Who and What Thanksgiving Day, Presbyterians, and Theological Education have in Common

November 9, 2017 by Lee Hinson-Hasty

Elias Boudinot (1740-1821) was a ruling elder and church leader, a lawyer, a civil servant, a founder and later President of the American Bible Society, a trustee of Princeton University, and a founding trustee of what is now the Presbyterian Foundation where we encourage faithful Christians to put their money where their faith is.

That’s what Boudinot did including with his bequest to the Presbyterian Foundation that still gives 196 years later to graduating seminarians for theological books… books that he designated would then stay with the congregation they first served. As you know, theological education is for the seminarian and future pastor, but ultimately it is for the congregations they serve.

That’s what you do when you give to the Theological Education Fund, you fund Christ’s church today, invest in Christ’s church for decades and possibly centuries in the future. Boudinot served as the President of the Continental Congress and later on the US House of Representatives.

In the Fall of 1789 Boudinot introduced a resolution “that a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness.”

Although not unanimous, Congress passed the motion and Boudinot was one of three House members to join two senators who prevailed upon then President George Washington to declare our first national day of thanksgiving in the United States in a circular he wrote to Governors almost immediately. In the letter to the President, they used both a theological and political rationale.
In addition, Boudinot argued for the rights of people of color in his time, primarily African-Americans and Native Americans. In the case of the later, he sponsored students and even translations of primary texts and like the Bible as well as newspapers into the Cherokee language.

So what do Thanksgiving, Presbyterians and theological education have in common? Maybe a better question is who?

Thanks be to God for Elias Boudinot, for his theological education in his Presbyterian congregation and upbringing and his visionary gifts so that others may have the same.

May we go and do likewise this Thanksgiving.