Henry Sloane Coffin


“When we pray for another, it is not an attempt to alter God’s mind toward him. In prayer we add our wills to God’s good will… that in fellowship with Him, He and we may minister to those whom both He and we love.”

– The Rev. Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin

In the 1910s and ‘20s, the Rev. Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin (1877-1954) served on the faculty at Silver Bay YMCA conferences. He was president of the Union Theological Seminary, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, and a leading theological liberal. With John Mason Neale, he translated into English the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” from the original Ecclesiastical Latin text (“Veni, veni Emmanuel”).

Born the heir to a fortune, he attended Yale University, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1897. He was Phi Beta Kappa, Skull and Bones, and president of the YMCA. In 1900, he earned his Master’s degree at Yale and a Bachelor of Divinity from the Union Theological Seminary.

He became pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City in 1910. In 1926, he accepted the presidency of Union Theological Seminary, retaining the post until 1945.

Biographer Morgan Phelps Noyes described the Rev. Dr. Coffin as “a preacher and pastor who combined intellectual brilliance, profound Christian conviction, warm interest in all sorts of people and social concern in a balance which led many of his contemporaries to regard his pastorate as a demonstration of the Christian ministry at its best.”

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Above, the Rev. Dr. Coffin on the cover of TIME magazine, November 15, 1926.


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