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Obituaries : * Rev. William Steuart McBirnie; Radio Host

July 04, 1995|JOHN DART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GLENDALE — The Rev. William Steuart McBirnie, a onetime conservative commentator on his "Voice of Americanism" radio show, will be remembered in a memorial service Sunday at United Community Church of Glendale, a congregation he founded in 1961 and quit amid controversy in 1986.

McBirnie, 75, died June 21 in his Newport Beach home, according to Robert Grant, a former associate who heads the American Freedom Coalition in Washington, D.C.

In his heyday, McBirnie built the independent United Community Church of Glendale into a large congregation and later added a 1,300-seat auditorium for services.

He launched the California Graduate School of Theology at the church in 1968, granting doctoral degrees to dozens of working pastors each year while officials at established seminaries criticized it as a diploma mill.

On his daily syndicated radio program, McBirnie was a staunch opponent of the National Council of Churches, liberal Democrats and international Communism.

But McBirnie resigned as senior pastor of the Glendale church in 1986, saying that his doctor advised him against continuing as both minister and radio commentator because of a heart condition, according to a church official.

About the same time, McBirnie's church was forced into bankruptcy after losing a 1984 suit accusing McBirnie of not making good on loans he had solicited from 1972 to 1980 for construction projects.

McBirnie moved to Orange County about six years ago and taught classes at Melodyland Christian Center, said Grant.

McBirnie's remains were cremated, Grant said.

McBirnie is survived by his wife, June, and a son, Steuart. The memorial service at the church, 333 E. Colorado Blvd., will be at 3 p.m.

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