Who is William Henry Ryder?

Philocrites, in “Fundamentalist no more” asked, “who?” after suggesting he might fit better identifying with William Henry Ryder or James Martineau than the retired-and-his-fifteen-minutes-are up Episcopal bishop of Newark.

I suppose it was too much to ask, but Ryder (1822-1888) was one of the Universalist greats, despite his near anonymity.

A historical note from the Provincetown (Mass.) Banner remembers him as the “wealthiest Universalist minister in the world” at the time of his death, accounting for his gift of land to the town on which Twon Hall now rests. (Calling him “a typical Provincetown boy” begs the question: what is a typical Provincetown boy?)

He is better known for serving the now-defunct St. Paul’s Universalist Church at Michigan and 17th Street in Chicago, and the former Ryder Divinity School — now part of Meadville/Lombard — bore his name. He did have a lot of money to share.

But I recall him more for being a hinge figure. I’m trying to find the quotation in his biography-cum-chrestomath (the posthumous Biography of William Henry Ryder, D.D., by the equally esteemed John Wesley Hanson, 1891) where he said he was too liberal for the Christians and too Christian for the liberals.

It is hard to find out more about him, and building an info site is a long-term, low-priority project. But Ryder represented that band of dedicated Christian churchmen who labored long and gave much — not a bad model to emulate.

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