|Re: Missing Gillespie (pub. Dec. 12, 2011)|
|Written by The Presbyterian Outlook|
|Monday, 09 January 2012 04:32|
Reading your comments on the contributions of Tom Gillespie to the PC(USA), as well as those noted in other news stories, one of his signal contributions to the church was not mentioned. It is his authorship of what was Chapter 2 of the Book of Order (now Chapter F.2 in the new Form of Government) — the chapter entitled “The Church and Its Confessions.” It is one of the real treasures of the book, in my judgment as well as in the minds of many others. Tom wrote that chapter and deserves the gratitude of the whole Presbyterian family for this important contribution.
This came about as a consequence of my concern to have some new theological statement as the 120-plus years of disunion between the two Presbyterian denominations came to a close. I had in mind something like the “Brief Statement of Faith” of the PCUS, which was a short summary of Presbyterian doctrine. The Union committee agreed with the idea and a group of outstanding theologians spent a long weekend in an attempt to produce such a document. Everyone who was there tried his or her hand at writing on some major Presbyterian doctrines. At the close of the meeting all the material was entrusted to Tom Gillespie, who had agreed to try to pull it together into one statement.
After a few weeks Tom sent the committee the document that would become Chapter 2 , “The Church and Its Confessions.” It clearly was not a “Brief Statement of Faith” but it was also far too valuable to discard. Our decision was simply to incorporate it into the proposed new Book of Order which has served the church so well since reunion in 1983. As you know, it took another eight years and a great deal of work to produce the “Brief Statement of Faith” which is now in our Book of Confessions.
I felt that, as one who knew of this overlooked gift of Tom Gillespie to the PC(USA), I needed to share it. He was a good and great man and his authorship of “The Church and Its Confessions” is one of his signal gifts to our denomination.
M. Douglas Harper Jr.
I miss Tom Gillespie because he was a great man in each of his ways of greatness. He was a wise and skillful preacher of the gospel, a brilliant N.T. scholar, the inspirational president of Princeton Theological Seminary through decisive years. He was always fair-minded and even-handed as a leader and guide for faculty and students. His smile was contagious, and best of all he was at the core a good man who knew Jesus Christ as Lord and friend! Tom loved pastors and their congregations. He had the integrity of strong convictions mixed with humor and grace. He treasured his family and modeled a wholeness of character that is now for us an enduring legacy.