For me, the Christian life is wonderfully captured in Heidelberg Catechism #1: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
I am deeply grateful for the Christian home that God gave me during my childhood on the edge of the Great Plains in southwestern Minnesota. From my earliest memories I have known and loved Jesus. My parents daily demonstrated serious Christian faith expressed in a Reformed, Presbyterian, evangelical manner. Through their adoption of my beloved older brother, who has lived a valiant life in the midst of cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis, I learned early to care deeply for the underdog, the ones at the margins, the sometimes overlooked and unappreciated.
I am deeply grateful as well that God led me to my wife Cynthia. Her faith in Jesus, intellectual yet heartfelt, is well matched to mine. She has been a tremendous companion and colleague in ministry. We shared a glorious year singing praise to God in the St. Olaf Choir. God has blessed us with three sons, two daughters-in-law, and three grandchildren.
I love to relax through choral singing, following sports (especially the Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves, and Gophers – being a fan in Minnesota teaches the biblical virtue of perseverance), playing board games (such as Star Trek Settlers of Catan) and card games (such as Bridge and Hearts), and just hanging out with my family. In healthy seasons I run (and have completed three marathons). I need more healthy seasons!
I have completed nearly 30 years in ordained pastoral ministry. The congregations I have served (large, small, and middle-sized) have been in Wayne, Pennsylvania; Waterloo, Iowa; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and, since 2002, Hope Church in Richfield, Minnesota. Through the many challenges and rewards of pastoral leadership I find myself most energized when teaching the Bible, providing care for individuals and families in need, especially at the time of death, and equipping the elders to serve as the spiritual leaders of the congregation.
The connectional emphasis of the Presbyterian way of being Christian has always attracted me, even through the challenge of often being the lone evangelical voice on presbytery committees and councils (in my previous denomination). Over the last decade I enjoyed creating safe spaces for evangelicals to gather for support and encouragement, and to pray together for a future in which we would have a new denominational home.
How wonderful to be at home in ECO! There are many good reasons to come to ECO, but what excites me most are the Essential Tenets. I am thrilled to be in a denomination where the core beliefs are so clearly and elegantly stated – and where the deacons, elders, and pastors vow to receive, adopt, and be bound by them. We will not always keep that vow perfectly. But God is good, Jesus is our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit is active and leading. Gladly, we will continue to aspire to this high goal.
It has been my joy to dive into the deep end of the new thing God is doing in ECO. Through my work on the Ministry Partnership Team of the Presbytery of the West, I have met many extraordinary pastors and elders. These are just the people with whom I want to share in the work of the Kingdom!
Now, with humility, I embrace the role of Moderator of the newly “multiplied” Presbytery of the Upper Midwest. My hope is to lead toward that sweet spot where the presbytery provides helpful structure and accountability and yet leaves lavish space for congregations to dare, to dream, to innovate. We will work best for our Lord when we purposefully partner in a context of high trust and affection – the “mutual encouragement” of which the Apostle Paul speaks in Romans 1:12.