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Henry Frederick Cope

By Harold W. Burgess


Henry Fredrick Cope (1870-1923): A major figure in the rise of the Religious Education Movement during the first quarter of the 20th century. He is best remembered for his service as general secretary of the Religious Education Association from 1907 until his death in 1923. That the Association achieved international prominence was in no small measure due to the creative energy Cope invested as editor of its journal, Religious Education, from 1906 until his death in 1923. Cope wrote a number of books and articles in line with the tenets of the Movement and his annual reports, published in the journal, are a valuable source of historical information.


Henry Frederick Cope was born in London, England in 1870. Henry was the oldest child in what became a large family. Thus responsibility fell early upon him to take the lead in a significant community of brothers and sisters. Cope's schooling was in London's Board Schools that represented England's first thoroughgoing attempt to educate the children from families of modest means. His formal schooling, completed in the 1880s, did not include what we know as high school. While yet a teenager he worked for a time in the factories of the Enfield Armory, the environment in which his father had worked to support the Cope family. Naturally ambitious, Henry took advantage of evening courses offered at the University of London and other institutions. It was at this period of his life that he developed the habit of extensive reading and established a foundation for the "rapid acquisition of knowledge." A further enhancement to Henry's life preparation was the six years that he invested in military service. When he was yet fourteen years old he enlisted and, for a time, saw service in Egypt and in India. In this context he was further molded by the great religious tradition of the British army. (Soares, 1923 [5]).

Henry Cope's earliest religious influences came from his Baptist family, but he was also profoundly affected by the preaching of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the world renowned Baptist pastor. Spurgeon gathered young men into his Pastor's College to train them. He then sent them out as volunteers to preach in various mission stations. Henry eagerly engaged in this evangelistic enterprise and was accordingly sent to various parts of England to speak and to minister. This kind of active engagement awakened an interest in the Christian ministry as a possible life calling. Henry's awakened interest led to a deep desire for further theological training and for this training he began to look across the Atlantic where Baptists were more numerous than in England. Further, his father, who had actually served in the Civil War, told Henry that The United States of America was a land of promise. He had only to wait until his six years of military commitment were fulfilled before he followed his dream. Eventually, after a brief term of ministry in New York, he entered the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Henry studied at Southern Seminary during 1891 and 1892, finding intellectual and spiritual stimulation in association with the Seminary's great teachers of the era, such as John Broadus. Cope's practice of thinking independently was developed in this context as he worked on a personal philosophy of Christian living. He also entered actively into the biblical, theological, and social discussions that were agitating thinkers during the last decade of the nineteenth century. Eager for full engagement in Christian service, Henry left Louisville without completing a degree. He was ordained at Clifton Springs, New York in 1893 and while serving this congregation he married Elizabeth Erwin of Hornby, New York. Henry and Elizabeth were the parents of five children: Erwin, Elizabeth, Maurice, Dorothy, and Ruth. After serving a series of smaller pastorates, he moved with his family to Dillon, Montana in 1898 where he served with distinction in a strong church until 1903. (Perhaps the best treatment of Cope's education and early ministry is that by Soares, Religious Education , 1923 [5], 317-18. In an e-note dated Feb. 28, 2005, the registrar's office of SBTS, Louisville confirms that Henry Frederick Cope attended the Seminary in 1891 and 1892, but left without completing a degree).

Cope's emersion in the Religious Education Movement began in 1903 when he was appointed a Montana representative to the organizing meeting of the Religious Education Association. From the time of its founding in 1903, Henry Cope became an enthusiastic supporter of both the Association and the Movement that came to be identified with it. Soares notes that it was not only the 1903 convention that moved Cope to move to Chicago. He had become convinced that Chicago might be a favorable environment for the development of his interests and gifts in literary endeavors. Accordingly he arrived in Chicago not only to attend the convention, but to carve out a career. In this rather radical move, he had the full support of his wife, Elizabeth. Furthermore, his five children found Chicago a stimulating place to live and learn (Soares, 1923 [5]).

Henry's creative abilities were tested as he sought to earn a living by writing syndicated sermons, lecturing on pedagogy, conducting bible classes, and writing a weekly piece called "Hymns You Ought to Know." These pieces became the basis of his 1906 book One Hundred Hymns You Ought to Know published by Revell. For a time in 1905 a position in the Religious Education Association seemed to be opening up for him, but available funds were not sufficient to allow him to be hired as a second person on the staff. A position with good prospects did come open with the Chicago Telephone Company which he gave up in 1906 to assume "temporary" charge of the REA office.

