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Remembering Dr. Harvie M. Conn [1933-1999]

[A tribute written in 1999 by Dr. Mark R. Gornik, upon Dr. Conn’s death. We are grateful to Dr. Gornik for granting permission to reproduce this tribute here today.]

He had a face turned to the city and a heart broken by the things that break the heart of God. A few days ago, Harvie Maitland Conn, pastor, missionary, seminary professor, theologian, and missiologist, completed his earthly urban pilgrimage. The cause of his death on August 28, 1999 was cancer.

From his 12 years as a missionary in Korea to his 25 years of teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) in Philadelphia (1972-1998), Harvie Conn left a singular legacy of calling the church, especially the Reformed and evangelical communities, to Christ’s mission in the city.

It was quite possible to overlook Conn’s preceding 12 years of mission work in Korea, but only until you saw the list of books he wrote in Korean or heard him teaching in homiletics class in Korean. In Korea, his outreach to women in prostitution signaled his concern for an evangelism that saw people as both sinners and sinned against.

Dr. Conn joined the faculty of Westminster in 1972 and taught apologetics and missions. His concern for missions eventually became his full-time academic focus. As a teacher admired for his engaging pedagogical style, students also considered him among the most demanding.

In his teaching, Conn forged a transformational theology of the church and mission. Working with Reformed themes such as covenant, kingdom, and redemptive-history and in dialogue with Reformed theologians such as Geerhardus Vos, Herman Ridderbos, Richard Gaffin and Edmund Clowney, Conn developed a doctrine of the church that, if implemented, would bring renewal to existing ecclesial models and the social context.

While committed to the traditions of the Reformed faith, Conn’s vision of the church was much broader. He firmly believed in the global church as a subject and not a Western object, and this influenced his theologizing.

Photograph of Dr. Harvey Conn, seated at right, speaking with an

Pictured above : Rev. Harvie Conn, at right, speaking with the Rev. Edward Kellogg during a conference break.

Much of Conn’s legacy is to be found in a considerable body of writing and editing. He was the author of a number of pacesetting books including Eternal Word and Changing Worlds: Theology, Anthropology, and Mission in Trialogue (1984). A Clarified Vision for Urban Mission: Disspelling the Urban Stereotypes (1987), and The American City and the Evangelical Church: A Historical Overview (1994). We await the publishing of The Kingdom, the City, and the People of God, co-written with Westminster colleague Manuel Ortiz. [This volume appeared in 19 .]

Conn also edited books on church planting and church growth, as well as pastoral theology and hermeneutics. The most recent volume that he edited [was] entitled Planting and Growing Urban Churches. From Dream to Reality (1997), a study made especially valuable with his section introductions.

In addition, Conn wrote scores of editorials, articles, and book reviews, especially for Urban Missions Newsletter and Urban Mission Journal (founded by Roger Greenway, Conn served as editor from 1989-1999). The range of topics varied greatly and included urbanization in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, the role of diaconal ministry, Jonathan Edwards’ public theology, family life, church growth, youth ministry, evangelism, and parish life.

During his time at Westminster, Conn played a significant role in leading the faculty’s commitment to what was to become the Center for Urban Theological Studies (CUTS), an effort founded by African American pastors and Bill Krispin. His contact with the students of CUTS continually shaped his thinking about ministry and theological education, just as he helped to shape women and men for the ministry.

Conn’s most enduring missiological contribution was his concentration on the importance of the city. He wanted the church to focus on the city not because it was trendy—it was not—but because he read closely both the biblical material and the demographic data, bridging them together with a focus on a third horizon, God’s mission to the cities of this world.

No longer, Conn argued, could the world be considered a global village. Instead, it is a global city. This is the church’s context and challenge, and to be effective, the church would need to sort out urban myth from fact. He not only helped to put the city on the evangelical agenda, but he changed the way we think about the city. In light of new understanding of the city, he pressed heavily for church planting and the developments of models that pointed to God’s future.

His theology of the city was drawn from a redemptive-historical or narrative framework to Scripture. When asked his “favorite” biblical text on the city, Conn replied,

“Picking one biblical text to sum up my view of urban ministry is an assignment too awesome and dangerous for me. Too awesome because wherever I turn in my Bible it shouts “urban” to me. Too dangerous because the text I might select could leave out a piece of the picture too crucial in another text and distort the whole. We need a hermeneutic serious enough to link Genesis to Revelation in the unending story of Jesus as urban lover and the church as God’s copycat.”

In many respects, Conn was driven by a concern for what he saw in Paul as a special concern for the “outsider.” This is evident from the way in which he engaged Latin American liberation theologies, North American black theology, and a variety of feminist theologies. While his criticisms were not insignificant, he saw in them a profound challenge for the evangelical church to recover the holism of the gospel.

Conn often wrote sentences like “Jesus loved the leftovers and left outs, and so should we.” This quote reflected his Christology: Jesus was the poor one who embodied the jubilee in all of its holism for the city.

Christology and urban mission, word and deed, belonged together for Conn. Features of how this played itself out are evident from this quote taken from Eternal Word and Changing World :

“Theology, if it is to become truly and comprehensively communal, must emerge from a praxis of commitment to God’s peace for the poor (1 Cor. 1:27-28). To become revolutionary and not revolutionary, our theologizing will have to validate itself and its claims in the same way Jesus validated His. His allegiance to the poor marked His preaching and was a sign of the coming of the kingdom (Luke 4:18-21). His healing of the sick and the blind and his preaching to the poor became a validation to a doubting John the Baptist of his messsianic theologizing (Matt. 11:2-6). It must become an integral part of ours as well. Where shall we begin this identification? By sitting where the poor and disenfranchised sit, in the ghettoes of our cities, in the waiting rooms of public health clinics, in the unemployment lines and welfare offices.”

One finds no better summary of what Conn took to be the obligations of the kingdom than the title of his book, Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace.

Dr. Conn had several distinctive and memorable traits. One example was his, at times, frustrating propensity to work alone. Perhaps this was a result of the many frustrations he faced as an advocate for new ways of seeing and thinking about following Christ.

He was well-known for his sense of humor and hearty laugh. While a student at Westminster, I never looked for him in the library, but rather I listened for his laugh over by the periodical section. To paraphrase Langston Hughes, Conn’s laugh was like a handshake heard across the room. It was welcoming and inviting. Perhaps he was laughing at his own jokes, but that was always the best reason to laugh along.

Conn kept personal struggles such as his health very private. When he and his wife Dorothy’s poor health finally necessitated his retirement from Westminster, Conn wanted no attention drawn to his career. That was quite consistent with his character, but a disappointment to many who very much wanted to express gratitude for his influence. Never a credit taker, he always pointed away from himself and to the Christ he followed. In a Christmas letter from some years ago, he wrote: “Over forty years ago, Dottie and I chose the path of the wise men and followed His star. We have been Jesus-stargazers ever since. . . He still goes before; we still follow—not always wisely, not always obediently. But always hopeful.”

Conn loved to conclude his sermons, essays, books, and lectures with a barrage of questions. The motive for this format might have been to exercise his prophetic ministry in a less direct way. Or perhaps it was his way of saying he was helping to set an agenda, not resolving it. Probably both, and with a nod to Christ’s style in the gospels.

Here are some questions that a celebration of his life and legacy requires:
Will the church heed the Lord’s call to the global city of the next century and beyond?
Will theological education rise to the challenge?
Will we allow missions to be the guide for our theological agendas?
And in all of this, what about the poor and the excluded?
Will the church change for the sake of a gospel that is good news for the poor?

