From the Editor: Climbing the family tree
In 1969 Boston pastor and evangelical spokeperson Harold John Ockenga, evangelist Billy Graham, and philanthropist J. Howard Pew capped over a decade of fruitful collaboration with a new project: merging Gordon Divinity School and Conwell School of Theology to form Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.
Among the young evangelical students in the very first class was my father. He vividly recalls the first chapel service in which he heard Ockenga preach as the school's inaugural president. Ockenga began by saying that he had been trained to write out a sermon first, then preach from an outline in order to avoid sounding rehearsed. But, he surmised, why not just memorize the outline? And so, with nothing but the Bible in front of him, the president launched into an articulate sermon that transfixed the new seminarians.
Two and a half decades years later, I joined my fellow Gordon-Conwell first- year students in Boston's Park Street Church, where Ockenga had once been pastor, watching the inauguration of Walter C. Kaiser Jr. as the school's third president.
Working on this issue of the magazine has felt like writing a communal autobiography. Not only does my own family have roots in the "New Evangelical" movement (led by Ockenga, Graham, and others) that transformed the American religious scene in the mid-2Oth century, so does the family of magazines to which Christian History & Biography belongs, Christianity Today International.
The company's flagship publication Christianity Today—which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year—was the brainchild of Billy Graham. Ockenga was chairman of the board, and the first two editors—Carl Henry and Harold Lindsell—were founding faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary in California, where Ockenga served as president in absentia. CTI's current CEO Harold Myra and president Paul Robbins were both involved in Youth for Christ, and their friendship eventually blossomed into a 29- year ministry partnership. Many CTI staff have links to organizations and educational institutions that play a role in the story we're telling in these pages.
For those of us who call ourselves evangelicals today, this story is our family album—yet we've sadly forgotten many of the faces already, along with the visions and goals that illuminated them.
As the CH&B staff have created this "family album" for you, we've benefited from the help of many people. We are especially thankful to Garth Rosell of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and to the staff of the Billy Graham Center Archives and Special Collections Library at Wheaton College.
With this issue we welcome Doug Johnson to the CH&B team as Design Director. Having given his creative gifts to many CTI magazines in the past, Doug currently splits his time between CH&B and our sister magazine Today's Christian Woman. He brings to CH&B a penchant for "cool stuff" like forts, catapults, and steam engines, a steady sense of rhythm from his days in the Yorktown Fife & Drum Corps near Colonial Williamsburg (where he met his wife, a mandolin player), and the inexhaustible patience and tolerance for mayhem gained from being the father of eight creative children.
Luckily for Doug, we're also welcoming designer Emily LaHood, who will be giving part of her time each week to helping him design CH&B. She is an avid Trivial Pursuit player with interests in politics and World War II. Between her love for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and her goal to become a better bowler, she promises to keep us on our toes.
Emily worked for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship after college, and Doug attends a congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church—a denomination founded by Ockenga's seminary mentor, J. Gresham Machen. The family keeps growing.
Copyright © 2006 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian History magazine.
Click here for reprint information on Christian History.
Support Our Work
Subscribe to CT for less than $4.25/month