From 1906 until his death in 1923, Henry Cope cast his lot with the Religious Education Association. One must remember that, in the early years of his tenure, leaders of the Association were looking for an individual with solid academic credentials and a national, if not international, reputation. The thinking was that much needed funds would follow such a person and lead to the support of a permanent establishment of the REA. Cope's salary was meager even by standards of religious occupations at that time as the Association waited for the appearance of a great leader. But Cope, who much desired to be involved in ideas at the cutting edge of religious life, tacked the difficult job. He was determined to do what had to be done to make the REA successful.

With patient tact and generally good judgment, Cope proceeded to cut expenses to stem the flow of expenditures that had been based upon overly optimistic estimates of probable income. With unusual perseverance Cope contacted all manner of people and was ultimately successful in identifying and challenging enough supporters to bring a measure of financial stability to the Religious Education Association. Soon the Board of Directors discovered that the man they were looking for was already in the office. On February 7, 1907, Henry Frederick Cope was offered the position of General Secretary. He retained this position until his final illness in 1923. For these years, Henry was the leader and initiator of almost everything that the Association attempted.

In addition to Charles Haddon Spurgeon and John A. Broadus, Henry Cope was probably most influenced by William Rainey Harper and George Albert Coe. Harper, President of the University of Chicago and one of America's most popular lecturers, was the single most influential visionary and shaper of the Religious Education Association in the events leading to its birth in 1903. Harper's life was cut short by his untimely death in 1906, but the months of overlap in their lives deeply influenced Cope. He absorbed much of Harper's vision and passion for religious education, but he did not possess the same level of intellectual discipline. As to the actual theories underlying the Religious Education Movement, Cope was probably more indebted to Coe with whom he worked closely until his death in 1923. Cope's more than fifteen books and numerous articles are generously sprinkled with references to Coe's writings and views. Though they were not especially close in their work, Cope's writings and leadership likewise owed a considerable debt to John Dewey and his moral, social, and democratic ideals.

Throughout the early years of his leadership of the Religious Education Association, Henry Cope was somewhat handicapped by his lack of full academic credentials. This lack was somewhat ameliorated when three American colleges conferred academic degrees upon him in recognition of his contributions. Ripon College, taking account of his studies at the University of London and in recognition of his book, The Efficient Layman , granted him their Bachelor of Arts degree. He was granted an honorary Master of Arts degree by Oberlin College and an honorary Doctor of Divinity by Washburn College. The members of the Chicago Literary Club also testified publicly to his literary gifts and productivity (Soares, 1923 [5]).

Henry Cope was a competent, dedicated, even innovative general secretary of the Religious Education Association. He also exhibited a necessary kind of "charge-ahead mentality" that enabled him to serve so well as the editor of the Association's developing journal. But Henry Cope's life was not bounded by the confines of the small office complex. He lived out his twenty Chicago years as a contributing member of the community, beginning with his family. Cope sought to demonstrate the tenets of liberal Christian education in his own home in companionship with his wife and children. Here his family was surrounded by good books, good friends, and good conversation. He sought never to force his children, but to create an environment where good choices were likely to be made. The Cope's contributed to the leadership of beach carnivals and summer life at Little Pointe Sable, Michigan where Cope developed the family's summer home. He even developed considerable skill in carpentry that contributed to the livability of their home and immediate community (Soares, 1923 [5]).

A number of testimonials in the Cope Memorial edition of Religious Education gave praise to Cope's role in advancing various aspects of the life of the larger Chicago culture. He was a regular contributor to the meetings of the Chicago Literary Club where members responded enthusiastically to his interesting and spicy papers, observing that Henry knew how to play. His vision contributed to the vitality of the Chicago Church Federation, but he was also a man of the woods and lakes. He came to the support of various humanitarian causes, for example, the secretary of the Near East Relief stated: "He was a friend of our cause." George Herbert Betts of Northwestern University saw him as "A Pioneer Spirit" who was mourned at his death by any who were "privileged to know him" (Forty-four testimonials. Religious Education , (18 [5]).

