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Edwin Tuller, American Baptist leader

New York, August 26, 2009 -- The Rev. Dr. Edwin Tuller, who presided over American Baptist Churches during the turbulent sixties and was a unyielding advocate for human rights and peace, died yesterday in Pittsburgh.

"Ed Tuller was one of a vanguard of church leaders who made it clear that support for the Civil Rights Movement was a Christian duty," said the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches. "He openly supported his fellow Baptist, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and he was prominently visible at the 'I Have a Dream' march on Washington in 1963 and other Civil Rights demonstrations. His strong Christian faith gave him unquestioned moral credentials to stand for freedom, justice and equality and he set an example for the generation of church leaders that followed him."

Tuller's successor as General Secretary, the Rev. Dr., Robert C. Campbell, died July 27.

Tuller served as general secretary from 1959 to 1970. He presided over the completion in 1962 of the American Baptist Mission Center headquarters in Valley Forge, Pa. The famously circular building has been referred to ever since as the "holy doughnut," but there are also those who called it "Tuller's Cruller."

“Dr. Ed Tuller was that rare mixture of both the prophetic and pastoral leader," said the Rev. Dr. A Roy Medley, the ABC's current General Secretary. "He became general secretary during the racially charged civil rights struggle. Through his prophetic leadership, American Baptists threw their support behind Dr. King and his fledgling movement. Yet, Dr Tuller was pastoral in his approach to those American Baptists who questioned such an active stance in "politics," patiently answering their concerns and helping them embrace the struggle for equality as a biblical response to injustice. Dr. Tuller will long be remembered for his leadership that paved the way for American Baptists to be the most racially diverse denomination today."

Tuller was born in Hartford, Conn., in 1913, the second son of an active Baptist family.

He was a Phi Beta Kappa magna cum laude graduate of Brown University in Providence, RI, where he was the editor of the university yearbook, member of the governing board, and won six athletic letters in soccer and lacrosse.

He graduated from Colgate Rochester Divinity School in Rochester, NY, in 1938, and did graduate work at La Faculte Libre de Theologie Protestante in Paris, France, in 1938 and 1939.

In 1958, Brown University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree, and in 1959 he was conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Franklin College in Franklin, Ind.

Tuller served as the Assistant Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC, from 1939 to 1944.

He was the director of Christian Education and assistant executive secretary of the Connecticut Baptist Convention from 1944 to 1950, when he became executive secretary of the Connecticut State Council of Churches, a position in which he served until 1955.

In 1955, Tuller returned to denominational work as executive secretary of the Massachusetts Baptist Convention, where he helped revitalize the church extension (church planting) program. In 1957, he became associate general secretary of ABCUSA, in which capacity he directed the Convention’s fund-raising program.

In response to the organization of the American Baptist Black Caucus in 1968, Tuller helped open the doors for greater participation by people of color in denomination, which today is the most racially diverse Protestant denomination in America.

During much of his time of service to the denomination, Tuller made his home on a farm in Flemington, NJ, with his wife, Rose Catherine, and their four children; Edwin H., Jr., Joan Elizabeth (Jensen), James Gordon, and Katherine (“Kitty”) Crawford (Abbott).

After leaving the position of General Secretary, Tuller and Rose were appointed as Special Service Workers of the Board of International Ministries, with Ed serving as Pastor of the American Church in Paris, France—the oldest non-governmental American institution established on foreign soil—until his retirement from active ministry.

For the past several years, Tuller has lived in the Pittsburgh area, where he has continued to be an active American Baptist as a member of the First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh.

A memorial service will be held at First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh on Saturday, August 29, at 10 a.m.
                                 


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , pjenks@ncccusa.org

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