Former United Methodist Communications head Chambers dies

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The Rev. Curtis Allen Chambers, former top executive of United Methodist Communications, died Jan. 3 in Terre Haute, Indiana. He was 90.

“Dr. Chambers provided significant leadership as the first general secretary of United Methodist Communications,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, who heads the agency today. “He was called upon to create a single entity out of several separate communication organizations with different functions. And he carried out that responsibility with great care and success.”

Hollon, like many others, remembered Chambers as a pastoral, caring man.

“When I first became general secretary of United Methodist Communications,” Hollon said, “Dr. Chambers was one of the first persons who called me….He offered his support and invited me to call him should I need to reflect on the responsibilities of the position, or to have feedback on issues before the agency.

“I was grateful for his generous spirit and gracious hospitality. We did speak from time to time, and I have always appreciated his insights and commitment to the communication ministry of the church.”

Born in Damascus, Ohio, on Sept. 24, 1924, Chambers was an active clergyman for 60 years and played a key communications role when the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist churches merged in 1968.

 He served as a pastor of congregations in Pennsylvania and Ohio, a church curriculum and magazine editor, as a church communications executive and as a college professor. Enjoying photography and aviation, he was a former chaplain in the Civil Air Patrol.

Chambers earned degrees from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, and Temple University in Philadelphia, where his doctoral dissertation was in the field of religion and mental health. He was ordained a minister in 1954 in the Evangelical United Brethren Church.

He served as a member of the Commission on Church Union, merging the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist churches in 1968. He was co-editor of the Plan of Union and co-editor of the first Book of Discipline for the newly formed United Methodist Church in 1970.

Before accepting the position to lead the Joint Committee on Communications (now United Methodist Communications) in 1972, Chambers was editorial director of general periodicals of The United Methodist Church. Accepting the nomination, Chambers said he viewed the post as “a very crucial one” and noted that the JCC “must chart a course to accomplish some of the high hopes set out for it by the General Conference.”

‘A kind, gentle leader’

During his tenure at United Methodist Communications, Chambers oversaw the relocation of United Methodist Communications to its current site at 810 12th Avenue South in Nashville. Among other milestones were the establishment of InfoServ and United Methodist Film Service in 1975, the “Connection” radio program in 1977 and the denominational public relations office in 1981.

Peggy J. West, who co-founded InfoServ in 1974 and headed United Methodist Communications’ Production and Distribution Division from 1978 to 2000, said Chambers “was the kindest, gentlest, most supportive person I have ever worked for. He was extremely humble and willing to hear suggestions – even of things he might not like to hear.”

Woodley McEachern, InfoServ director from 1985 to 1996, also remembered Chambers as “a kind, gentle leader. I think he knew the pulse of the time very well,” she said.

After leaving United Methodist Communications in 1984, Chambers served as general manager of the Alternate View Network, the television and telecommunications facility at First United Methodist Church, Shreveport, Louisiana. Accepting that post, he said, “The potential for making Methodism more truly connectional is limited only by the boundaries of our own imagination and ingenuity. This opens to our church – and to other mainline Christian communions – a marvelous new day for ministry.”

In addition to his denominational service, Chambers was an officer for numerous ecumenical organizations including: the National Council of Churches, the Religious Communication Congress and the World Association for Christian Communication. He retired from service in the Louisiana Annual Conference to Nashville in 1990. He and his wife, the former Anna June Winn, moved to Terre Haute in 2004, settling at Westminster Village, a retirement community.

Other survivors in addition to his wife include their children, David Lloyd Chambers, Sherman Oaks, California; Curtis Allen Chambers II, Placerville, California; Deborah Ann Dayton, Paris, Illinois; and Charles Cloyde Chambers, Dayton, Ohio, and seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents and a brother, Richard.

Dunlap-Berg is general church content editor for United Methodist Communications.

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