Henry Frederick Cope departed this earth on August 3, 1923 after repeated bouts of influenza followed by complications to his heart (Soares, The death of Dr. Cope. Religious Education , 18 [4], 222). The Board of the Religious Education Association, in their "Memoriam," published in Religious Education , stated: "He caught the spirit of the new movement at its beginning and with rare insight and wisdom led in the remarkable development that has taken place. With literary skill and with personal appeal he drew the thought of multitudes to the supreme need of inspiring and training our youth for the making of a Christian society" ( Religious Education , 18 [5], 260).

Contributions to Christian Education

Henry Frederick Cope's contributions to the religious education enterprise were largely confined to the twenty year period bounded by the founding convention of the Religious Education Association in February of 1903 and his untimely death in August of 1923. He came to Chicago as a delegate from Montana, drawn by the lure of the ideas and energy exhibited by the founders of the Association, especially William Rainey Harper and George Albert Coe. Cope's potential contributions to the new Association seemed extremely modest in comparison to the highly trained and disciplined minds of such established scholars such as Harper and Coe. As a future contributor to a movement, Cope brought to the first convention of the Association a compatible social idealism as well as a reasonable education for the pastor of a successful frontier church. He also brought a remarkable desire to affect the future, together with the right kind of personal gifts for bearing the developmental, organizational, and financial burdens of the embryonic Association. But the Religious Education Association did not discover Cope for some years. Nonetheless, he was not idle in regard to his vision for religious education. Thus he redeemed his early years in Chicago by lecturing on teaching, writing materials for use by religious educators, and publishing such works as: The bonanza bible class (1904); Sunday-school management: a textbook for elementary teacher-training classes on Sunday-school history, organization and methods (1906); and One hundred hymns you ought to know (1906). This later was based on his rather popular weekly essays: Hymns you ought to know (Soares, 1923 [5]).

The historian of the Religious Education Association (REA), Stephen Schmidt, names Henry Cope along with W. R. Harper and G. A. Coe as the chief architects of the Association during its first two decades. Cope's architectural contributions were of a very different order than those of either Harper or Coe. Harper, an accomplished linguist, biblical scholar, and founding president of the University of Chicago articulated four aspects of his vision for the founding of the Association: (A) to upgrade instructional practices; (B) to upgrade materials used in Sunday schools; (C) to provide assistance to other educational agencies such as homes and day schools; and (D) to address these needs through a national organization. The council of seventy that resulted from Harper's call adapted the structure of the REA from that of the National Education Association. With Harper's early demise in 1906, Coe became the ideologue and mentor of the REA. Harper's style of leadership bordered on authoritarianism, this despite his democratic idealism. Coe led through clear articulation of his personal ideals that closely matched the stated ideals of the Association. Coe's leadership style might well be described as that of an irenic prophet. His career-long, left-leaning theology is well encapsulated in his widely quoted statement to the effect that Christian education is "guided by Jesus assumption that persons are of infinite worth, and by the hypothesis of the existence of God" (Coe, 1929, 296). Henry Cope's contributions, on the other hand, were not rooted in any scholarly articulation or potent call to arms such as were demonstrated by Harper in his1902 invitation to the founding REA Convention of 1903; neither were they rooted in the kind of fully developed, democratic convictions that sustained Coe's leadership. Henry Frederick Cope was a doer, an organizer, a master sergeant. He influenced and empowered other religious educators more through the effective organization of the REA than through his writings. To further interpret Schmidt's idiom, Cope was the architect of the physical organization of the Religious Education Association. He was a true believer who erected the Association to the blueprint of William Rainey Harper's vision and energized it with the ideology that he absorbed from his mentor, George Albert Coe. It also seems true that John Dewey's moral philosophy and democratic idealism affected Henry Cope's way of proceeding as the general secretary of the Association (Coe, 1917; Schmidt, 1983).

After the 1903 Convention, Henry Cope remained in Chicago working in humble circumstances within the religious educational enterprise while making himself available to be discovered. He was in the city and available in 1906 when it became obvious to the REA leadership that Cope was an appropriate choice to be named as the founding editor of Religious Education , the Association's journal. He served faithfully as the editor until his death in August, 1923. However, as one reads carefully through the succeeding issues of Religious Education , it is quite obvious that Cope was still growing and that he was still learning the ropes of editing a professional journal even in the last months of his life. He brought to the task a number of essential gifts and skills. Still, Cope lacked the scholarly discipline and academic experience that might have enabled the journal to be even more useful than it was. For example, in preparation for this paper it became painfully obvious that a primary need of the journal was for more serious, critical reviews of the many important books that were published from 1908 through 1922. Some of the reviews read as ads rather than as critical reviews. At least half of the reviews that were published are unsigned, leaving the impression that these were done in the office of the editor. Still, one cannot deny that Henry Frederick Cope was a doer, who did what needed to be done. Religious Education remains one of Cope's landmark contributions to the field of religious education. For those of us academically and professionally engaged in the religious education arena, the journal is an absolute necessity of life.

