Covenant President Gary Walter Preaches at North Park Theological Seminary
President praises faculty, staff, and students, reflects on "hope" theme
CHICAGO (September 16, 2011) — The Rev. Gary Walter, president of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), praised faculty, staff, and students of North Park Theological Seminary and said the roots of the Seminary lay in the “mission covenant” concept of the denomination it serves.
Walter spoke at the Seminary’s regular worship September 15. The ECC-affiliated Seminary has nearly 300 students seeking various degrees and certifications. The Chicago-based ECC is a growing Protestant denomination with more than 800 congregations in the United States and Canada.
Walter began by thanking the people who work and study at the Seminary. “I’m grateful to be associated with a school where such capable scholars not only care about the scholarship but also the spiritual vitality of their students, and all for the sake of God’s mission in the world,” he said of the Seminary faculty. Walter thanked the Rev. Debra Auger, dean of students and community life, Dr. Linda Cannell, academic dean, and the Rev. Dr. Timothy Johnson, associate professor of ministry and director of field education, for their joint leadership of the Seminary as the search for a new president continues.
“I also want to thank you, as students, for responding to God’s call in your life for the sake of God’s love through the world,” he said to the assembled congregation. “I am a strong believer in North Park and its future, and its role within the Covenant, and its place of influence among all seminaries,” Walter added.
In his sermon, Walter reflected on the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead in the Gospel of John 11:38-45. A theme of the story, he said, is that “hope shows up when people who care show up.”
“It’s a biblical truth. It is the very nature of the gospel. The gospel runs to the need, not away from it,” Walter said of Jesus’ decision to help Lazarus and his family. Quoting the writings of Methodist Bishop Will Willimon, Walter suggested that the church today cannot be distant, unknowable, and impersonal, nor can it be aloof or vague. “We must engage needs with a certain way of living, and serving and sacrifice,” Walter said. “As we do, we bring hope to the world.”
The ECC president said “the underpinning” of the Seminary is the same philosophy of serving and sacrifice. When the Covenant was founded in 1885, Walter said it began as mission society or “mission covenant” in which followers of Christ did his work to bring hope to the world. The Seminary, he noted, was founded in 1891 with the purpose of raising up “people of faith to bring hope to the world,” he said.
“Whether you’re in the Covenant or not, that is the truth that pervades these walls and these hallways, generation after generation of people who’ve been trained here to serve all over the world, in all kinds of contexts — born of the conviction that God has a mission, and we are called to join it,” Walter said.
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