Rev. Clinton Marsh dies at 86
Pastor and ex-moderator was known for
evangelism, social activism
by John Filiatreau, Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE -- November 1, 2002 [posted here 11-4-02]
-- The Rev. Clinton M. Marsh, a patriarch of the Presbyterian church who
served as moderator of the old United Presbyterian Church in the USA (UPCUSA)
in 1973, died in his sleep Friday at his home in Blacksburg, VA. He was
The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the
General Assembly, said of Marsh: "He was a model of the ministry of
Jesus for us, and we will miss him dearly. It seems to me that, while
there is never a good time for one that you love so much to go to be
with the Lord, it's part of God's providence that he died on All Saints
Marsh, a native of Annemanie, AL, who made a practice
of attending each year's General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church
(USA) -- and attended this year's gathering in Columbus, OH, in June --
was pastor of Witherspoon Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, IN, for
He also served as moderator of the Indiana Presbytery
and of the Second Synod, interim executive of the Synod of the South and
area secretary of evangelism. He was a former president of Knoxville
College and former member of the Board of American Missions in the
United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA).
Rita Dixon, associate for black congregational
enhancement in the National Ministries Division (NMD), said she thought
of Marsh as "the church-growth pastor par excellence ,"
and considered "the work he did at Witherspoon" a model of
"He's a patriarch of the church," she said.
"Everybody knows Clint Marsh."
Edith Johnson of Atlanta, a member of the Church of
the Master there, said she was a member of Marsh's Indianapolis
congregation 50 years ago, and remembers him as a forceful, determined
leader. "If something came up and he said to do it, we tried to do
it," she said. "He was big in the church. Rev. Marsh was
Betty Durrah of Atlanta, an officer on the national
staff of the Women's Ministries program area, said she especially
recalls a "classic benediction" Marsh offered at annual
Peacemaking Breakfasts and other events, in which he said, "How can
I say peace when there is no peace? ... But I dare say, go in peace --
if you dare." She said the benediction was "inimitable"
Marsh became a favorite of Presbyterian women while
running for moderator at the General Assembly in 1973 when he said from
the platform, "Women have the power. Why don't they just use
"That brought women into his corner," said
Durrah -- who pointed out that Marsh had been scheduled to address the
annual churchwide gathering of Presbyterian Women next year, as he had
many times in the past.
In the mid-1960s, Marsh moved to Nairobi, Kenya, for
four years, and was among the organizers of the All-Africa Council of
Churches. The council invited him back in 1997 for a meeting in
Ethiopia, where he was honored for his work.
After the 1958 merger of the UPCUSA and the
Presbyterian Church USA, forming the UPCUSA, he served as moderator of
the Indianapolis Presbytery, a member of the board of the Indiana
Council of Churches and a member of the General Assembly Committee on
Segregated Presbyteries and Synods.
He was a graduate of Camden Academy in Camden, AL, and
earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Knoxville College in Knoxville,
TN, in 1939. He received a Bachelor of Theology degree from
Pittsburgh-Xenia Theological Seminary in 1944. Knoxville conferred a
Doctor of Divinity degree on him in 1955; Dubuque Theological Seminary
did the same in 1973.
In recent years, Marsh was an activist against gun
violence. He supported a resolution in which the 1998 General Assembly
urged Presbyterians to work toward the removal of handguns and assault
weapons from American homes and communities.
He also was the driving force behind an anti-gun
campaign in Atlanta by a ministerial group called Concerned Black
In 1997, he was a co-sponsor of a resolution by which
the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA) urged
the church to promote abstinence from alcohol; he acknowledged that the
resolution made him "sound like an old fuddy-duddy," but said
he was motivated by horror over statistics on alcohol-related accidents
Marsh marked his 86th birthday on Oct. 28. His wife of
36 years, Agnes, said a planned family celebration was called off
because he wasn't feeling well.
He and Agnes were active members of Blacksburg
Presbyterian Church in Blacksburg, VA. The church's pastor, the Rev.
Alexander W. Evans, was one of many who commented that it was "very
appropriate" that Marsh died on All Saints Day.
"He's done a great work all his life," Evans
said, "devoting himself to the causes of civil rights, social
justice and peace in the world. He was brave and faithful all his
A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Monday,
Nov. 4 at Blacksburg Presbyterian Church, followed by a reception.
Marsh's survivors, in addition to his wife, include a
son, Walter Marsh, of Indianapolis; a stepson, the Rev. Jon Chapman, of
Louisville (coordinator for southern and eastern Africa in the Worldwide
Ministries Division); a sister, Dr. Kayte Fearn, of Washington, DC; a
brother, Henry, of Saginaw, MI; and a number of nieces and nephews.