At heart, Harvie Conn was an urban evangelist who proclaimed sovereign grace so that the “world may believe” (John 17:21). His passionate focus on the gospel for the city called many, including me, to see the city as the primary site of Christ’s mission. May the witness of Conn’s Jesus stargazing in the city influence our lives so that we might faithfully proclaim and live for the One whom he followed.

Rev. Mark R. Gornik
New York City
August 30, 1999.

[Rev. Gornik now served as Director of the City Seminary of New York.]

Photo source: Presbyterian Journal Photo Collection, Box 246, file 2, preserved at the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO.

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John Ulverstone Selwyn Toms
[26 October 1878 – 14 November 1973]
Excerpted from the Minutes of the Bible Presbyterian Synod, 1974, pp. 38-39.
A Memorial Resolution, #7. on the death of the Rev. U. Selwyn Toms was presented by the Rev. Morris McDonald. It was on motion adopted and reads:
RESOLUTION NO. 7

J. U. Selwyn Toms,IN MEMORIAM – REV. J. U. SELWYN TOMS
The Rev. Mr. Toms went into the Lord’s presence on November 14, 1973, in his sleep, at the age of 95. Mr. Toms was born in 1878 in South Australia. He was graduated in the class of 1908 from Princeton Seminary, a classmate and friend of the late Dr. J. Gordon Holdcroft. Upon graduation he was licensed by the West Jersey Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. On October 27, 1908 he and his wife, Ella Sparks Burt, sailed for Korea to serve at Taegu and Seoul stations. They had three children, Robert, Burton and Elaine. Rev. Burton Toms was born in Seoul, Korea, and is at present serving the Lord under the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

Having returned from the mission field in 1923, due to the ill health of his wife, Mr. Toms served as pastor of the Thompson Memorial Church in Pennsylvania and after four years, as pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Woodstown, N.J., on July 31, 1936, Mr. Toms felt it was necessary to withdraw from the Presbytery due to un-Presbyterian actions.

Mr. Toms was elected to the Board of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions on May 31, 1937 and actively served until health prevented his attendance in 1966.

Mr. Toms was very strong in his stand against ecclesiastical apostasy and was active in the continuing succession to the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. He became a member of the Presbyter¬ian Church of America and was elected stated clerk for the New Jersey Presbytery. When it was no longer possible to continue in fellowship with that body, he formed part of the commission for a Bible Presbyterian Synod. The first Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church was held in Collingswood, N.J. September 6-8, 1930, and Mr. Toms was elected its FIRST moderator, because of the all-important missionary issues included in the conflict with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

For many years he served as the faithful statistician of the Bible Presbyterian Church. Mr. and Mrs. Toms made their residence In Chattanooga, Tennessee, with their son Robert. Mrs. Toms had gone to be with the Lord in November, 1971. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” – Revelation 14:13.
Mr. Toms served as a faithful member of the Kentucky-Tennessee Presbytery for many years prior to going to his higher reward.

As per the OPC Ministerial Register (2011):
John Ulverstone Selwyn Toms was born in Waller, New South Wales, Australia, on 26 October 1878.
He married Ella Burt on 10 October 1905.
Children born to their marriage included Robert, Frederick, and Marian.
He was educated at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, graduating there in 1905 with the A.B. degree.
He prepared for ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating in 1908 with the Th.B. degree and later returned to Princeton for the Th.M. degree, in 1924.
Rev. Toms was ordained by the Presbytery of West Jersey (PCUSA), on 2 July 1908.
From 1909-1923, he served as a evangelist in Korea under the auspices of the Board of Foreign Missions (PCUSA).
He was pastor of the Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), Brownsburg, Pennsylvania, 1924-1928.
From 1928-1936, he was pastor of the PCUSA church in Woodtown, New Jersey.
Rev. Toms was received by the Presbytery of New Jersey (Presbyterian Church of America/Orthodox Presbyterian Church, on 8 September 1936, but later withdrew to become a founding member of the Bible Presbyterian Church, on 6 September 1938.
His date of death was 14 November 1973.

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Remembering Dr. Harvie M. Conn [1933-1999]

[A tribute written in 1999 by Dr. Mark R. Gornik, upon Dr. Conn’s death. We are grateful to Dr. Gornik for granting permission to reproduce this tribute here today.]

He had a face turned to the city and a heart broken by the things that break the heart of God. A few days ago, Harvie Maitland Conn, pastor, missionary, seminary professor, theologian, and missiologist, completed his earthly urban pilgrimage. The cause of his death on August 28, 1999 was cancer.

From his 12 years as a missionary in Korea to his 25 years of teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) in Philadelphia (1972-1998), Harvie Conn left a singular legacy of calling the church, especially the Reformed and evangelical communities, to Christ’s mission in the city.

It was quite possible to overlook Conn’s preceding 12 years of mission work in Korea, but only until you saw the list of books he wrote in Korean or heard him teaching in homiletics class in Korean. In Korea, his outreach to women in prostitution signaled his concern for an evangelism that saw people as both sinners and sinned against.

Dr. Conn joined the faculty of Westminster in 1972 and taught apologetics and missions. His concern for missions eventually became his full-time academic focus. As a teacher admired for his engaging pedagogical style, students also considered him among the most demanding.

In his teaching, Conn forged a transformational theology of the church and mission. Working with Reformed themes such as covenant, kingdom, and redemptive-history and in dialogue with Reformed theologians such as Geerhardus Vos, Herman Ridderbos, Richard Gaffin and Edmund Clowney, Conn developed a doctrine of the church that, if implemented, would bring renewal to existing ecclesial models and the social context.

While committed to the traditions of the Reformed faith, Conn’s vision of the church was much broader. He firmly believed in the global church as a subject and not a Western object, and this influenced his theologizing.

Photograph of Dr. Harvey Conn, seated at right, speaking with anAbove, Rev. Harvie Conn, at right, speaking with the Rev. Edward Kellogg during a conference break.

Much of Conn’s legacy is to be found in a considerable body of writing and editing. He was the author of a number of pacesetting books including Eternal Word and Changing Worlds: Theology, Anthropology, and Mission in Trialogue (1984). A Clarified Vision for Urban Mission: Disspelling the Urban Stereotypes (1987), and The American City and the Evangelical Church: A Historical Overview (1994). We await the publishing of The Kingdom, the City, and the People of God, co-written with Westminster colleague Manuel Ortiz. [This volume appeared in 19 .]

Conn also edited books on church planting and church growth, as well as pastoral theology and hermeneutics. The most recent volume that he edited [was] entitled Planting and Growing Urban Churches. From Dream to Reality (1997), a study made especially valuable with his section introductions.

In addition, Conn wrote scores of editorials, articles, and book reviews, especially for Urban Missions Newsletter and Urban Mission Journal (founded by Roger Greenway, Conn served as editor from 1989-1999). The range of topics varied greatly and included urbanization in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, the role of diaconal ministry, Jonathan Edwards’ public theology, family life, church growth, youth ministry, evangelism, and parish life.

During his time at Westminster, Conn played a significant role in leading the faculty’s commitment to what was to become the Center for Urban Theological Studies (CUTS), an effort founded by African American pastors and Bill Krispin. His contact with the students of CUTS continually shaped his thinking about ministry and theological education, just as he helped to shape women and men for the ministry.

Conn’s most enduring missiological contribution was his concentration on the importance of the city. He wanted the church to focus on the city not because it was trendy—it was not—but because he read closely both the biblical material and the demographic data, bridging them together with a focus on a third horizon, God’s mission to the cities of this world.

