|Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary|
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At a Glance
This collection is arranged in two series: Series 1: History of Union Theological Seminary; and Series 2: Organizations, which includes two subseries, 2A: Fellowship of Socialist Christians (FSC) and 2B: Christian Action (CA).
Scope and Contents
This collection contains a typescript of Handy's History of Union Theological Seminary, as well as correspondence and administrative materials of organizations that Handy was involved in: the Fellowship of Socialist Christians (FSC) and Christian Action (CA).
Burke Library record group:
Union Theological Seminary Archives: UTS 1, papers of faculty and students
Using the Collection
Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
All boxes in this collection are located offsite. Please note that requests for use of boxes held in offsite storage must be made three business days in advance.
Conditions Governing Use
Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Information concerning copyright, fair use, and reproduction requests can be consulted at Columbia's Copyright Advisory Office.
Item description, UTS1: Robert T. Handy papers, c. 1930-1986, series #, box #, folder #, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The papers were donated by Robert T. Handy to the Burke Library in 1996.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Metal clips and staples were removed from materials and folded items were flattened. Acidic items were separated from one another by interleaving with acid-free paper as needed. Any items in an advanced state of deterioration were placed in Mylar envelopes. The collection was originally processed by Daniel Sokolow. In 2015, the collection was placed in new acid-free boxes and folders as part of the Henry Luce Foundation grant. It was at this time that Series 2 was created; originally, the Christian Action section and the Fellowship of Socialist Christians were two separate series; now they are subseries of a larger group. The finding aid was created by Daniel Sokolow in 1996; revised by Ruth Tonkiss Cameron in 2007; revised by Brigette Kamsler with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation in 2015, and edited by Leah Edelman in 2022.
2022-04-26 PDF converted to EAD and description updated by Leah Edelman.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Robert T. Handy was born January 30, 1918 in Rockville, Connecticut and educated at Brown University, where he received an A.B. in 1940, Colgate Rochester Divinity School (M. Div in 1943), and the University of Chicago (PhD in 1949). Handy was ordained as a pastor in 1943, and served as a pastor and army chaplain. He served as professor of church history at Union Theological Seminary from 1950 to 1986, when he retired from his position as Henry Sloane Coffin professor of Church History. In addition to his teaching duties, Handy also served for a time as the Seminary's academic dean and as adjunct professor of Religion at Columbia University from 1973-1986. Handy wrote and edited numerous volumes on American religious history, including a history of Union Theological Seminary in 1987. Handy's work served the additional purpose of providing insight into the lives of faculty and students outside of their work with the Seminary. Handy also served as Secretary of the Fellowship of Socialist Christians and later Christian Action. Robert Handy died in January 2009 at the age of 90.
The Fellowship of Socialist Christians (FSC) was formed by Reinhold Niebuhr in the early 1930's. Niebuhr was committed to socialist ideas at this point in his life, and he created the FSC to unite like-minded Christians in an association that would both promote and practice socialist philosophies and economics. FSC's critical argument was that private ownership of major properties had to be replaced by social ownership. The group also argued that capitalist ideals were at odds with Christian ethics. While FSC specifically disassociated itself from Marxism, the group did recognize its debt to Marx and his economic ideas. The ideas of FSC were also put in practice by its members; they were to contribute all excess money (anything over $8,000) to causes supported by the FSC, and to join other organizations, such as labor unions, which promoted socialist causes. All actions taken by FSC members were to be nonviolent, but they were to contribute time and effort to the cause. In addition to Niebuhr, the FSC attracted the efforts of Paul Tillich, John C. Bennett, and Joseph Fletcher. Niebuhr and Tillich particularly used the organization as a means of expressing their theology as well as their activism, and they played a major role in the development of the group's philosophy. At its height in the late 1940's, the group had some 1,200 members. They helped in the fight against the McCarthyism of the 1950's, as well as separating more clearly the Christian social action movement from Marxism. The group changed names twice over its life, from FSC to the Frontier Fellowship in the 1940's, and eventually into Christian Action, with Robert Handy serving as Secretary. Reinhold Niebuhr's stroke in 1952 effectively ended his involvement with the organization, and with his departure the group faded slowly. They remained active until 1956, when the group folded.