Henry W. Beecher


Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), Congregational minister and editor, was born in Litchfield, Connecticut. The son of the famous preacher Lyman Beecher, Henry was educated at Lane Seminary and became one of the leading preachers in America, delivering the prestigious Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale University for three straight years. Henry was a proponent of a new style of theology known as liberal evangelicalism, which combined romantic idealism with the belief that theology needed to be modernized to fit the needs of contemporary culture. In many ways remaining a social conservative–condemning nighttime entertainment, for example–Beecher advocated women’s rights and preached against civil corruption and slavery. In later years Beecher moved away from his earlier evangelicalism, embracing many ideas which most evangelicals at the time considered unacceptable, such as the acceptance of evolution and the denial of eternal punishment. Although Beecher’s later career was tarnished by a scandal, his efforts continued to inspire the next generation of social gospelers.

For further reading see D. Applegate, The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher (Doubleday, 2006).  

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