No longer, Conn argued, could the world be considered a global village. Instead, it is a global city. This is the church’s context and challenge, and to be effective, the church would need to sort out urban myth from fact. He not only helped to put the city on the evangelical agenda, but he changed the way we think about the city. In light of new understanding of the city, he pressed heavily for church planting and the developments of models that pointed to God’s future.

His theology of the city was drawn from a redemptive-historical or narrative framework to Scripture. When asked his “favorite” biblical text on the city, Conn replied,

“Picking one biblical text to sum up my view of urban ministry is an assignment too awesome and dangerous for me. Too awesome because wherever I turn in my Bible it shouts “urban” to me. Too dangerous because the text I might select could leave out a piece of the picture too crucial in another text and distort the whole. We need a hermeneutic serious enough to link Genesis to Revelation in the unending story of Jesus as urban lover and the church as God’s copycat.”

In many respects, Conn was driven by a concern for what he saw in Paul as a special concern for the “outsider.” This is evident from the way in which he engaged Latin American liberation theologies, North American black theology, and a variety of feminist theologies. While his criticisms were not insignificant, he saw in them a profound challenge for the evangelical church to recover the holism of the gospel.

Conn often wrote sentences like “Jesus loved the leftovers and left outs, and so should we.” This quote reflected his Christology: Jesus was the poor one who embodied the jubilee in all of its holism for the city.

Christology and urban mission, word and deed, belonged together for Conn. Features of how this played itself out are evident from this quote taken from Eternal Word and Changing World :

“Theology, if it is to become truly and comprehensively communal, must emerge from a praxis of commitment to God’s peace for the poor (1 Cor. 1:27-28). To become revolutionary and not revolutionary, our theologizing will have to validate itself and its claims in the same way Jesus validated His. His allegiance to the poor marked His preaching and was a sign of the coming of the kingdom (Luke 4:18-21). His healing of the sick and the blind and his preaching to the poor became a validation to a doubting John the Baptist of his messsianic theologizing (Matt. 11:2-6). It must become an integral part of ours as well. Where shall we begin this identification? By sitting where the poor and disenfranchised sit, in the ghettoes of our cities, in the waiting rooms of public health clinics, in the unemployment lines and welfare offices.”

One finds no better summary of what Conn took to be the obligations of the kingdom than the title of his book, Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace.

Dr. Conn had several distinctive and memorable traits. One example was his, at times, frustrating propensity to work alone. Perhaps this was a result of the many frustrations he faced as an advocate for new ways of seeing and thinking about following Christ.

He was well-known for his sense of humor and hearty laugh. While a student at Westminster, I never looked for him in the library, but rather I listened for his laugh over by the periodical section. To paraphrase Langston Hughes, Conn’s laugh was like a handshake heard across the room. It was welcoming and inviting. Perhaps he was laughing at his own jokes, but that was always the best reason to laugh along.

Conn kept personal struggles such as his health very private. When he and his wife Dorothy’s poor health finally necessitated his retirement from Westminster, Conn wanted no attention drawn to his career. That was quite consistent with his character, but a disappointment to many who very much wanted to express gratitude for his influence. Never a credit taker, he always pointed away from himself and to the Christ he followed. In a Christmas letter from some years ago, he wrote: “Over forty years ago, Dottie and I chose the path of the wise men and followed His star. We have been Jesus-stargazers ever since. . . He still goes before; we still follow—not always wisely, not always obediently. But always hopeful.”

Conn loved to conclude his sermons, essays, books, and lectures with a barrage of questions. The motive for this format might have been to exercise his prophetic ministry in a less direct way. Or perhaps it was his way of saying he was helping to set an agenda, not resolving it. Probably both, and with a nod to Christ’s style in the gospels.

Here are some questions that a celebration of his life and legacy requires:
Will the church heed the Lord’s call to the global city of the next century and beyond?
Will theological education rise to the challenge?
Will we allow missions to be the guide for our theological agendas?
And in all of this, what about the poor and the excluded?
Will the church change for the sake of a gospel that is good news for the poor?

At heart, Harvie Conn was an urban evangelist who proclaimed sovereign grace so that the “world may believe” (John 17:21). His passionate focus on the gospel for the city called many, including me, to see the city as the primary site of Christ’s mission. May the witness of Conn’s Jesus stargazing in the city influence our lives so that we might faithfully proclaim and live for the One whom he followed.

Rev. Mark R. Gornik
New York City
August 30, 1999.

[Rev. Gornik now served as Director of the City Seminary of New York.]

Photo source: Presbyterian Journal Photo Collection, Box 246, file 2, preserved at the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO.

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Several years ago, the Rev. Howard Carlson, a minister in the Bible Presbyterian Church, shared a letter written by the father of Carl McIntire, addressed to the Rev. A.B. Dodd, a missionary to China. Both men were at that time members of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. One of the real joys of an archivist’s job is getting to read other people’s mail. [that’s an old archivist’s joke, but with a strong measure of truth]. This letter offers a rare glimpse into a close friendship between two young men preparing for their respective lives of ministry, one in the distant fields of China, the other, by God’s providence, remaining at home.

—– Original Message —–

From: Howard Carlson

To: [email protected]

Sent: Friday, May 26, 2006 10:55 PM

Subject: McIntire 03.doc

Rev. Carlson introduces this letter, saying that,

dodd_MM_ABBonnie, my wife is granddaughter of Albert Dodd, Missionary to China. He was a close friend of Curtis McIntire and the below letter was addressed to Dodd by the Rev. Curtis McIntire. They were to have gone to China together, but McIntire became ill the night before the ship left. Interesting thought – if Curtis McIntire had not become ill, Carl McIntire would have been born in and lived at least his early years in China.

Then he presents a transcription of the letter from the Rev. Curtis McIntire:—

Albany, Mo July 11 1903

“My dear dear Dodd:

I have been looking for a letter from some time from you.  I wrote you several weeks ago and perhaps you never received.  I am hungry for you.  I am up in the country 14 miles north of Albany as tomorrow is my day in our country chapel.  I don’t know how many times I think of you.  I have been thinking this morning on an evening sermon “And there shall be no night there.”  It’s in the description of the new Jerusalem.  No night there.  Night is the time for sinning, for suffering, for sorrowing.  Now night is taken for sin and its darkness but on those streets of gold with Him there will be no night there for He is the light thereof.  Isn’t it grand.  How I wish I could have a talk—one of the good old talks we used to have—one where we could open our hearts and minds to each other without the reserve we have to have with the rest of the world.  I have been awfully busy this summer.  Its hard to get disinterested people out of their old ways to a real activity of love for Him and the cause.  But I have one church that is a joy to my heart. Thirty were present 1st Sunday, 60 the next, 70 [hard to read; could be 120 or 170] the next, and my next visit maybe the church will be too small. It takes all my time visiting. I’m afraid I haven’t spent enough time on my sermons. I can’t get time to write [no? rest?] a word of them. They would be lots better if I could. Now I feel like I have spent too much time with people for Him and too little time with Him for people. I wish I could be with Jesus as much as I want to and to Him what I desire, but the flesh is strong and I let things of my work be the temporary excuse. Oh I love Him and I am so untrue. Don’t you feel that way? Oh to be used wholly by Him. I remember one of the verses they sang at Winona last year which went something like this:

A band of faithful reapers we
Who gather for eternity
The golden sheaves of ripened grain
From every valley hill and plain
Our song is one the reapers sing
In honor of their Lord and King
The Master of the harvest wide
Who for a world of sinners died”

Now the chorus

To the harvest field away
For the Master calleth
There is work for all today
Ere the darkness falleth
Swiftly do the moments fly
Harvest days are going by
Going going going by.”

