Over a two day period thirty years ago, I had the opportunity to celebrate two milestones in my life. In many ways, probably in ways I didn't anticipate at the time, the course of my life was being set.
The first of two milestones came on June 8, 1985. This was my graduation from Fuller Theological Seminary with my Masters of Divinity degree. I had gone to Fuller without a clear sense of purpose. I knew I wanted to go to seminary. I had intended to go to Emmanuel School of Religion, but when a friend described Fuller, I decided that was the place for me. So, in the fall of 1981, I packed up my Ford Maverick and took off from Oregon with $500 in my pocket and no job or housing in place in Pasadena. Looking back it seems sort of foolish to do what I did, but it all worked out. I got a room at the YMCA and got a job at Lighthouse Christian Stores, before starting school in January of 1982. Later that spring I met Cheryl, and well you know how that ended. So, thirty years ago today, I joined a large group of graduates crossing the stage to receive that M.Div. degree, which fulfilled a major requirement toward ordination.
In many ways those years I spent at Fuller helped form me as a person. Fuller is an evangelical school, but my professors encouraged me to ask questions and explore answers. I got to study Barth with Geoffrey Bromiley, preaching with Ian Pitt-Watson, philosophy with Jack Rogers, Bonhoeffer with Lew Smedes, and women in ministry with Roberta Hestenes.. This is just a small portion. Most influential for me were Scott Bartchy, with whom I studied 1 Corinthians at the Westwood Foundation; Jim Butler, my teacher for two Old Testament classes; Colin Brown, my theology professor who taught us that we must develop our own systems and taught theology with a historical eye that would influence the way I taught theology. Finally, it was during this season of schooling that I first studied with my future Ph.D. mentor, Jim Bradley. I took six courses with Jim, covering the full spectrum of church history. Jim became not only my teacher, but my dearest friend. Thank you to all named!
The day following my graduation from seminary, I was ordained at Temple City Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). When I went to Fuller I didn't have a firm grasp on who I was denominationally. I had left the Foursquare Church as a senior in college, attended a small Disciples Church for a time and then served as a youth minister for a rural congregation aligned with what is known as the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. When I got to Pasadena I ended up at a Disciples church, but before long drifted over to Pasadena Covenant Church (a congregation full of Fuller students not sure where they belonged). It was while attending there that I met Cheryl. As I moved from the M.A. program to the M.Div. program, I had to decide on a course of action if I was going to be ordained. Finally deciding that the Evangelical Covenant Church wasn't the right fit, my friend Steve Knox talked me into pursuing the Disciples again. That would lead to my internship at Temple City. My supervisor/mentor would be Ed Linberg. Ed was a wise and experienced pastor who helped me gain focus in my understanding of ministry. Unfortunately for me, he was called to another congregation that winter, which interestingly elevated my status from intern to assistant pastor, and for a couple of months the other assistant pastor, John Hull, and I sort of ran things until Tom Toler came as interim. Let's just say that this all served to make for an interesting year. But, I think it was a very formative one. This experience was paired with the history and polity course I took at the Disciples Seminary Foundation in Claremont with Don Reisinger.
Who I am today is rooted in the events that culminated in my graduation from Fuller and my ordination at Temple City, under the auspices of the Pacific Southwest Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). These events will get celebrated on June 21st when my Disciples colleague and college friend, Rev. Dr. Glen Miles will join us at Central Woodward Christian Church for worship. So, thanks be to God and to all who journeyed with me during this season of my life, most especially Cheryl!