EdgarWASHINGTON – The Rev. Bob Edgar, 69, a United Methodist pastor and a “tireless defender of the poor and an advocate for justice,” died unexpectedly April 23 of a heart attack at his home in the Washington area.

Edgar, who was top executive of Common Cause, also was the former executive of the National Council of Churches for four terms from 2000 to 2007; and a former six-term member of Congress from Pennsylvania.

He was president of United Methodist-related Claremont (Calif.) School of Theology from 1990 to 2000. During the 2003 Religion Communicators Council Convention in Indianapolis, Edgar gave an enlightening speech challenging religion communicators with the environmental crisis.

Edgar became top executive of Common Cause, a national advocacy group with more than 400,000 members and 35 state organizations, in 2007. While there he “oversaw the relaunching of at least seven state chapters, traveled tirelessly to meet with and recruit Common Cause supporters, and raised the organization’s national profile and its critical mission to strengthen our democracy,” Common Cause said in a news release announcing Edgar’s passing.

“We are deeply saddened and shaken today by the passing of Bob Edgar,” said Common Cause board chair Robert Reich. “Bob will be remembered for his decency, kindness, compassion and humor. His deep commitment to social justice and strengthening our democracy is his greatest gift to Common Cause and the nation. Our hearts are with Bob’s family, his wife Merle, and sons Andrew, David and Rob, and their families.”