As stated in the introductory paragraph of this article, Henry Cope is best remembered for his service as general secretary of the Religious Education Association (1907-1923). According to historian, Stephen Schmidt, Cope was not exactly chosen for the position. Rather, in 1906, he volunteered for the position that had worn out its first two holders in a matter of months. With a kind of prescience as to his own abilities and commitments, Cope accepted the position on an agreed upon temporary basis, once it was made available. He proceeded immediately to address the $8,000 deficit that hung like a black cloud over the new entity, at almost the same time he spent himself to organize and energize the membership. His appointment was finally confirmed by the REA leadership in 1907. The finances eventually came under control, but remained an ever present concern until Cope's death. There was never enough money to adequately remunerate Cope for his genuinely heroic leadership or to operate the Association's activities apart from the fiscal controls that he imposed. A question worth asking is this: Would the Association have continued apart from Henry Cope's leadership as general secretary? Cope did continue and the Religious Education Association became an important part of the 20th century religious, educational, and ideological scene (Schmidt, 1983, 39-42).

George Coe pinpointed the essence of Henry Cope's contributions in his far-ranging essay, "Mr. Cope's unique contribution" (Coe, 1923, 262-267). Coe lift's up Cope's gifts such as, humor, playfulness, enthusiasm, determination, loyalty, and good business sense as forming a base for his steady leadership that enabled the REA not only to survive, but to thrive. Coe celebrates the way that such gifts enabled Cope to gain a wide and friendly hearing for the progressive ideas advanced by members of the REA. Furthermore he applauds Cope's flexible and growing mind that enabled him to participate productively along with great thinkers in both religious and general education. Coe suggests that Henry Cope stood for four propositions that contributed positively to the educational scene during the first quarter of the 20th century: First, he sought to ameliorate the partisan spirit that leads to religious artificiality, triviality, and separation. Cope's soul revolted, Coe states, at any religious education that divides and does not unite. Second, he sought freedom and utter frankness in the use of scientific knowledge in religious education. Third, he believed that religious education must be tested by its contribution to democracy in human relations. Finally, Cope whole-heartedly advanced the view that persons grow best by actively participating in the present concerns of society. Reflecting upon the mark's Henry Cope left upon the Association and the religious education scene, Coe concludes that Cope was an able, winsome administrator and writer who accomplished what no other man could have in the context of the difficult situation in which he was placed. "He fitted the job, he fitted us; he fitted the times and the emergencies that they brought" (Coe, 1923, 267).

Henry Cope contributed a sizeable body of literature almost all of which addressed issues of importance to the religious education movement of the first quarter of the 20th century. Cope's more than fifteen books and over forty articles were surely of more importance for his era than for later years. His books and articles popularized the thought of John Dewey and especially of George Coe. They were cast in the popular idiom of the day for readers who were surely more tolerant of Cope's near-hyperbole than were readers of later decades. Some decades ago, when I found it necessary to "get a handle" on the thinking of the early REA, I hit upon the writings of Henry Cope. More than any other writer, he helped me enter into the spirit of the times, its social consciousness, its attention to life experience, and its boundless optimism. While Cope is seldom read now by readers seeking answers to our contemporary questions, he is worth reading to get an understanding of the religious educational paths our fore bearers have taken.

Works Cited

  • (1983). Schmidt, Stephen A. A history of the Religious Education Association . Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.
  • (1929). Coe, George A: What is Christian education ? New York, Scribner's.
  • (1923). In Memorium: Henry Frederick Cope [for the board of directors]. Religious Education Press , 18 (5), 260.
  • (1923). Coe, George A. Mr. Cope's unique contributions to our generation. Religious Education , 18 (5), 262-267.
  • (1923) Soares, Theodore Gerald. The death of Dr. Cope. Religious Education , 18 (4), 222.
  • (1923). Soares, Theodore Gerald. Henry Frederick Cope: His life and work. Religious Education , 18 (5), 317-324.
  • (1917). Coe, George A. A social theory of religious education . New York: Scribner's.



