I began writing this short memoir about two of my heroes several years ago. I encountered difficulty due to time constraints – but also due to a conflict in my heart. I wanted to write something that reflected what I believe to be the human side of the two men, but I wanted my account to be helpful and not hurtful.
Richard Volley Clearwaters and Blaine Myron Cedarholm were larger than life real men of the 20th Century. They had foibles like we all do, although during their illustrious careers it seemed almost sacrilegious or disrespectful to speak of any hint of imperfection. Some of that was because of the day and age in which they lived and served, and the positions of leadership that they occupied at the time.
It was Doc Clearwaters who said a number of times that we all have feet of clay. But it is difficult for younger men – especially former students and adherents – to address their respected elders on a matter of difference or in the case of definite disagreement.
I loved both men, although at times both of them exasperated me as a young man in the ministry. But they were godly men who had a profound godly influence on my life and on the lives of countless others.
This reflection is somewhat of a healing journey for me. The healing has more to do with the disappointments of what might have been, rather than a need to reconcile feelings toward either man.
Gerry Carlson, March 2017
Doc and Cedar
Two of my dad’s closest friends in life were Dick Clearwaters and Myron Cedarholm. That is how he referred to them within my hearing as a boy. With a few others, they were among his most intimate personal friends and were compatriots in ministry – especially during the early days of the formation and development of the Conservative Baptist Movement. Dad served for eight years with Dr. Clearwaters at the Northwestern Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, and was a close ally and confidant with Dr. Cedarholm during the first decade of the Conservative Baptist Association.
Myron Cedarholm, and his wife, became “Uncle Myron” and “Aunt Thelma” to me as a young boy due to their close friendship with my parents and family. As I grew into teen years he became “Uncle Cedar” and then, just plain “Cedar” in my adult years.
Doc Clearwaters was an early role model for me, along with a host of famous preachers who were friends of my dad. He was my wife’s pastor all through her growing up days, and the father of one of her close girlhood friends. Connie stayed overnight many times at the Clearwaters’ home during her youth, and her mother was a weekly luncheon companion of Mrs. Clearwaters.
By the time I was entering the ministry I was very comfortable in my relationships with both Doc and Cedar. They were heroes, and both were highly esteemed mentors in ministry. I had a natural respect for, and easy access to, both men – even after they became estranged from one another.
When my dad was killed in a plane crash in 1957, both men became special figures in my life. I was just 16 years old at that time and it was only two months after Pillsbury Conservative Baptist Bible College opened in Owatonna, Minnesota. Dr. Clearwaters was the founding president and chairman of the board of the college. One of the last things I remember my dad talking to me about was his encouragement to consider Pillsbury when I graduated from high school. In less than two years I enrolled as a student in the third class entering the college.
My dad, Dr. George Carlson, was a pastor and theologian, with an earned Th.D. degree from the Northern Baptist Seminary in Chicago. Initially he was assistant pastor and then pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church of Chicago, where the organizing meeting for the fledging Conservative Baptist Movement was held in 1943. In 1946 he moved to Minneapolis to become pastor of the Lake Harriet Baptist Church, and teach part time at Northwestern Seminary.
During his time in Minnesota dad became a leader in the C.B. Movement alongside Drs. Clearwaters and Cedarholm. Dad was for three years the president of the Minnesota Baptist Convention, and a Vice-President of the CBA. He also served under Dr. Clearwaters at Northwestern, when Doc was Dean of the seminary. This was in addition to his responsibilities of being pastor of Fourth Baptist Church.
Dr. Cedarholm became the General Director of the Conservative Baptist Association in the late 40s, but also in the early 50s became one of the property owners at Maranatha Bay on Lake Nebagamon in northwestern Wisconsin. Maranatha Bay was an association of thirteen property owners who built summer cabins on the picturesque lake shore. My father, along with Herbert Lockyer, Jr., organized this wonderful summer retreat for Christian leaders and their families.
Mine was a truly good and godly heritage.