Examine Carolyn’s questions and you will likely agree with me that they assume personal growth, and a willingness to change one’s perspective while growing up. In response to her first question I recounted several stepping stones in my life. Now I will address Carolyn’s second question and honor three individuals who influenced me.
I was thirty-five and a newly ordained bishop of a new district. I think the ministers of the district influenced me as much as I influenced them. Doctor Paul R. Miller who had deep roots in Lancaster County was asked to come from Indiana to a meeting of pastors to help give us an identity. He told us that if we had been ordained ministers in churches located in Lancaster County our identity would be quickly made clear to us. But, he noted that we were a thousand miles from “the county”, and therefore were required to chart a new course for ourselves and our young congregations. Miller instructed us not to simply look to the Old and New Testaments for direction, but look instead to what he called the “now testament” to discern the Holy Spirit’s leading for our day.
A seminar sponsored in 1963 or 1964 by the Eastern Mission Board at Black Rock Retreat in Pennsylvania for voluntary service unit leaders and their bishops brought me under the influence of Harold Bauman. Bauman used Romans 15:7 to teach us how to accept others. Paul wrote, “Accept one another, then, as God in Christ accepted you.”
This changed the question. It was no longer has God accepted them, but how has God accepted me? I believed that though I was imperfect God had accepted me as I was. As a young churchman I was learning to accept others in that same godly way. I had no idea where this new perspective toward others would lead me.
When I was a forty-year old bishop I was given a year of study at Eastern Mennonite College. One of my professors was Willard Swartley who taught a class on New Testament Theology. Swartley recognized that I would never be able to read the Bible in its original languages. So he introduced me to The Joy of Discovery written by Oletta Wald. Wald’s booklet gave me the simple inductive tools I needed to study the Bible for myself in English.
These influencers were likely unaware that they were preparing me for the opportunities I would have to listen to and advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transexual and any others. Nor were they likely aware that they were helping me to move from a young conformist to a senior nonconformist. Click here if you have not read the whole story.
From young conformist
to senior nonconformist