Modern Evangelicalism Mourns the Loss of One of Its Founding Fathers

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With the death of Harold John Ockenga, Christianity has lost one of the handful of men most responsible for giving shape and credibility to the modern evangelical movement. In a 1947 convocation address at Fuller Theological Seminary, Ockenga coined the term “the new evangelicalism.” He succumbed to cancer on February 8 at his home in Hamilton, Massachusetts, at the age of 79.

In his commitment of service to major evangelical organizations, Ockenga was virtually without peer. “He probably served on more boards than any other evangelical of our time,” said theologian Carl F. H. Henry.

To name a few of his many accomplishments, Ockenga was the first president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, which he co-founded. He served as chairman of the board throughout CHRISTIANITY TODAY’s first 25 years, and as president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, where he was president emeritus until his death.

CHRISTIANITY TODAY advisory editor Kenneth Kantzer says that it was as a churchman that Ockenga made unique contributions to the evangelical cause. “He became the trusted counselor of other leaders, who sought his guidance and spiritual wisdom,” Kantzer said. “The church of Christ will sorely miss his great leadership from which it has profited greatly over the last 50 years.”

Ockenga left his greatest legacy with Boston’s historic Park Street Church, a citadel of Christian orthodoxy in New England. He was pastor there from 1936 to 1969. His emphasis on powerful preaching, church renewal, and world evangelization helped make Park Street a much-emulated model of evangelical witness.

“I don’t think I know of anyone who was quite ...

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