I suppose you are getting ready to be off for Persia. How I would like to see you! You could tell me the glories of the Conference at N.Y.

I can’t decide where I want to apply for China, Korea, India are before my mind. I wish you would tell me what you think I ought to do considering myself and the work in the places. I am attracted to the evangelistic work of Korea. But China appeals to me for its need of workers, the need which is darkness. I wouldn’t be so careful [uncertain] about making my choice but I ____ that is one of the ways God has of placing me and I am to exhaust my possibilities; then if it’s not the place He will cause the Board to overrule. Let me know what you think. I want the outside view and you can give it me.

I haven’t had a long letter from “Herb” for some time. I’m afraid he isn’t savoring [uncertain] the work as much as I did last year.  I’m sorry I couldn’t meet for Commencement. But I learned you were still in the east. I saw Miss Forley [uncertain] and asked her to remember me to [you?uncertain]. And if you see her give my choicest regards to her and her sister for me.

I hope you get this before you start. I don’t know when you are to leave. I wish we could be together at Princeton again next year. Maybe we never will meet but oh the joy that in Heaven we shall meet and we shall know each other again in that place of beauty and happiness and holiness where we shall together see Him. I can’t tell you all my heart but it’s best in those words to  you ‘Dear Dodd.’

Your own friend

C. Curtis McIntire”

Image source: Photograph of Mrs. & Mrs. A.B. Dodd, as found in The Independent Board Bulletin, 5.8 (December 1939), page 8.

 

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William Andrew McIlwaine was born on April 24, 1893 in Kochi, Japan. He attended Davidson College, graduating with the AB in 1915 and from Union Theological Seminary in 1919 with the BD degree. Upon completion of his studies, he was ordained in May of 1919 and from 1919 until 1942 served as a missionary to Japan, including six months in detention immediately following the outbreak of the war. He returned to the US on an exchange ship in the summer of 1942.

Rev. McIlwaine was then commissioned on June 11, 1943, attending US Army Chaplain School at Harvard University, graduating there in July, 1943. Duty assignments included Station Complement, Camp Ellis, IL, July 1943 to Feb. 1945; Percy Jones Hospital Center, Battle Creek, MI, Feb. to Aug. 1945; special Projects Division, Provost Marshall General’s Office, with duty in Washington, D.C. and Prisoner of War Camp, Huntsville, TX, August 1945 to April 1946. On May 14, 1946 he was separated from active service with the rank of Major.

Dr. McIlwaine then returned to service as a missionary in Japan from 1946 until 1963. He later served as Stated Supply for the McIlwain Memorial Presbyterian Church of Pensacola, Florida from 1969 to 1971. In 1976 he served as moderator of the 4th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). He died on November 30, 1985, at the age of 92.

Aurine Wilkins McIlwaine was born on January 14, 1904 in Hopkinsville, KY; educated at Bethel Women’s Academy and College, obtaining her BS from Cumberland University in 1926. She then graduated from the PCUS Assembly Training School in 1929 and was appointed a missionary on Feb. 13, 1929. On September 3, 1931 she sailed for Korea and remained in faithful service there until 1939.

She married the Rev. William A. McIlwaine on December 28, 1939 in Kwangju, Korea and then went with him to Japan, where together they served as evangelistic missionaries. With only the war years of 1942-1946 interrupting, they served there until their retirement on December 31, 1963.

Mrs. McIlwaine died on December 20, 1982, at the age of 78, following a brief illness. She is buried in Bayview Memorial Park in Pensacola, FL.

What follows is a tribute paid to the McIlwaine’s, in light of their long lives of service to the glory of our Lord and Savior. Above, you have the basic facts of their lives. Below, the substance of their lives, lived out in the reality of redemption which comes through Jesus Christ alone.

FAREWELL TO WILL AND AURINE MCILWAINE
by Benson Cain

June 11, 1963

Kobe Station with Osaka Station
at Mikage, Cain’s Residence

Tonight we are gathered together to say farewell to Will and Aurine. I dare not say farewell really because surely we shall be seeing each other on furlough, and perhaps even in Japan – and certainly in God’s good time, in Heaven. I dare not speak from a personal point of view because then I must expose to the rest of the Station some things that only the McIlwaines and I know. I dare not recall all the personal aspects of our friendship of over ten years lest I not finish here tonight. But I will point out some general facts which we all can recall and appreciate. No matter what I say, I’m sure I’ll have not said enough, and no matter how well I try to say it, the matter won’t really be touched upon at all.

First, I’m going to say that we are saying goodby, for a time at least, to True Servants of God. I’m sure that not a day passes that the McIlwaines don’t serve the Lord in service to others. I can recall, as many of you can, the long nights spent in the office getting ready for the next day’s classes because during the day company had come;—a couple they had known before the war wanted to get started again in the Lord’s service. The sick were visited. Milk was distributed to the pastor’s emaciated children. The new language students had to be housed. As many as could stayed with the McIlwaines and then houses had to be rented. Rugs, desks, food, notebooks and many other little necessities had to be purchased. The thousand and one small services were all done as service unto God by servants of God. Therefore, these small services were always, as now, done cheerfully. They show as much zeal locating an old trunk that must be forwarded to someone as they do in the more spiritual aspects of the work.

Secondly, we are saying goodbye to Personal Friends of each of us regardless of other ties. These servants of God have the particular gift of being able to command the respect of all peoples and therefore all members of our Station and Mission have at one time or another confided in them. It may have been about where to work or the merits of a two-story or one-story house, the dangers of drinking well water or the problems of bachelors or single ladies, or the rigours of married life and rearing children. You can take your pick. They have counseled most of us on most of these problems.

Thirdly, we are saying goodbye to a couple who are Widely Loved beyond the narrow bounds of our Station and Mission. Recently near the Seminary about one-hundred twenty Christians from all over the General Assembly of the Reformed Church gathered to pay tribute to them for their years of faithful service among them. We also claim them, but not exclusively. The seventy graduates of the Kobe Reformed Seminary claim them. The four-hundred graduates of the Kobe School of the Japanese Language are proud to have known them. The Language School itself acknowledges Will as its founder. The Yodogawa Christian Hospital claims them both from the kitchen to the out-patient department, from the early days to today with its increased use­fulness. The Kobe Union Church claims them with many long years of faithful service there. The Motomachi Evangelistic Hall, the Chinese work, the other Reformed Churches in Kobe and some from other denominations all claim them for one reason or another. Many have expressed this gratitude in Kobe as well as in Kochi, Kagawa, Aichi, Gifu, Sendai, Tokyo, and other cities and prefectures where they have recently been honored. Then, there are the other institutions that claim them. Kinjoin Nagoya for many years had Will as a leading figure on the Board of Trustees. Seiwa in Kochi has had Will active in the life of the institution for all these years, not to mention Shikoku Christian College which Will, L.W. Moore, and Jim McAlpine were instrumental in starting in the early days after the war. I could go on and speak about the Inter-Varsity Movement in Japan of which Will is an advisor, the Japan Protestant Conference which elected him as its first president to celebrate the Protestant Centennial in Japan,—then the Japan Protestant Centennial. There must be a dozen more organizations that claim them, but let them do so. At least we are among them.

