The Rev. Everett R. Clinchy, founder and first president of the interfaith National Conference of Christians and Jews, has died at the age of 89.
Clinchy died Wednesday at a health center near his home in Guilford, said James E. Pitt, a spokesman for the conference.
Clinchy, an ordained Presbyterian minister who discouraged the use of his religious title, waged a lifelong campaign for cultural democracy in the United States. He thought himself of an educator, and with several other teachers, including Chief Justice Charles Evan Hughes and business leader Roger Strauss, founded the National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1929 as a reaction to the anti-Catholic bigotry that had raged the previous year during the presidential campaign of Alfred E. Smith.
In 1958, Clinchy left the conference to devote his time to World Brotherhood, a branch of the conference formed eight years earlier. World Brotherhood became the international arm of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, promoting racial, religious and social understanding around the globe.
Its co-chairmen were Adlai E. Stevenson, Philippine Ambassador Carlos Romulo, Vijaya Lakschmi Pandit of India and Paul-Henri Spaak, Belgium's foreign minister.
With Stevenson, Spaak and others, Clinchy later formed the Council on World Tensions to assist in the search for solutions to international conflict.
In 1963, Clinchy created the Institute on Man and Science in Rensselaerville, N.Y., as a place where scientists and educators could study the relationship of scientific and economic achievements to human needs.
Served in World War I
Clinchy was attending Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., in 1916 when he joined the Army. After serving in France with a field artillery unit, he returned home and earned a bachelor of science degree from Lafayette College in New Jersey.
It was during the war, when he saw men of many faiths working together, that he realized what he called "a basic human and divine unity among them."
Clinchy also earned a master's degree in sociology from Columbia University and received his doctorate from Drew University in Madison, N.J., in 1934. He was ordained in 1921.
Retired From Conference in 1972
Clinchy retired from the conference in 1972, when he was 75, but continued his mission. In 1980, he launched Islam and the West, a program to foster understanding between Christian and Muslim cultures. In 1985, he traveled to Spain to participate in a symposium on that subject.
Jacqueline Wexler, current president of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, called Clinchy's life one of "remarkable service and devotion" and described him as the "principle 20th-Century architect of interreligious cooperation and understanding."
He had just finished writing a memoir entitled "Creative Faith," which has yet to be published.