Robert Emil Henry Koenig
August 31, 1919-November 28, 2013
The Rev. Dr. Robert E. Koenig departed this life on Thanksgiving Day after a brief illness. He was 94. With ordained ministerial standing in the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (USA), Bob was a faithful minister of the Gospel and a dedicated community servant. He was an active member of St. James United Church of Christ in Havertown, PA, for 59 years.
A dedicated Christian educator, Dr. Koenig first served as a local church pastor in Hinsdale, IL, and later as associate professor of religion at Elmhurst College near Chicago. At Elmhurst, Dr. Koenig taught many of the UCC’s future pastors, among them the noted Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann. He moved East to become the director of curriculum for the Evangelical and Reformed Church’s Board of Christian Education. In this capacity, he coordinated the development of an ecumenical church school curriculum in collaboration with the Congregational Christian Churches, a project that helped prepare the ground for the union of the two denominations to form the United Church of Christ in 1957. From 1961 to 1984, he was the editor-in-chief of the Division of Christian Education of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, overseeing the publication of classic UCC curriculum materials that were widely used in many of mainline denominations. He was a long-time member of the Association of United Church Educators (AUCE), served on numerous working groups of the World Council of Churches, and was the author of several published works, including “The Use of the Bible with Adults” and “Man’s Use of God’s Power.”
Throughout his life, Dr. Koenig was an impassioned advocate for interfaith understanding, ecumenical partnership, racial justice, gender equality and LGBT rights. He was a trainer for the groundbreaking sexuality curriculum “Our Whole Lives,” published jointly by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. He also worked tirelessly toward ending the death penalty in Pennsylvania.
In his retirement, Dr. Koenig served as managing editor of “Prism: a theological forum for the United Church of Christ,” as interim minister for many UCC and Presbyterian congregations, as an adjunct professor at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and adjunct instructor at UCC-related Defiance College in Ohio. He was also a leader for the annual Craigville Theological Colloquy on Cape Cod and in the Ventures program for the Penn Southeast Conference.
Born in Saint Louis, Bob came from a long line of ministers and missionaries. He was the son of Hermann Koenig, a pastor, and Martha Baur Koenig, a nutritionist. He graduated from Barrington High School near Chicago and earned a B.S. in Physical Science (1941), a Bachelor of Divinity (1945) and a Ph.D. in Historical Theology (1953) from the University of Chicago. He was later awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Elmhurst College (1987). He also studied and lectured at Mansfield College, Oxford.
Bob was predeceased by his wife of 63 years, the Rev. Norma Evans Koenig, and by his grandson Christopher William Koenig. He is survived by six children—Elsa K. Weber, Ph.D, of Chicago, IL; Robert Evans Koenig, J.D., of Detroit, MI; the Rev. Richard Koenig, M.Div. of Plantsville, CT; the Rev. Martha K. Stone, M.Div. of Rochester, NY; Thea K. Burton, M.A., CCC-SLP, M. Ed. of Wolfville, Nova Scotia; Laura K. Godinez, LCSW of Midlothian, IL—and by their spouses, 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at St. James UCC at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, February 11, 2014. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. James United Church of Christ, 135 Myrtle Avenue, Havertown, PA 19083 or to the John Koenig-Wilhelm Baur Scholarship Fund, Elmhurst College, 190 Prospect, Elmhurst, IL 60126.