Fourthly, we are saying goodbye to Educators. I will not dwell on this. Many of you know of Japanese pastors who speak almost perfect English, taught by Aurine; and of Bible-believing and preaching pastors, taught by Will. Canadian Academy, the Kobe Reformed Seminary, and a half-dozen other schools in Japan are indebted to them for their educational services. I once heard someone say that she was never around Will that she didn’t learn something new.  He is not only an authority on the Bible but also on many other subjects.

Fifthly, we are saying goodbye to Evangelists. Lest I separate these two categories of Education and Evangelism too sharply and be criticized—I’ll pass on through this point saying—not separated by any facet of life—all of life is evangelism for them. Scarcely a prayer meeting passes that we don’t sense this by their prayer requests and prayers. I’ve worked some of the Nagoya area where Will was for fifteen years and have seen the fruit which lives on in the churches founded under his leadership. It doesn’t matter if it is the ex-soldier, scrap-dealer at Kaigan dori whose life Will saved after the war, or the shoe-repair man at Mikage—all have been touched by them and I’m sure even yet these too will believe. I’m sure many more will yet believe due to the seed sown by these faithful evangelists.

So tonight we say goodbye to faithful, true servants of Jesus Christ, to personal friends of each of us, to widely loved missionaries beyond our Mission and Station, to Educators among many institutions, to first and last and always evangelists to bring the glad tidings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to Japan.

Yet, in all of this we haven’t mentioned the wonderful sense of humor, the ability to listen with empathy, the doggedness to keep at something until it is accomplished, the wisdom to see God’s hand working in seeming adversity, and the grace to give the other man his way even if he is not due it—just BIGNESS and LOVE. We don’t touch all of this. In fact, all I say is so inadequate that the words of Paul speak best of them in Christ in this way:

 

“Love suffereth long, and is kind;
love envieth not;

Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own,
is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things,
hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Love never faileth…”

                                                                  I Corinthians 13:4-8a.

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What Might Have Happened?

macnair01Francis Schaeffer is reported to have been the one who coined the phrase “split P’s,” in reference to the many divisions among Presbyterians. But for all the talk of division among Presbyterians, the latter half of the twentieth century was actually quite full of mergers and attempted mergers. One of these attempted mergers formally began in 1972, first with committee planning, and then with talks in 1973 between the Presbytery of the Midwest of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Midwestern Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, as they sat down to discuss the proposed union at a meeting in St. Louis on April 24, 1973. Then in June of that same year, the matter came under initial consideration at the national level for each of the two denominations.

Both the OPC and RPCES assemblies approved sending the Plan down to their Presbyteries for further discussion and voting. With characteristic dry humor, Dr. Clair Davis, then a member of the OPC, quipped, “We almost know more about you RP’s than we do about ourselves. We have looked you over in more detail than we ever viewed ourselves with.” One major sticking point proved to be RPCES views on millennial issues, particularly as that had been set down in the RPCES edition of the Westminster Larger Catechism. In the end, the proposed union failed to secure approval when voted on in 1975.

The Preamble to the proposed Plan of Union is an interesting document to review now, nearly forty years later. What might have happened if that proposed merger had been approved? Would a new, larger denomination have entertained the idea of yet another merger a decade later with the PCA? And how do the documents drawn up in preparation for that proposed union compare with the later arrangements made for the Joining & Receiving of denominations into the PCA in 1982? The Rev. Donald J. MacNair, pictured above right, was a key part of both the efforts to merge the OPC and RPCES in 1975 and later in the efforts to receive the OPC and RPCES into the PCA in 1982. In the end, the RPCES was received into the PCA, and the OPC continued on as a separate denomination.

PREAMBLE OF THE PLAN OF UNION (1973)

The Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church come together committed to the supremacy and authority of the Scriptures, the inerrant Word of God, and confessing one Lord, one faith, one baptism. These churches come together as the ________________ [the name of a united church has not been determined] Church in one scriptural faith and order, in full fellowship in the service of Christ under the divine authority of the whole of Scripture for all of faith and life. We come to this union acknowledging both God’s grace and our sins in days past, and trusting in the renewal of the Holy Spirit for days to come.

In this union we seek first the honor of our Savior’s name; we wish to be found pleasing in the sight of the Lord who prayed for the deepest unity of His people. In particular we would praise God for His mighty grace in bringing us together after a sad experience of division in the history of our churches. Soon after the Presbyterian Church of America was established in 1936 to continue a faithful witness to the Christ of the Scriptures, a grievous division brought reproach upon this testimony. We recognize the genuine and deep concerns that influenced this division; on the one hand, a fear that indifference or hostility to characteristic features of the piety and hope of American Presbyterianism would doom the church to sectarian isolation; on the other hand, a fear that the reformation of the church would be crippled by adherence to requirements for life or faith that went beyond the teaching of Scripture.

We do not claim to have achieved unanimity of opinion on all the issues that led to that division, but in effecting this union we do confess that the unity of Christ’s church should not have been broken as it was in 1937. Both those who left and those who suffered them to leave did so without pursuing with zeal all the scriptural means for reconciliation. Each sinned in a measure, and even the least sin against the love of Christ brings reproach on His name.

In seeking the joy of restored fellowship, we would confess afresh our need of the heartsearching and healing work of God’s Spirit to convict us of all sin and lead us into the obedience of Christ. We express, by this union, our obligation and determination to maintain, by God’s grace, the unity of the church in the mutual faith, love, and confidence which we profess.
—–end—–

Words to Live By:

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
for brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious ointment upon the head,
that ran down upon the beard,
even Aaron’s beard:that went down to the skirts of his garments;
As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion:
for there the Lord commanded the blessing,
even life for evermore.” —(Psalm 133:1-3, KJV)

For Further Study:
To view relevant documents from the Max Belz Manuscript Collection at the PCA Historical Center, Box 118, folder 80, see the links provided here:

Docket
Part 1: Proposed Plan of Union
Part 2: Comparison of the Standards
Parts 3-7 and Appendices: Additional Details of the Proposed Plan of Union

Also, news coverage of the initial discussions of the Plan of Union in 1973, as carried in the June 4, 1973 issue of the RPCES magazine, Mandate, volume 107, number 3 (4 June 1973).

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Our God Is Faithful, from Generation to Generation.

On this blog, now nearing the end of its second year, we have on numerous occasions made use of the news clippings preserved in seven scrapbooks gathered by the Rev. Henry G. Welbon. Henry had a keen eye for the value of history, and those scrapbooks contain valuable coverage of the modernist controversy of the 1930’s. Additionally, Rev. Welbon also wrote histories of two churches that he served.

welbonHenryGHenry Garner Welbon was born in Seoul, Korea on September 28, 1904. His father, Arthur Garner Welbon [1866-1928], was a missionary sent to Korea under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. Upon arriving in Korea in 1900, a year later he married Sarah Harvey Nourse, a missionary nurse who had arrived on the mission field a few years earlier.

The Welbons served at several mission stations, raising a young family there on the field, until Mrs. Welbon’s declining health forced the family to return to the United States in 1919.

Up until that time, Henry had attended the P’yongyang Foreign School in Korea. He then completed his secondary education in California, before the family relocated to Maryville, Tennessee. Henry graduated from Maryville College in 1927, though he had suffered the death of his mother in 1925, and his father returned to the mission field shortly thereafter.