  • (1928). Organizing the church school: A comprehensive scheme for religious educational activities for children and youth . New York: George H. Doran.
  • (1923). Organizing the church school: A comprehensive scheme for religious educational activities for children and youth. New York: Harper .
  • (1922). Week-day religious education: A survey and discussion of activities and problems . New York: George H. Doran Co.
  • (1921). Jia ting zong jiao jiao yu (translation of Religious education in the family (1925). Shanghai: Methodist Pub. House.
  • (1921). The Parent and the child: case studies in the problems of parenthood . New York: George H. Doran Co.
  • (1921). Principles of Christian service . Philadelphia: The Judson Press.
  • (1921). The week-day church-school . New York: George H. Doran Co.
  • (1920). Education for democracy . New York: Macmillan.
  • (1919). The school in the modern church . New York, George H. Doran Co.
  • (1918). Religious education in the church . C. Scribner.
  • (1916). The modern Sunday school and its present day task . New York, Chicago: Fleming H. Revell.
  • (1915). Religious education in the family . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • (1913). Ten years' progress in religious education . Chicago: Harmegnies & Howell.
  • (1912). Efficiency in the Sunday school . New York: Hodder & Stoughton.
  • (1911). The efficient layman: Or, the religious training of men . Philadelphia, Boston [etc.]: The Griffeth & Rowland Press.
  • (1911). The evolution of the Sunday school . New York: Eaton & Mains.
  • (1910). The home as the school for social living . Boston: The American Baptist Publication Society.
  • (1909). The friendly life . New York, Chicago: F. H. Revell.
  • (1908). Levels of living: essays on everyday ideals . New York, Chicago: F. H. Revell.
  • (1907). The annual report of the secretary for the year ending January 31st, 1907 . Chicago: The Religious Education Association.
  • (1907). The modern Sunday school and its present day task . London: F. H. Revell.
  • (1907). The modern Sunday school in principle and practice . New York, Chicago: F. H. Revell.
  • (1906). One hundred hymns you ought to know . Chicago: F. H. Revell.
  • (1906). Sunday-school management: a textbook for elementary teacher-training classes on Sunday-school history, organization and methods . Chicago: Sunday-School Supply Company.
  • (1904). The bonanza bible class (fiction). Chicago: Winona Pub. Co.


  • (1923). Twenty year's progress in religious education. Religious Education , 18 (5), 307-316.
  • (1923). Annual report of the general secretary. Religious Education , 18 (4), 247-249.
  • (1921). Responsibility to the youth in colleges. Religious Education , 16 (5), 267-271.
  • (1921). The challenge of religious education. Religious Education , 16 (5), 242.
  • (1921). The professional organization of workers in religious education. Religious Education , 16 (3), 162-167.
  • (1920). New developments in religious education. Religious Education , 15 (6), 340-342.
  • (1919). Democracy beginning at home. Religious Education , 14 (1), 16-24.
  • (1918). Democratic training through the church. Religious Education , 13 (6), 401-411.
  • (1918). Promoting the principles of universal brotherhood in the family. Religious Education , 13 (3), 228-232.
  • (1917). Ideals in Religious Education. Religious Education , 12 (3), 192-195.
  • (1916). Religious education in library exhibits. Religious Education , 11 (4), 352-364.
  • (1915). The church and the public school in religious education. Religious Education , 10 (6), 566-574.
  • (1915). Directors of religious education in churches. Religious Education , 10 (5), 444-447.
  • (1915). Religious aims of the Sunday school library. Sunday School Magazine , 45, 498.
  • (1915). The library in the rural church. Sunday School Magazine , 45, 573.
  • (1915). The library in the city church. Sunday School Magazine , 45, 634.
  • (1914). A graduate school of religion. Religious Education , 9 (1), 64-68.
  • (1914). Religion in public education: the influence on character of the absence of school religious training. Religious Education , 9 (1), 45-46.
  • (1913). Cooperation on the campus. Religious Education , 8 (5), 441-446.
  • (1911). The rural church and community welfare. Religious Education , 6 (4), 312-316.
  • (1911). A selected list of books on moral training and instruction in the public schools. Religious Education , 5 (6), 718-732.
  • (1911) Character training of high school boys. Association Boys , 7 (4).
  • (1910). College leadership and Sunday school efficiency. Religious Education , 5 (5), 493-500.
  • (1910). Books on psychology. Religious Education , 5 (2), 186-189.
  • (1910). The Association in 1909 and 1910. Religious Education , 5 (1), 28-36.
  • (1910). Textbooks on morals and ethics. Religious Education , 4 (6), 577-581.
  • (1909). Character development through social living. Religious Education , 4 (5), 401-409.
  • (1909). The social service of the Association in 1909. Religious Education , 4 (1), 117-123.
  • (1907). The service of the Association. Religious Education , 2 (1), 30-39.


