UCC pastor who inspired progressive churches, the Rev. Jim Gilliom, dies at 83

UCC pastor who inspired progressive churches, the Rev. Jim Gilliom, dies at 83

June 07, 2012
Written by Staff Reports

The Rev. Jim Gilliom, a former UCC pastor nationally renowned for his work as a leader of progressive congregations with strong commitments to social justice, died June 4 at age 83.

A pioneer in supporting civil rights and dignity for people of all races, genders and sexuality, Gilliom had suffered multiple strokes in the later stages of his life.

“Jim Gilliom was a prominent UCC pastor who played a very interesting and large part in the national church,” said the Rev. Mart Bailey, a member of Union Congregational UCC in Montclair, N.J., where Gilliom once served as pastor.

Gilliom also served UCC churches in Millersburg, Ind.; Seattle; Mercer Island, Wash.; and Des Moines, Iowa, before retiring to Stony Lake, Mich., in 1994.

As pastor of Plymouth Church in Des Moines, Gilliom led the largest church in the denomination, heading efforts that resulted in a major expansion of the church building. 

Gilliom served as a chaplain to General Synod and was a member of the Consultation on Church Union delegation from the UCC. He served as a board member on what was then the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries (now Local Church Ministries).

He and his wife, Donna, retired to a home they built on a piece of family land on Stony Lake. In retirement, Gilliom was a naturalist and birdwatcher who fished the waters of Stony Lake. He took great pleasure in harvesting the blueberries, walnuts, cherries, peaches and apples of Oceana County.

Gilliom held a B.A. degree from Heidelberg (Ohio) College, as well as degrees from Eden Theological Seminary (M. Div.) and Drew University School of Theology (D. Min.). In 1978, his substantial professional accomplishments were recognized with an honorary doctorate from Eden.

Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Donna Eshmeyer Gilliom; a brother, Gene; and four sons and daughters-in-law – Robert and Patty, James and Jill, John and Amy, and David and Sue. Nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren also survive.

Visitation is set for 10 a.m. June 16 at Shelby Congregational UCC, with a memorial 11 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be made to the Shelby Congregational UCC, 51 E. Third St., Shelby, MI 49455 or Harbor Hospice, 1050 W. Western Ave., Suite 400, Muskegon, MI 49441.


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