Pursuing a call to the ministry, Henry entered Princeton Theological Seminary in 1927 and was there during those turbulent years that witnessed the reorganization of Princeton and which in turn led to the formation of Westminster Theological Seminary. Henry was one of those that left Princeton to complete his education at Westminster, graduating there in 1931. He was licensed just before graduation and ordained in September of 1931 by the Philadelphia Presbytery (PCUSA), being installed in what some term a “yoked” pastorate, serving both the Head of Christiana PCUSA church in Newark, Delaware and the Pencader Presbyterian Church in Glasgow, Delaware. Now settled as a pastor, he married his dear wife Dorothy the following June of 1932.

Following his convictions, Rev. Welbon led his congregations to take a stand for the gospel, though it meant the loss of their respective buildings. This was in 1936, and Rev. Welbon became one of the founding ministers of the Presbyterian Church of America [later renamed as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church]. Then in 1938, he was among those who left the PCofA to form the Bible Presbyterian Church, with Rev. Welbon serving the BP congregation in Newark, DE until 1942.

Our own records do not tell how he spent the years between 1942 and 1946, but in post-war years, his facility with the Korean language became important to the U.S. government. The government eventually wanted to relocate him to Korea, but wise friends there urged him not to take that appointment. Wise advice indeed, in the late 1940’s. Later in life, Rev. Welbon returned to missions, serving first as a teacher in Japan, 1966-69, and then as pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Boatswain Bay, Grand Caymans, 1969-71. Thereafter, he was honorably retired as a member of the Delmarva Presbytery of the RPCES.

In the closing years of his life, and after the death of his beloved wife Dorothy, Rev. Welbon got on a train in the Spring of 1999 and left his home in Tucson, Arizona to travel across the country to research his family history. This had been a life-long project, and he hoped to finally locate some of the last necessary bits of information. St. Louis was one stop in his journey, and I was honored to meet him at that time. He continued on to Washington, D.C. to complete his research and then returned home to finish writing his family history. Completing that work, he took it to the publisher and died the very next day, on December 11, 1999.

Words to Live By:
Arthur and Sarah Welbon had six children, two of whom died in Korea while still quite young. They lived their lives in service to our Lord, as did their son Henry. Time does not permit us to search out the lives of their other children, but of the surviving children, one of Henry’s sisters, Mary, was the ancester—the great-grandmother—of Gabriel Fluhrer, a graduate of Greenville Seminary who served for a time at Second Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, and who now serves as an OPC pastor in Cary, North Carolina. And as Rev. Fluhrer himself once said, as he reflected on his family’s heritage,

“Praise God for His covenant faithfulness to generation after generation.” 


Rev. Welbon authored four books, of which the first two are currently preserved at the PCA Historical Center:

A History of Head of Christiana Church. (1933).
A History of Pencader Presbyterian Church,. (1936).
A History of Christian Education in Delaware. (Univ. of Delaware, M.A. thesis, 1937).
A History and Genealogy of a Welbon Family which Came from Lincolnshire, England to Detroit, Michigan in 1854. (1999).

[with gentle humor, it’s hard not to notice, that when Rev. Welbon found a title he liked, he stuck with it!]

The grave site of the Rev. Henry G. Welbon can be viewed here.

 

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In the Cause of Christ, There Can Be No Compromise

youngjml01John Mair Lisgar Young was born on November 7, 1912 in Hamheung, Korea to parents Luther L. and Catherine F. (Mair) Young, Canadian Presbyterian missionaries. John began his education there in Korea and later moved to Kobe, Japan, where he graduated from the Canadian Academy. He received the degrees of B.A. (1934) and M.A. (1935 from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, doing thesis work in the field of the German Reformation. He then attended Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia from 1935 to 1937, before transferring to Faith Theological Seminary, where he graduated in 1938. He was both licensed and ordained to the ministry later that same year.

On May 28, 1938 he married Jean Elder in Toronto, Ontario, and together they served as missionaries in Harbin, Manchuria from 1938 to 1941. From 1942 to 1948 he served as the organizing pastor of the Bible Presbyterian church in Wilkes-Barre, PA. The Youngs next moved to Nanking, China to continue their missions work, but were forced to leave China when the communists took over in 1949. A subsequent move to Japan initiated one of his most important periods of ministry. There he served from 1949 until 1966. During this time he helped to plant three churches and was cofounder of the Japan Christian Theological Seminary. At that institution he taught systematic theology and also served as the president of the school from its founding in 1954 until 1966. In that year his wife died of cancer and he returned to the United States with his seven children, arriving to settle in Grand Rapids, MI and work on the Th.M. degree at Calvin Seminary, with thesis work focusing on the topic of Christology. Upon completion of that work, he moved in 1967 to Lookout Mountain, TN to take a position at Covenant College as Missions professor.On February 8, 1968 he married Jane Brooks, a faculty member in the English department. They remained at Covenant until his retirement in 1981, at which time they returned with their daughter to Japan. Work there continued under the auspices of World Presbyterian Missions, the foreign missions arm of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. Dr. Young served as president of WPM for three years. Two of his sons currently serve as foreign missionaries in Japan.

During his time in Japan, Dr. Young served for fourteen years as the editior of The Bible Times. His first book, The Two Empires in Japan, was first published in 1958. Subsequent editions were brought out in 1959, 1961 and 1987, and the work has been described as “a valuable contribution to an understanding of the situation with which the Japanese Church is confronted today.” As a record of church-state conflict, it remains a very pertinent work today. In 1961 he was awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree by Covenant College and Seminary, St. Louis, MO. Other publications authored by Dr. Young include a series of ten booklets on The Motive and Aim of Missions and a booklet on Karl Barth’s Doctrine of the Trinity, along with numerous articles on missions and covenant theology as the theological basis of missions. Research for his last work, By Foot to China, was begun during the time of his studies in Christology in 1966-1967 as he focused on the history and theology of the Nestorians. [click here to read Paul W. Taylor’s review of By Foot to China.]

Words to Live By:
Matt Filbert, Director of Missions for the RPCNA, in his review of The Two Empires in Japan, wrote:—

“To what lengths are God’s people and His churches prepared to go in order to preserve themselves, avoid persecution, or pursue growth? John M.L. Young understood the dangers of compromise especially when churches would compromise the truth and authority of the Word of God. Mr. Young writes, ‘History has indeed shown that in the time of persecution the church that tries to save its life by compromise with pagan demands will lose its life, while the church that is willing to lose its life in martyrdom, if necessary, will find its life preserved by a host of new believers.’ ”

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the Law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. (Joshua 1:7, ESV)

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Remembering Dr. Harvie M. Conn [1933-1999]

[A tribute written in 1999 by Dr. Mark R. Gornik, upon Dr. Conn’s death. We are grateful to Dr. Gornik for granting permission to reproduce this tribute here today.]

He had a face turned to the city and a heart broken by the things that break the heart of God. A few days ago, Harvie Maitland Conn, pastor, missionary, seminary professor, theologian, and missiologist, completed his earthly urban pilgrimage. The cause of his death on August 28, 1999 was cancer.

From his 12 years as a missionary in Korea to his 25 years of teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) in Philadelphia (1972-1998), Harvie Conn left a singular legacy of calling the church, especially the Reformed and evangelical communities, to Christ’s mission in the city.

It was quite possible to overlook Conn’s preceding 12 years of mission work in Korea, but only until you saw the list of books he wrote in Korean or heard him teaching in homiletics class in Korean. In Korea, his outreach to women in prostitution signaled his concern for an evangelism that saw people as both sinners and sinned against.

