Charles West: Rest in Peace

A man of extraordinary intellect, integrity, profound faith, and devotion to and love of others, Charles Converse West passed away peacefully on November 10, 2019 at age 98, fully prepared for what is both his greatest challenge and his greatest reward.

"As a student in late 1930s in New York, Charles wrestled profoundly to find a personal faith that could give both meaning and energy to his own life, and found it in an apprehension of grace as the reality which not only inspires but goes before and beyond all our human endeavors. As a young Presbyterian missionary and teacher in China in the immediate aftermath of World War II, he experienced first hand the upheavals wrought by the collapse of the old feudal nationalism of that country and the Communist revolution led by Mao-Tse Dong. Soon after, he chose to live in a Europe of bombed cities and disillusioned peoples, now rigidly divided between the West and the Soviet-dominated communist East. In Berlin, he came to know pastors and theologians who had known the cost of witnessing for peace and justice under Nazism, including some who had been taught by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and were now seeking to transmit his challenging theology in a Germany and Europe under reconstruction. In turn, he worked for the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva and became part of that gifted team led by W. A. Visser't Hooft, first general secretary of the WCC, and including creative figures like Hendrik Kraemer, Suzanne de Diétrich and Charles' fellow-American, Paul Abrecht, pioneers of the new ecumenical way of relating the biblical faith to the realities of the world, not least in matters of peace, racial justice, combating poverty and promoting justice amid rapid social and technological change." - (From the Foreword written by Keith Clements (Former General Secretary, Conference of European Churches) to the book, "Ecumenical Adventure" by Charles C. West; Pub. by Fortress Press, 2019)

He is survived by Ruth, his beloved wife of 75 years; his son, Glenn and his grandchildren, Russell and Caroline. He was predeceased by his sons, Russell and Walter. He will also be remembered by his colleagues, readers of his books, and the countless students from his decades as Stephen Colwell Professor of Christian Ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Published in Rochester Democrat And Chronicle from Nov. 22 to Nov. 24, 2019

 

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