  • (1922). [Review of the book Organization and administration of religious education ]. Religious Education , 17 (2), 177.
  • (1920). [Review of the book World survey, the interchurch world movement of North America ]. Religious Education , 15 (5), 298.
  • (1920). [Review of the book The problem of the nervous child ]. Religious Education , 15 (5), 298.
  • (1917). [Review of the book Education for character ]. Religious Education , 12 (6), 468.
  • (1917). [Review of the book A social theory of religious education ]. Religious Education , 12 (6), 463-466.
  • (1917). [Review of the series of books Practical child training series ]. Religious Education , 12 (4), 298.
  • (1917). [Review of the book The psychology of religion ]. Religious Education , 12 (3), 246.
  • (1916). [Review of the book The encyclopedia of Sunday schools and religious education ]. Religious Education , 11 (2), 200-201.
  • (1916). [Review of the book The essential place of Religious education ]. Religious Education , 11 (2), 201-202.


  • (1921). Annual report of the general secretary. Religious Education , 16 (4) 210-215.
  • (1920). The annual report of the general secretary. Religious Education , 15 (5), 212-213.
  • (1919). The annual report of the general secretary. Religious Education , 14 (3), 220-225.
  • (1918). The annual report of the general secretary. Religious Education , 13 (3), 255-257.
  • (1917). Worldwide work in religious education: The annual report of the general secretary. Religious Education , 12 (2), 146-154.
  • (1916). The annual report of the general secretary. Religious Education , 11 (2), 148-155.
  • (1913). Ten year's progress in religious education: The annual report of the general secretary. Religious Education , 8 (2), 117-149.
  • (1911). The annual report of the general secretary. Religious Education , 6 (4), 312-316.

Articles about Henry Cope

  • Furnish, D. J. (1978). Henry F. Cope: General secretary, 1906-1923. Religious Education , 73 (5), 16-24.
  • Furnish, D. J. (1925). National Council of the Congregational Churches of America of the United States. The congregational yearbook, Boston Mass , 1924, 49-50.
  • Ward, F. G. (1923). Foreword [to the memorial edition in honor of Henry F. Cope]. Religious Education , 18 (5), 261.
  • Coe, G. A. (1923). Mr. Cope's unique contributions to our generation. Religious Education . 18 (5), 262-267.
  • Coe, G. A. (1923). [Forty-four testimonials to Henry F. Cope's varied contributions]. Religious Education , 18 (5), 268-306.
  • Soares, T. S. (1923). Henry Frederick Cope, his life and work. Religious Education , 18 (5), 317-324.
  • Soares, T. S. (1923). The death of Dr. Cope. Religious Education , 18 (4), 222.

Review of Henry Cope's Books

  • Fiske, W. G. (1921). [Review of the book The parent and the child ]. Religious Education , 15 (6), 366.
  • Joseph, O. L. (1921). [Review of the book Education for democracy ]. Methodist Review , 104 (January), 165-167.
  • Evans, H. F. (1920). [Review of the book Education for democracy ]. Religious Education , 16 (1), 49-59.
  • Craig, R. J. (1920). [Review of the book Education for Democracy ]. Methodist Quarterly Review , 69 (4), 767.
  • Robbins, H. B. (1919). [Review of the book Religious education in the church ]. Religious Education , 13 (3), 239-241.
  • Anon. (1919). [Review of the book Religious education in the church ]. Methodist Review , 102 (January), 146-148.
  • Lloyd, E. L. (1918). [Review of the book Religious education in the church ]. Methodist Quarterly Review , 67 (4), 721-723.
  • Hammond, L. (1916). [Review of the book Religious education in the family ]. Methodist Quarterly Review , 65 (4), 808-810.
  • Dixon, M. D. (1916). [Review of the book Religious education in the family ]. Methodist Quarterly Review , 65 (2), 405-406.
  • Chamberlin, G. L. (1915). [Review of the book Religious education in the home ]. Religious Education , 10 (3), 308-310.
  • Chappell, E. B. (1913). [Review of the book Efficiency in the Sunday school ]. Methodist Quarterly Review , 62 (4), 807-809.
  • Anon. (1913). [Review of the book Religious education in the family ]. Methodist Review , 95 (Mr), 318-320.