Dr. Conn joined the faculty of Westminster in 1972 and taught apologetics and missions. His concern for missions eventually became his full-time academic focus. As a teacher admired for his engaging pedagogical style, students also considered him among the most demanding.

In his teaching, Conn forged a transformational theology of the church and mission. Working with Reformed themes such as covenant, kingdom, and redemptive-history and in dialogue with Reformed theologians such as Geerhardus Vos, Herman Ridderbos, Richard Gaffin and Edmund Clowney, Conn developed a doctrine of the church that, if implemented, would bring renewal to existing ecclesial models and the social context.

While committed to the traditions of the Reformed faith, Conn’s vision of the church was much broader. He firmly believed in the global church as a subject and not a Western object, and this influenced his theologizing.

Photograph of Dr. Harvey Conn, seated at right, speaking with anAbove, Rev. Harvie Conn, at right, speaking with the Rev. Edward Kellogg during a conference break.

Much of Conn’s legacy is to be found in a considerable body of writing and editing. He was the author of a number of pacesetting books including Eternal Word and Changing Worlds: Theology, Anthropology, and Mission in Trialogue (1984). A Clarified Vision for Urban Mission: Disspelling the Urban Stereotypes (1987), and The American City and the Evangelical Church: A Historical Overview (1994). We await the publishing of The Kingdom, the City, and the People of God, co-written with Westminster colleague Manuel Ortiz. [This volume appeared in 19 .]

Conn also edited books on church planting and church growth, as well as pastoral theology and hermeneutics. The most recent volume that he edited [was] entitled Planting and Growing Urban Churches. From Dream to Reality (1997), a study made especially valuable with his section introductions.

In addition, Conn wrote scores of editorials, articles, and book reviews, especially for Urban Missions Newsletter and Urban Mission Journal (founded by Roger Greenway, Conn served as editor from 1989-1999). The range of topics varied greatly and included urbanization in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, the role of diaconal ministry, Jonathan Edwards’ public theology, family life, church growth, youth ministry, evangelism, and parish life.

During his time at Westminster, Conn played a significant role in leading the faculty’s commitment to what was to become the Center for Urban Theological Studies (CUTS), an effort founded by African American pastors and Bill Krispin. His contact with the students of CUTS continually shaped his thinking about ministry and theological education, just as he helped to shape women and men for the ministry.

Conn’s most enduring missiological contribution was his concentration on the importance of the city. He wanted the church to focus on the city not because it was trendy—it was not—but because he read closely both the biblical material and the demographic data, bridging them together with a focus on a third horizon, God’s mission to the cities of this world.

No longer, Conn argued, could the world be considered a global village. Instead, it is a global city. This is the church’s context and challenge, and to be effective, the church would need to sort out urban myth from fact. He not only helped to put the city on the evangelical agenda, but he changed the way we think about the city. In light of new understanding of the city, he pressed heavily for church planting and the developments of models that pointed to God’s future.

His theology of the city was drawn from a redemptive-historical or narrative framework to Scripture. When asked his “favorite” biblical text on the city, Conn replied,

“Picking one biblical text to sum up my view of urban ministry is an assignment too awesome and dangerous for me. Too awesome because wherever I turn in my Bible it shouts “urban” to me. Too dangerous because the text I might select could leave out a piece of the picture too crucial in another text and distort the whole. We need a hermeneutic serious enough to link Genesis to Revelation in the unending story of Jesus as urban lover and the church as God’s copycat.”

In many respects, Conn was driven by a concern for what he saw in Paul as a special concern for the “outsider.” This is evident from the way in which he engaged Latin American liberation theologies, North American black theology, and a variety of feminist theologies. While his criticisms were not insignificant, he saw in them a profound challenge for the evangelical church to recover the holism of the gospel.

Conn often wrote sentences like “Jesus loved the leftovers and left outs, and so should we.” This quote reflected his Christology: Jesus was the poor one who embodied the jubilee in all of its holism for the city.

Christology and urban mission, word and deed, belonged together for Conn. Features of how this played itself out are evident from this quote taken from Eternal Word and Changing World :

“Theology, if it is to become truly and comprehensively communal, must emerge from a praxis of commitment to God’s peace for the poor (1 Cor. 1:27-28). To become revolutionary and not revolutionary, our theologizing will have to validate itself and its claims in the same way Jesus validated His. His allegiance to the poor marked His preaching and was a sign of the coming of the kingdom (Luke 4:18-21). His healing of the sick and the blind and his preaching to the poor became a validation to a doubting John the Baptist of his messsianic theologizing (Matt. 11:2-6). It must become an integral part of ours as well. Where shall we begin this identification? By sitting where the poor and disenfranchised sit, in the ghettoes of our cities, in the waiting rooms of public health clinics, in the unemployment lines and welfare offices.”

One finds no better summary of what Conn took to be the obligations of the kingdom than the title of his book, Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace.

Dr. Conn had several distinctive and memorable traits. One example was his, at times, frustrating propensity to work alone. Perhaps this was a result of the many frustrations he faced as an advocate for new ways of seeing and thinking about following Christ.

He was well-known for his sense of humor and hearty laugh. While a student at Westminster, I never looked for him in the library, but rather I listened for his laugh over by the periodical section. To paraphrase Langston Hughes, Conn’s laugh was like a handshake heard across the room. It was welcoming and inviting. Perhaps he was laughing at his own jokes, but that was always the best reason to laugh along.

Conn kept personal struggles such as his health very private. When he and his wife Dorothy’s poor health finally necessitated his retirement from Westminster, Conn wanted no attention drawn to his career. That was quite consistent with his character, but a disappointment to many who very much wanted to express gratitude for his influence. Never a credit taker, he always pointed away from himself and to the Christ he followed. In a Christmas letter from some years ago, he wrote: “Over forty years ago, Dottie and I chose the path of the wise men and followed His star. We have been Jesus-stargazers ever since. . . He still goes before; we still follow—not always wisely, not always obediently. But always hopeful.”

Conn loved to conclude his sermons, essays, books, and lectures with a barrage of questions. The motive for this format might have been to exercise his prophetic ministry in a less direct way. Or perhaps it was his way of saying he was helping to set an agenda, not resolving it. Probably both, and with a nod to Christ’s style in the gospels.

Here are some questions that a celebration of his life and legacy requires:
Will the church heed the Lord’s call to the global city of the next century and beyond?
Will theological education rise to the challenge?
Will we allow missions to be the guide for our theological agendas?
And in all of this, what about the poor and the excluded?
Will the church change for the sake of a gospel that is good news for the poor?

At heart, Harvie Conn was an urban evangelist who proclaimed sovereign grace so that the “world may believe” (John 17:21). His passionate focus on the gospel for the city called many, including me, to see the city as the primary site of Christ’s mission. May the witness of Conn’s Jesus stargazing in the city influence our lives so that we might faithfully proclaim and live for the One whom he followed.

Rev. Mark R. Gornik
New York City
August 30, 1999.

[Rev. Gornik now served as Director of the City Seminary of New York.]

Photo source: Presbyterian Journal Photo Collection, Box 246, file 2, preserved at the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO.

And a surprising find: Nosing around the Web, this, concerning Dr. Conn, was a surprising find. Campus statuary, anyone?

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A Distinguished Lineage

“If we as God’s people were only more willing to wait for the Lord, how infinitely great would be the things that He in His graciousness would be delighted to do for us and in us and through us to the blessing of others and to the glory of His Name.” — Dr. T. Stanley Soltau.

soltau_TStanley

Through a long, useful life, Theodore Stanley Soltau, D.D. served faithfully and well the Lord he loved.

