They preached and inspired. They wrote and taught. Here is a list of notable faith leaders who passed away in 2015.
Andraé Crouch – Jan. 8
One of gospel music’s all-time greats (seven Grammy awards, six Dove awards), a singer, songwriter, and arranger whose soulful, rhythmic, remarkably singable creations (like “Soon And Very Soon” and “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power”—written in his midteens) bridged racial and generational divides. Crouch was 72.
Lari Goss – Jan. 10
Gifted gospel music legend with multiple awards as a producer, arranger, recording artist, and songwriter (“Cornerstone”). Gross was 69.
Marcus Borg – Jan. 21
Prominent Lutheran-raised liberal theologian, religion professor at Oregon State University (1979-2007), author (Jesus: A New Vision), and a leading scholar in the Jesus Seminar. He was 72.
Steve Hayner – Jan. 31
Presbyterian minister, president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (1988-2001), professor of evangelism and church growth at Columbia Seminary (2003-2009), and the seminary’s president (2009-2014). He was 66.
Paul E. Toms – Feb. 7
Pastor of the historic, influential, missions-focused Park Street Church in Boston (1969-1989) and a leader in America’s evangelical movement, serving as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and chairman of its World Relief affiliate along the way. He was 90.
Samuel H. Moffett – Feb. 9
Missionary, teacher, author, and church historian whose two-volume A History of Christianity in Asia is a standard in the field. He served as a missionary and seminary professor in China (1947-1951) and later taught at South Korea’s main Presbyterian seminary (1959-1981) and at Princeton until retirement in 1986. He was 98.
John Willke – Feb. 20
Cincinnati obstetrician for 40 years and Catholic pioneer in the pro-life movement who co-authored with his late wife their landmark 1971 Handbook on Abortion and served as president of the National Right to Life Committee for 10 years. Wilke was 89.
Lyle Schaller – March 18
Former urban planner for cities in Wisconsin and Ohio who became a Methodist minister and an analyst of American church culture in the last half of the 20th century (91).
Eva Burrows – March 20
Australia-born top elected “General” (1986-1993) of the Salvation Army denomination, founded in 1865 and headquartered in London. Burrows rekindled evangelism as the group’s primary founding goal. During communism’s collapse in Eastern Europe and Russia (1989-1991), she quickly arranged for re-entry of the faith group into the countries that had banned it. She was 85.
Robert Schuller – April 2
Celebrated Reformed Church in America television pastor and motivational speaker. Schuller famously grew his Garden Grove (Calif.) Community Church from a drive-in theater in 1955 to the spacious, upscale, glass-walled Crystal Cathedral in 1980. He launched the weekly Hour of Power telecast in 1970 and hosted it until 2010. He was 88.
Gardner C. Taylor – April 5
Baptist minister often dubbed by peers as the “prince of black preachers,” pastor of Brooklyn’s large Concord Baptist Church of Christ (1948-1990), a confidant of fellow Baptist minister and civil rights champion Martin Luther King Jr., and a leader of the faction in the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. denomination that split off in 1960 to form the more activist-oriented Progressive National Baptist Convention. He was 96.
Billy Ray Hearn – April 15
Pioneer of contemporary Christian music who began as a Baylor-trained Southern Baptist music minister, became an executive at Word Inc., signed up many of the best-known Christian recording artists, and went on to create record labels (Myrrh, Sparrow) and international music companies. He was 85.
John Templeton Jr. – May 16
Prominent Philadelphia pediatric surgeon who retired in 1995 to run his late billionaire father’s Templeton Foundation, a philanthropy whose grants and awards include its annual faith-related Templeton Prize. He was an evangelical Presbyterian who also supported conservative causes and was 75.
Elisabeth Elliot – June 15
Best-selling Christian author (Through Gates of Splendor), speaker, and former missionary with her husband Jim Elliot, one of five missionaries martyred in Ecuador in 1956. She was 88.
Owen Chadwick – July 17
Eminent British historian of Christianity, longtime Cambridge professor, and prolific author whose topics ranged from biographies to portrayals of rural church life and incisive church history (from his 1964 The Reformation to his 1993 The Christian Church in the Cold War). He helped to oversee the 16-volume The Oxford History of the Christian Church, contributing three of the volumes himself. He was 99.
David K. Winter – August 15
Influential evangelical educator, president of California’s Westmont College (1976-2001), and co-founder and former board chair of the D.C.-based Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He was 84.
Dean Jones – Sept. 1
Genial screen and stage star best known for his roles in Disney films, including those where his co-star was a cat (That Darn Cat), a dog (The Ugly Dachshund), and a Volkswagen Beetle race car (The Love Bug). On Broadway, he was the original lead in Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 musical Company. He professed faith in Christ in the early 1970s and became involved in Christian projects. He was 84.
Menes Abdul Noor – Sept. 14
Top evangelical leader, author, teacher, broadcaster, and force for evangelism in Egypt. Of Coptic heritage, he was pastor of Kasr el-Dobara Evangelical Church in Cairo (1976-2007), a Presbyterian congregation he helped to grow to more than 8,000 congregants, the largest Protestant church in the Middle East. He was 85.
Rochunga Pudaite – Oct. 10
Second-generation Christian from northeast India who translated the Bible into his native Hmar language and founded Bibles For The World, a Colorado Springs–based partnership ministry dedicated to Bible distribution in India and to establishing Christian schools there. He and his wife also founded the Evangelical Free Church of India, a denomination that now has 350 churches in northeast India. He was 87.
LaBreeska Hemphill – Dec. 9
Forceful-voiced matriarch of the gospel singing family The Hemphills that received eight GMA Dove awards, best known for their 1981 hit, “He’s Still Working on Me.” He was 75.
Vonette Bright – Dec. 23
She was cofounder with her husband Bill, who died in 2003, of Campus Crusade for Christ, now known in the U.S. as Cru, at UCLA in 1951. It has since grown into what news reports called the world’s largest Christian ministry, with 25,000 staff members and 300,000 volunteers working in 173 countries. She was also instrumental in petitioning Congress and the president to designate the first Thursday of every May as National Day of Prayer. She was 89.
Ed Dobson – Dec. 26
He became Dean of Men at Liberty University at 23 and eventually was named Vice President for Student Affairs as well as associate pastor of Thomas Road Baptist
Church. In 1987 Dobson became the Senior Pastor at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Mich. for 18 years. He retired from the church in 2005 due to complications from ALS. He suffered for more than 15 years from Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 65.
Meadowlark Lemon – Dec. 27
He was the Harlem Globetrotters player known as the “clown prince” of basketball. He played for the Harlem Globetrotters comedy entertainment basketball team for 24 years. A born-again Christian, Lemon became an ordained minister in 1986 and eventually settled in Scottsdale where he ran his Meadowlark Lemon Ministries, Inc., in an effort to reach out to youthful offenders.