Guide to the Archives of the Religious Education Association (Record Group No. 74)

  • Smalley, M. L., & Duffy, J. R. (Compliers). (1989). Yale University, Divinity Library Special Collections.
  • Summary: These papers document the history of the Religious Education Association from its founding in 1902 through 1988. Henry F. Cope's extant records and letters are available.
  • Further information:

Excerpts from Publications

Cope, H. F. (1923). Twenty year's of progress in religious education. Religious Education , 18 (5), 307-308.

Over twenty years ago, February 11, 1903, at a convention called to meet in Chicago, The Religious Education Association was organized. What memories arise from that statement! … Those of us who have comprised these twenty years cannot, even if we would, avoid the consciousness and joy of a special esprit de corps ; we cannot avoid the sense of a special experience… .Twenty years ago the world scarce heard the voice we raised, and the church, as a rule, laughed and said, "Behold yet another bunch of faddists who would turn the world upside down." Some opposed bitterly and hurled their anathemas; some called conferences to plan how this new doctrine might be crushed, and others tolerantly smiled and prophesied the usual fate of fads - an hour of scintillation and an eternity of silence. Today the world and the church begin to know that the "faddists" were prophets and the leaders of the latter begin to speak plainly saying that unless the world is turned it is lost, and they know the only method of hope is that of education, and the only motive of adequacy is that of religion.History is principally a matter of succeeding changes in the minds of men, rarely of weeping upheavals but frequently of social movements which begin with the few and move out to the many. The great changes proceeded like leaven. The story of progress is always at heart the story of ideas. "History is philosophy teaching by example." These twenty years of progress in religious education have set up markers in many events, but the story cannot be told by any recital of changes in methods or developments in resources. One must trace the movement of ideas.Twenty years ago many regarded the rising movement as nothing more than the agitation of a few academic and impractical persons who wished to convert Sunday schools into colleges. It was quite the thing in certain organizations, more noted for size than for vision, to poke fun at these theorists who were demanding graded lessons and other such foolish frills. Alas for those who did not know that a new idea was being born. The tragedy of humor is that so much of it has been stimulated by the birth throes of truth. It is easy now, to see that one of the most significant events in human history was taking place." (pp. 307-308)

Cope, H. F. (1912). Efficiency in the Sunday school . New York: Hodder & Stoughton and George H. Doran Company.

Efficiency involves three elements: intelligence, ability, and energy, so related and organized as most economically to produce the largest desired effects.An efficient Sunday school; is one in which the working forces understand its purpose or aim, its conditions and materials of operation, and its methods of procedure; one in which duties are so assigned and responsibilities so clearly divided that its operations proceed with economy of effort and without waste or friction; one in which there is the application of all possible working forces and the enlistment of every aid available to secure the desired results; one in which those who believe they work with God will so work that all His work can proceed without hindrance and with certainty of results. An efficient Sunday school is one which succeeds in developing most easily and completely Christian character in its people, both students and workers. An efficient Sunday school develops efficient Christians." (p. 3)

Cope, H. F. (1923). Twenty year's progress in religious education. Religious Education , 18 (5), 307-316.

Cope's final report to the Religious Education Association is a key reading to get a sense of the spirit of the time period (first quarter of the 20th century) in which the Religious Education Association (and the Movement by the same name) became a significant factor on the religious scene.

Cope, H. F. (1923). Organizing the church school: a comprehensive scheme for religious educational activities for children and youth . New York: Harper.

Cope's rather widely read, practical book spells out the "how to(s)" for church school leaders in the third decade of the 20th century.

Cope, H. F. (1915). Religious education in the family . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Worth a look for practical suggestions as well as cultural insights into the time period.

Cope, H. F. (1913). Ten year's progress in religious education: the annual report of the general secretary. Religious Education , 8 (2), 117-149.

All of Cope's annual reports are of interest. His 1913 report is crucial to understanding the early REA. It also shows Cope's administrative contributions to the REA.

Author Information

Harold W. Burgess

Harold W. Burgess, Ph.D., Notre Dame, is Emeritus Professor of Christian Education and Pastoral Ministry at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is best known for his widely used textbook,Models of Religious Education. Burgess's most recent contribution to the field isThe Role of Teaching in Sustaining the Church(Bristol House, Ltd., 2004).