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Former AU executive director Andrew Leigh Cunn passes away.

The Rev. Dr. Andrew Leigh Gunn, who in the late 1970s served as Americans United's second executive director, died March 4 in Germantown, Md.

A Washington, D.C., native, Gunn attended Woodrow Wilson High School, Oberlin College, and Yale Divinity School. Starting in 1955 he was pastor of three churches in Indian Head, Md., and then in 1961 he became pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Gaithersburg, Md. He served in that position for 15 years.

In February of 1976, Gunn became executive director of Americans United, taking the helm of the organization upon the retirement of Dr. Glenn Archer, the organization's first director. During Gunn's tenure, the organization fended off efforts to create voucher programs in several states and fought back against efforts to call a new Constitutional Convention at the national level. (Some conservatives favored convening a new convention in the 1970s as a way to add a school prayer amendment to the Constitution.)

"Let the word go forth again in this Bicentennial year that Americans United is the advocate and not the adversary of religious peoples who treasure religious liberty," Gunn said in a statement announcing his new position. "Separation of church and state is essential to this freedom, and we must insist that it be kept inviolate. There will be no malice on our part as we seek to preserve this great constitutional principle. However, I shall not hesitate to speak out when religious freedom is in jeopardy."

Gunn led Americans United from 1976-1979. Afterward, he returned to the pulpit, taking a position at John Wesley United Methodist Church in Hagerstown, Md. In 1983, he accepted a position at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., before moving on to St. Luke's United Methodist Church, also in D.C., from which he retired in 2000. Gunn continued supporting church-state separation in retirement. He stressed the importance of the principle in adult education classes he taught.

An obituary in The Washington Post said those close to Gunn called him "The Rev," and that he "loved his churches and enjoyed giving Sunday sermons, counseling and comfort to his parishioners, championing social causes, and praying that Congress would help the poor, less fortunate people in our country."

Gunn is survived by his wife, two brothers, five children and 10 grandchildren.

"Rev. Gunn served as the second executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State at a time of great challenge to this cause," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "He was an inspiration to those of us who followed in that position."


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Title Annotation:PEOPLE & EVENTS
Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:1U5DC
Date:May 1, 2015
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