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Rev. George "Bill" Webber, 90;
Human rights and peace activist

New York, July 14, 2010 -- The Rev. Dr. George W. "Bill" Webber, 90, one of the vanguard of 20th century Protestant advocates of social justice that included Martin Luther King Jr. and William Sloan Coffin, Jr., died July 10 in Maplewood, N.J.

Webber, a United Church of Christ minister who was president of New York Theological Seminary from 1969-1983, was hailed by religious and human rights leaders as a model of Christian activism.

"He was not only a great leader in theological education," said the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches. "Bill Webber was a social activist whose ministry helped renew the church in this country through encouraging (and modeling) its engagement with social issues."

When many white social activists lived in the suburbs, Webber and his family lived out their commitment to the poor in a housing project in Harlem.

A former gunnery officer during World War II, Webber was a vehement opponent of the Vietnam War and was arrested several times during anti-war protests.

As president of New York Theological Seminary he introduced several innovations that attracted African American, Latino and women church leaders, including a program to admit students who had not graduated from college to do graduate work.

He also introduced a successful masters in theology program for inmates of the Sing Sing federal prison in Ossining, N.Y.

An obituary and tribute to Dr. Webber is posted on the NYTS webpage.

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 36 member faith groups -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

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