Ray Gibbons; minister sought social redress
By Claire Noland
Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2008
LOS ANGELES -The Rev. Ray Gibbons, a minister who helped Protestant churches in the United States address major social and political issues as director of the Council for Christian Social Action from 1944 to 1968, died of natural causes March 18 at Pilgrim Place retirement home in Claremont, Calif., his son David said. He was 105.
The council was an agency of the Congregational Christian Churches of America and, starting in 1957, the United Church of Christ. Soon after taking over as director, Rev. Gibbons called on the denomination's 4,000 clergymen to address "racial relations, labor problems, peace treaties, management, [and] economic questions," according to a 1944 Time magazine article.
Rev. Gibbons worked out of the council's New York offices, but traveled extensively to lead congregations as they put their Christian faith into practice.
During World War II, he visited internment camps where Japanese-Americans were detained, offering encouragement and advocating their release. After the war, he helped churches as they worked to reintegrate those citizens into their communities.
He spoke out in Appalachia and other depressed areas while helping to develop better housing for low- and middle-income families.
In the 1960s, he joined civil rights activists in marches in Selma, Ala., and helped monitor media coverage in Mississippi when activists successfully challenged the Federal Communications Commission's renewal of the license of a Jackson, Miss., TV station, saying management did not give fair coverage to civil rights issues.
Rev. Gibbons often encountered resistance.
"A lot of people argued at that time that the church shouldn't get involved in social action," his son said. "He faced tremendous opposition, and it took courage to do what he was doing."
Born in Cleveland, Rev. Gibbons attended Oberlin College in Ohio. He earned his divinity degree at Union Theological Seminary in New York and did graduate work at Columbia University.
Starting in the 1920s, he became a pastor at churches in Massachusetts and Maine before leading the council.
Rev. Gibbons and his wife, Marjorie, retired to Maine in 1969, then moved to Claremont in 1977. She died in 1999.
In addition to his son David of Oakhurst, N.J., Rev. Gibbons leaves another son, Paul of Nelson, N.H.; a daughter, Jane of Sweden, Maine; nine grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.
All of his children are ordained ministers.
© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company
From Rev. Bob MacFarlane:
I was moved by the announcement of Ray GIbbon's death. I had no idea he was 105. I worked for Ray at the Boston Synod in the late 60's, on his campaign to become UCC President. He was an inspirational mentor for many of us who were seminarians in those heady days. "UCC - U Can Change" is a button badge I still have in my memory box.