p.m., Yale University Commons, “An Evening with Bill Coffin,” reception and dinner.

April 29

10:30 a.m., Marquand Chapel, Yale Divinity School, worship service.

11 a.m., Common Room, Yale Divinity School, “The Future of Ministry in the ‘Prophetic Tradition,’” panel discussion.*

Among others, participants in the panels will include Harold Koh, dean of Yale Law School; preacher Barbara Brown Taylor; Stanford University Chaplain Scotty McLennan; sociologist Kai Erikson; Episcopal Church Bishop John Chane of the Diocese of Washington; and musician–preacher Dwight Andrews.

*Plans call for these panels to be webcast live on the Yale Divinity School web site at http://www.yale.edu/divinity/video/live.campus.event.html.

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Media Contact

Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345