Dr. Ron Sider, our dear friend and colleague, passed away on Wednesday night, July 27.
Ron died of cardiac arrest, following a hospital stay for treatment for some ongoing health conditions. He is survived by his wife, Arbutus, his three children, and their families.
Ron listened well. For someone who taught many, who wrote much, and who led well, he was an extraordinary listener. He had strong convictions and reasoned positions, but he was softhearted when it came to engaging with ideas that were different from his own—he asked questions, was always curious and always learning, and listened with an open heart and mind.
He was a man whose compelling vision for justice stirred hearts and souls and a pacifist who called us to pursue peace with the same fervor of those who pursued violence. In his enormously impactful book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, he challenged the church to think about our Christian faith more broadly, to consider the vulnerable, and introduced us to the idea of the graduated tithe, where greater income led not to greater personal wealth but to a greater capacity for giving. He exemplified radical Christian generosity.
Dr. Sider’s words and questions shaped the Chicago Declaration for Evangelical Social Concern, which became a touchpoint for a movement, out of which Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) was born. In 2020 ESA became Christians for Social Action and continues as a network of people and churches committed to putting that declaration into tangible action. He debated Jerry Falwell and wrestled with what Christian faith in the public sphere looks like. He helped launch the Evangelical Environmental Network. He loved teaching students at Palmer Seminary/Eastern University; long after retirement, he still kept a foothold on the campus. He worked with others in the founding of Christian Churches Together and was invited to be a part of the initial community of Infemit (a global network of Christian theologians and practitioners). Whenever I travel in the US and abroad, people consistently mention Ron’s work, his writing, or a talk he gave. He carried a humble posture that held space for the plurality of global voices to take the lead. This was an act of hospitality so profound and so unusual, and we all benefit from it today.
Ron was working on his autobiography, and every few months or so he would share a small glimpse of the story that was unfolding. He was unafraid of death, confident that an even better story awaited him. I’m sad that he is no longer with us but deeply grateful for the ways that God worked through Ron.
We at Christians for Social Action feel the loss of this humble, kind, and prophetic man. As the initial surprise passes, we hold deep gratitude for the big and small ways that Ron bore witness to God’s heart, and how he always showed us a fuller picture of what it means to follow Jesus.
~ Nikki Toyama-Szeto
Executive Director, Christians for Social Action
PS. For those who would like to send a card to Ron’s family, or email a message, please feel free to send to: firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to: Family of Ron Sider, c/o Christians for Social Action, 1300 Eagle Road, St. Davids, PA 19087
(You can see a history of Ron’s work through Christians for Social Action here.)