Theodore Stanley Soltau was born in 1890, of missionary parents in Tasmania, and throughout his life was himself a missionary in every sense of the word. The Soltau family had  originally been Plymouth Brethren.  In fact, Stanley’s grandfather, Henry William Soltau, was born in Plymouth, in 1805. Henry authored works which remain in print to this day: The Holy Vessels and Furniture of the Tabernacle and The Tabernacle, the Priesthood and the Offerings.

Stanley received his early schooling in England, but when Stanley’s parents returned from the mission field to the United States in 1904, he remained stateside to obtain his undergraduate training in Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. His theological work was done at Princeton Seminary under men whose names are familiar to all in our church.

Shortly after graduation from seminary Dr. Soltau began a quarter of a century of profitable missionary endeavor in Korea. During these years he served under the Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., working in pioneer missionary works as well as in the administrative work of the mission in that land. It was while Dr. Soltau was in Korea that the church there suffered much persecution for its faith from the Japanese. Dr. Soltau stood firmly with the Church in resisting the attempts of the government to interfere with its service for the Lord.

Forced, through illness, to return from the foreign field in the late 1930’s, he entered on a new phase of his service. He was pastor in Evanston until 1942 when he was called by the First Evangelical Church of Memphis, Tennessee.

The blessing of the Lord was upon his ministry in Memphis and the church grew in number and service. Dr. Soltau’s life-long interest in missions was reflected in the interest of First Evangelical Church in supporting missions around the world.

After twenty-six years of an active and valuable pastorate, Dr. Soltau resigned in June of 1968. In his “retirement” he was, if anything, more active in his ministry for people and for missions. He traveled extensively in the U.S. and on missionary trips to South America and around the world.

In the early 1950’s, Dr. Soltau united with the then Bible Presbyterian Church. His help in the formation of World Presbyterian Missions was great and he served until 1971 as the president of this missions board. He was for a time on the board of the North Africa Missions agency, as well as that of the Greater Europe Mission and also Columbia Bible College.

T. Stanley Soltau, Christian gentleman, scholar, missionary, statesman, pastor, in the midst of an active life, at the age of 82, stepped into the presence of the Lord on the afternoon of July 19, 1972. “Blessed are the dead, that die in the Lord.”

The Lord blessed Dr. Soltau and his wife with children who grew to place their trust in Christ. His daughter Eleanor served in Jordan as a medical doctor; daughter Mary worked with a ministry for the handicapped; George was engaged full-time with prison ministry and Addison served as a professor at Covenant Theological Seminary and currently serves as an associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Coral Springs, Florida.

Words to Live By (once more, for effect):
“If we as God’s people were only more willing to wait for the Lord, how infinitely great would be the things that He in His graciousness would be delighted to do for us and in us and through us to the blessing of others and to the glory of His Name.”

Biographical—
A memorial for Dr. Soltau was published in the 1973 Minutes of Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. Our account above is based on that text. An obituary was also published in the RPCES newspaper,  The Mandate, and there is a Memorial for Dr. Soltau in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 15.4 (Fall 1972) 256. But thus far, the primary work on Dr. Soltau’s life remains the biography by Charles Turner, included as chapter nine in Chosen Vessels.

Bibliography—
1932
Korea, The Hermit Nation.  London, New York : World dominion Press, 1932. 123 p. [Includes “The Bible in Korea, by Rev. R. Kilbour, D.D. [1867-1942], on pp. [79]-89.]

1934
“Mission Survey,” in The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Korea Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., June 30-July 3, 1934, Rhodes, Harry A. and Richard H. Baird, editors.  Seoul, Korea : Y.M.C.A. Press, 1934. pp. 216-233.

1942
Straight Road to Christian Living : Valuable Helps for Young Christians. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1942. 63 p.

1944
Christ is the Son of God. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1944. 48 p.

1946
The Everlasting Gospel. Memphis, TN : The Mid-South Bible Center, 1946. 65pp.

1947
That They Might Have Life. Memphis, TN : The First Evangelical Church, 1947. 29pp.

1949
Lo, I Am With You Always.  Memphis, TN : The First Evangelical Church, 1949.  31pp.

Who do men say that I am?  Wheaton, IL: Van Kampen Press, 1949.  112 p.

1956
A Straight Road to Christian Truth [Seoul] : Presbyterian Publication Fund, 1956), Korean language.  65 p.

1959
“The High Priesthood of Christ,” serialized in The Bible Presbyterian Reporter, 1958-1959.

Facing the field; the foreign missionary and his problems.  Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959.  135 p.

Missions at the Crossroads: The Indigenous Church—A Solution for the Unfinished Task. Grand Rapids, MI : Baker Book House, 1959.  188pp.

1960
“Reformed Theology and Missions,” in The Bible Presbyterian Reporter, 5.4 (April 1960): 15-16.

“Paradoxes of the Cross,” Part I – The Place of Defeat and Victory, in The Bible Presbyterian Reporter, 5.4 (April 1960) 7-8;  Part II – Man’s Sin versus God’s Love, in The Bible Presbyterian Reporter, 5.5 (May 1960) 11-12; Part III – God’s Identification of Himself with Man, in The Bible Presbyterian Reporter, 5.6 (June-July 1960) 5-6.

“How Often Should We Observe the Lord’s Supper?,” in The Bible Presbyterian Reporter, 5.5 (May 1960) 10

“The Two Empires in Japan,” in The Bible Presbyterian Reporter, 5.6 (June-July 1960) 15 [review of John M.L. Young’s book]

1961
The Standard Bible Commentary on Acts. Seoul : Committee on the Bible Commentary of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Korea, 1961. 456 p.

1963
“Committing the Message to Faithful Men,” – Convocation Exercises at Covenant College and Seminary, St. Louis, MO, 27 September 1963.

1966
The God-pointed Life: Lessons from the Life of David.  Chicago : Moody Press, 1966.  127 p.

1969
In the Enemy’s Territory.  [s.l. : s.n.], 1969.  137 p.

1971
Yin Yang, Korean Voices.  Wheaton, IL: Key Publishers, 1971.  147 p.

1977
Liberalism versus Historic Christianity.  Lincoln, NE : Back to the Bible, 1977.  15pp.

1970-1979?
Jesus, man or God?  Memphis, TN: Time for Truth, 1970-1979?  55 p.

Undated
Our Sufficiency.  (s.l. : s.n., n.d.  20pp.

The Reality of Christ’s Promises : A Series of 10 Broadcasts by Rev. T. Stanley Soltau, D.D., over Station WMC.  Memphis, TN : First Evangelical Church, n.d. [1940s]), pb, 51pp.

See also—
While Charles Turner, in his biography of Dr. Soltau [chapter 9 in the volume Chosen Vessels (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 1985), pp. 159-183] states that Dr. Soltau “…kept no journals, no copies of his correspondence…”, nonetheless the PCA Historical Center is blessed to have some of the Soltau correspondence preserved among some of its other collections:

Robert L. Rayburn Papers:

Rayburn, Robert G., Correspondence, Soltau, T. Stanley, 1959 – 1961 8 30

Frank Fiol Papers:

Correspondence, 1956: Frank Dyrness, T. Stanley Soltau, John G. Crane, Kenneth Horner, Carl McIntire, R. Laird Harris, J.E. Krauss 359 7


At the Covenant College archives—
“For to Me to Live Is Christ,” [Final Message at Covenant, 6 pages].

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