Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, but Allan C. Emery did just that. As the scion of an old Boston wool merchant's family, he had a sizable fortune. His mansion, a replica of George Washington's Mount Vernon, had a clear view of Boston Harbor.
Emery, who died just as our most recent issue went to press, wasn't possessed by his possessions. A Christianity Today Incorporated board member for 20 years, Emery generously ladled out his wisdom and his capital, says Christianity Today deputy managing editor Tim Morgan.
Paul Toms, Emery's former pastor at Park Street Church in Boston, told me that Emery would say, "I'm well aware that when I leave for church on Sunday, this house could burn down before I come back. I'm trying to learn from God how to hold things in an open hand." From the teens who attended the Bible class he held in his home for 33 years to the major ministries he counseled, Emery was generous with his wisdom, his money, and his time.
Harold Myra, CTI's former CEO, recalled Emery's book, A Turtle on a Fencepost. He took his title from a folk proverb: When you see a turtle on a fencepost, you know he didn't get there by himself. "This typified Allan's attitude toward himself," said Myra. "He had tremendous respect and love for his father, and was determined to be worthy of carrying on that heritage."
Interestingly, Emery's father chaired Billy Sunday's Boston evangelistic meetings, and Emery himself played a key role in Billy Graham's Boston crusades.
Emery had been a fellow student of Graham's at Wheaton College, and they renewed their acquaintance when Graham came to Boston in 1950. From the mid-1970s to the late '80s, he served as president and coo of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).
Emery served on the boards of many Christian organizations in addition to CTI and BGEA, including Gordon College, Wheaton College, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Joel Aarsvold, longtime CFO of the Graham association, spoke effusively about Emery's trustworthiness. Emery shared Graham's legendary commitment to integrity and was Exhibit A of Graham's habit of surrounding himself with people of strong values.
In the 1990s, Emery's deafness hampered his ability to serve, but his passion remained with the expansion of God's kingdom.
Note to subscribers: A digital replica edition of Christianity Today is available as a bonus for print subscribers. Receive the digital edition free by registering your e-mail address at ChristianityToday.com/ct/CustomerCare.
Next month: Todd Daly challenges our impulse to extend our life span; Rob Moll talks to Jeff Van Duzer about God's business model; and Stan Jones outlines how churches should teach congregants about sex.
Copyright © 2010 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Read more from Christianity Today's December issue.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.