Edward LeRoy Long, Jr. — Presenté!

Published 14 September 2023

A Reflection on his Life and Legacy by Rick Ufford-Chase

Christian ethicist, longtime Presbyterian peace advocate, and CLBSJ book donor Edward LeRoy Long, Jr. passed away on July 21, 2023. For all but a few of us, his passing will go unnoticed – an unfortunate occurrence that befalls those who are blessed with unnaturally long lives. I had the good fortune to remain a friend of Ed’s to near the end of his life. While I worked at Stony Point Center, we met in person every couple of years. Our last visit was at his beloved cottage where he had found solitude and rest and the spirit to write all of his life - on a remote lake near the border between New York and Massachusetts.

As I approach my 60th birthday, I pray for a chance to live my later years the way Ed did. He remained deeply engaged in the ethical dimensions of Christian practice. In that last afternoon I spent with him at Queechy Lake just a few months before the pandemic took hold, our conversation was wide ranging but deep. Ed was deeply concerned about the peace witness of the Presbyterian Church, and we spoke at length about the challenge of encouraging Christians to take Jesus’ life and witness seriously. Even more, his attention had turned to the challenge of pressing Christians to stand up against authoritarianism in our U.S. political context.

A year later, at 97 years of age, Ed sent me a three-part treatise he was hoping to publish that opened with the following paragraphs:

This is the first of three reflections on the imminent danger posed by the wide-spread development of nihilistic politics, focusing on America. These are politics that disregard and/or deliberately reject the procedural patterns that make a democratic society workable. The first definition of nihilism in Webster’s dictionary is “a viewpoint that moral values and beliefs are unfounded and that evidence is senseless and useless.“ That hits the nail right on the head as a description of what is so dangerous in our contemporary life.

This initial reflection focuses on the corruption of a two-party system by behavior that undercuts the value of healthy partisanship–a partisanship that recognizes the value of rigorous yet good faith differences in determining what is good for the country–with what amounts to obstructionalism. This bitter polarization that has replaced a long history of real interchange between those who exercise authority and a respectful opposition is tearing us apart.

Ed published well over a dozen books — including The Nature and Future of Christianity (2014) and Facing Terrorism: Responding as Christians (2004) — as well as countless articles in his storied career that included teaching positions at Virginia Tech, Oberlin College, and the Theological and Graduate Programs at Drew University. He served for many years on the Presbyterian Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, and he remained active in scholarly associations till very late in life. But what I will most remember Ed for was his profound desire to connect with people like me – forty years his younger – to mentor us and through us the broader church into its deepest calling for the cause of peace.

Edward LeRoy Long, Jr. – Presenté!

Ed Long’s Obituary Books written by Ed Long Ed Long’s Collection at CLBSJ Finding Aid to the Ed Long Papers at Drew University Archives