United Methodist ‘rabbi’ honored by Jewish school

The oratory of hundreds of rabbis across the United States bears the influence of a retired United Methodist minister.

The Rev. Lowell McCoy, 95, taught speech for more than half a century at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati.

That school has created a Rev. Lowell McCoy Prize in Interfaith Relations. The annual award for a graduate student will be featured in a school fundraising banquet on Sunday, Oct. 26, in Cincinnati.

 “Lowell’s gentle manner, kind and caring heart, and commitment to interfaith understanding and love for Reform Judaism make this prize an apt tribute,” said the Rabbi David Whiman, who was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1979.

McCoy served as a U.S. Army chaplain in World War II and the experience of working with military personnel of various denominations and faiths confirmed for him the importance of interfaith relations.

He led Methodist congregations before beginning his teaching career in the speech departments at Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati.

In 1949, the president of Hebrew Union College asked McCoy to help create a speech program there. He served full time on the faculty beginning in 1954, eventually becoming faculty chair and associate dean. After his retirement in 1989, he taught part time for years.

The school said students affectionately called their one Christian professor “Rabbi McCoy.” He improved their preaching through such innovations as recording them and arranging feedback sessions with faculty and other students.

McCoy helped students with more than 2,000 sermons and listened to them lead more than 6,000 services in the campus chapel. Many of the students he taught continue to lead Reform congregations across the United States.

A scholarly paper written about the school’s speech program noted that McCoy was a trusted figure who sometimes mediated in faculty conflicts or faculty-student conflicts.

“Throughout his career, Lowell endeavored always to build bridges of understanding and friendship between people of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds,” the school said in announcing the prize.

A school representative said McCoy was not up to an interview, but that he’s expected to attend the Sunday event. He lives with his wife, Carolyn, in Cincinnati’s Hyde Park section.

Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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