When I finished college, I took a couple of weeks off and went straight to seminary. Both were good experiences for me. In college I finally learned how to be a good student. More importantly, I found a good wife (or rather, she found me). In seminary I learned the basics of ministry and deepened my relationship with God. I liked school. I was good at it. But after six and a half straight years with little let up, I was tired. I was ready to spend some time in the “real world.”
My first “real world” posting was to the Queen City – Bloomburg circuit. I discovered that my seminary course in Mission Anthropology was the most useful. After a couple of years there, I served as an associate at Cedar Bayou UMC in Baytown. My calling all along was to ministry in higher education. The real world experience, I thought, would make my academic work not merely academic.
I did my PHD at Fuller Seminary under the guidance of Nancey Murphy. I’d never heard of her before I arrived at Fuller, but after my first semester I discovered that her research interests in a Christianity that was faithful to Jesus and strong enough to overcome the weaknesses imported to the church from modern philosophy, paralleled my own. Her church background (Roman Catholic, Charismatic movement, Church of the Brethren) was quite different from my own, but the Jesus connection was enough.
Nancey, in teaching and conversation, stimulated my thinking and work over the next several years. More important, however, was her encouragement. As one who had to work a full time job (and a couple of part time jobs) while trying to be a full time student, and maintain my family, life was fairly stressful. Living in California was expensive, and even working as much as I was I was going deeper into debt every month. After finishing my course work and passing my comps and language exams, it was tempting to just give up – to settle for an ABD. But Nancey kept encouraging me. She thought I could not only complete my dissertation, but do it well. Her encouragement was certainly part of what kept me going.
Thanks, Nancey, for the encouragement. Thanks also, for modeling fine scholarship that serves the church and lifts up Jesus.