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My only personal encounter with D. James Kennedy did not go particularly well. I was still a somewhat wide-eyed marketing and radio writer at Coral Ridge Ministries in Fort Lauderdale in 1987 and 1988. About a year and a half into my job of producing copy for his radio and TV broadcasts, study guides based on his sermons, program notes, product catalogs and the like, I had decided I would go to the very conservative Columbia Biblical Seminary in South Carolina to study world missions.

As Providence would have it, one day I met Dr. Kennedy, who was striding briskly to an appointment with several members of his retinue. Screwing up my courage, I said hello and told him I would be going to Columbia for grad school.

Dr. Kennedy physically recoiled and thundered in his trademark baritone preacher's voice, "Columbia? I wouldn't send my worst enemy to Columbia!"

It felt as if I had been slapped in the face. But recovering quickly, I figured out he was talking about that bastion of liberalism, Columbia Theological Seminary—not Columbia Biblical Seminary. With that matter cleared up, he wished me well, and we went our separate ways.

Dr. Kennedy always was one to dream big, act decisively, and let the chips fall where they may. His melding of conservative politics with his role as pastor rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. He could sound and look a little imperious—though part of his stiffness was probably from the brace this former Arthur Murray dance instructor wore to control chronic back pain.

All who knew him, however, talked most not about his views on abortion or school prayer but about his integrity and warm pastor's heart. To me, that heart is most exemplified not in the imposing Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (with ...

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