Dr. Samuel Moffett

Obituary of Dr. Samuel Moffett

The Reverend Dr. Samuel Hugh Moffett Henry Winters Luce Professor of Ecumenics and Mission Emeritus April 7, 1916��"February 9, 2015 Dr. Samuel H. Moffett, a former professor at Princeton Seminary, died peacefully on Monday, February 9, 2015, at the Princeton Windrows retirement community. He was 98. Dr. Moffett was an influential Christian missionary, an accomplished scholar of Christianity in Asia, and a beloved professor at schools in both Korea and North America. Dr. Moffett was born in Pyongyang, Korea (now North Korea) in 1916 to Samuel Austin and Lucia Fish Moffett. Dr. Moffett's father, the Reverend Dr. Samuel Austin Moffett, was a pioneer missionary to Korea, arriving there on his 26th birthday in 1890 from Madison, Indiana. He married a missionary doctor, Alice Fish, in 1899. Two children, James and Charles, were born to them. Alice died of dysentery in 1912. In 1915 he married Alice's first cousin, Lucia Fish. Three more sons were born, of whom Samuel Hugh Moffett was the first, followed by Howard and Tom. The boys used to insist that their father's five sons were not half brothers but rather three-quarter brothers. After attending elementary and high school in Korea, Dr. Moffett came to the United States to continue his education. He graduated summa cum laude from Wheaton College in 1938 with a classics major, received his BD from Princeton Seminary in 1942, and was awarded a PhD in religion from Yale University in 1945. In 1942 he married Elizabeth Tarrant, whom he had met while in school at Wheaton. In 1947 Dr. Moffett moved to China and joined the faculty of Yenching University in Peking, and in 1949 he moved to the faculty of Nanking Theological Seminary in Nanking. In 1951 the communist Chinese government expelled Dr. Moffett from the country after a spurious trial. He returned to Princeton Seminary as a visiting lecturer from 1953��"55. During his time in Princeton, his wife Elizabeth died tragically after a struggle with cancer. Dr. Moffett moved to Korea in 1955 to serve as a missionary. In 1956 he married Eileen Flower, whom he had come to know while she was a student at Princeton Seminary in Christian Education. For the next fifty-eight years, Sam and Eileen Moffett would be partners not only in marriage but also in teaching, research, and a ministry of hospitality and encouragement. Presbyterian Theological Seminary (now Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary) in Seoul, Korea, called Dr. Moffett to their faculty in 1959, and he carried out a long and distinguished teaching ministry there until 1981. He served as dean of the Graduate School from 1966��"70 and as copresident of the school from 1970��"1981. He was also the first director of the influential Asian Center for Theological Studies and Mission. Princeton Seminary President J.I. McCord persuaded the Moffetts to move to Princeton in 1981. Dr. Moffett was installed as the Henry Winters Luce Professor of Ecumenics and Mission, a position in which he served with distinction until 1987. In their retirement years in Princeton, he and Eileen remained active in research and publishing and continued to offer support and resources for Christians all over the world. Dr. Moffett wrote several important books, including a seminal history of mission work Where'er the Sun (Friendship Press1953). His two-volume History of Christianity in Asia (vol. 1, Beginnings to 1500, HarperCollins, 1992, vol. 2, 1500��"1900, Orbis Books, 2005) has become the standard work in the field. The Moffetts joined several other former missionary colleagues on a weeklong historic visit to Pyongyang, in 1997 arranged by the Eugene Bell Foundation. It was Dr. Moffett's first and only return to the place of his birth and upbringing. Dr. Moffett served on countless boards during his life and held a number of important positions with organizations serving the church in Korea, North America, and around the globe. He is the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees, including the prestigious Peony Medal awarded by the government of South Korea (1981). In 1977 Dr. Moffett was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Princeton Seminary. Eileen Moffett was recognized as a Distinguished Alumna in 1997, making the Moffetts the only couple in the Seminary's history to have each received this honor. Dr. Moffett's voluminous letters and papers have been given to the Princeton Theological Seminary Library, which plans to digitize this important collection and make it available online to scholars and researchers all over the world. Dr. Moffett is survived by his wife, Eileen, by his youngest brother, Thomas F. Moffett, of Louisville, Kentucky, by two sisters-in-law, Joanne Hackett (Paul) and Maridean Bennett (Bill), twenty-one nieces and nephews, many grand nieces and nephews, several great grand nieces and nephews, and numerous cousins, all of whom he delighted in. He was preceded in death by two older brothers, the Reverend James M. Moffett and the Reverend Charles H. Moffett, and a younger brother, Dr. Howard F. Moffett. James had been a Presbyterian pastor in the United States, Charles a missionary to India, and Howard a medical missionary to Korea for forty-six years. A memorial service will be held at Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, New Jersey. The date and time will be announced soon. In lieu of flowers, gifts in honor of Dr. Moffett may be made to the Samuel H. and Eileen F. Moffett Scholarship Fund of the UP Foundation (P.O. Box 24441, Los Angeles, California 90024), or to the Princeton Theological Seminary Library Korea Room. The Korea Room celebrates the extraordinary relationship between Korean Christians and Princeton Seminary in which Dr. and Mrs. Moffett played such a key role.
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