It was in the backdrop of all of this I accepted the call to be pastor of Faith Baptist Church, in St. Paul, Minnesota, in November of 1970. The church had been established under the Planting and Watering Program of the MBA. However, the previous pastor Joel Kettenring had been a professor at Pillsbury who left the school a year before the split. His desire was to remain friendly with both sides of the conflict, but that was not easy to do. I endeavored to do the same thing when I arrived at Faith, and I kept up that spirit for my eight year pastorate. Our church had several different strains in the membership, but all were willing to follow my leadership of being open to both Pillsbury and Maranatha. But the church did not sever its relationship to the MBA, although we avoided being drawn into conflict.
As the ministry at Faith grew we emphasized the independent nature of our church polity and we opened up the church to schools, mission agencies, and other churches that were consistent with that independent Baptist orientation. I also reached out to churches within and without of the MBA orbit when I established an area-wide youth roller skating activity during my first year. That monthly ministry drew 30-40 churches from Minnesota and Western Wisconsin for an evangelistic thrust that especially helped the small churches.
After several years I determined to host a one-day Youth Conclave in the Twin City area. This event was fashioned after the annual state-wide conclave that I had administered in the Normal, Illinois ministry. The MBA held an annual youth rally, but it was not well attended and was not utilized by the few larger churches in the association. The Youth Conclave I organized was scheduled for the spring and the MBA rally was always held in the fall. Our first Youth Conclave was a smashing success with over 300 in attendance and with several MBA churches included.
I had invited my good friend Evangelist Paul Levin to be the speaker for the occasion. Paul was a personal friend from the Central Illinois area, and he had previously held evangelistic meetings for me at Faith. At the end of the day Connie and I took Paul out to dinner and then he asked if we could take him to the evangelistic meetings at Fourth Baptist, where his good friend Ron Comfort was preaching. So after dinner we headed for north Minneapolis. After the service Ron asked if we could go out for some fellowship. When we got to the restaurant Ron told us that Doc almost fell out of his seat on the platform when he saw us come in to the back of the auditorium. Ron wanted to know what caused Doc to be so exercised on that evening. We told him about our Conclave that day and explained that Doc must have seen that event as a threat to his leadership in Minnesota.
Sometime after that our assistant pastor, Wayne Vawter, finished his course of study at Central Seminary and graduated with his seminary degree. Wayne was from my youth group in Normal, and I had enticed him to transfer from San Francisco Seminary to join our church staff and complete his studies at Central. Wayne was a top-notch student and was an excellent representative of Faith Baptist Church while a student at Central. But Wayne was a graduate of Maranatha, and he was a member of that first student body in Watertown that left Pillsbury for the new school. He was a perfect person to help establish the principle of appreciation and respect for Doc and Central Seminary in spite of any differences of opinion on past issues.
At Wayne’s graduation an interesting and humorous incident occurred that further illustrates Doc’s personality and spirit. After the commencement ceremonies I was circulating around the auditorium foyer talking with friends and acquaintances. As the crowd thinned – my son Chad and I happened to encounter Doc. The Doc was still wearing his academic regalia, which included a large medallion that hung around his neck. Doc greeted Chad and me in his typical charming way. Chad looked up at him, and pointing to the medallion, said, “What is that?” Doc could be very gregarious with precocious children, and he responded, “This is the symbol of being President Emeritus of Pillsbury College.” He then followed up and said with a twinkle in his eye, “And you’re going to Pillsbury some day, aren’t you?” Chad in all of his mischievous naiveté said, “No, I’m going to Maranatha!” The Doc didn’t miss a beat and he said, “Well, that’s a good school too.”
Before I left St. Paul in 1978 I was able to persuade Dr. Rammel, then Pillsbury’s president, to bring the college choir to Faith for a concert. Several years before that I had invited him to come to our church, but after initially agreeing to come he later declined. I am quite sure that Doc discouraged him from coming to our church. Then in the final months of my pastorate I was able to take about 40 men to the MBA annual Men’s Retreat. This was a first for our church and was the opening of better relations with the state association in the years following.
A few years later I had moved on to the position of Executive Director of the American Association of Christian Schools and we opened an office for AACS in the Washington, D.C. area. In 1986 Faith Baptist in St. Paul invited me to participate in the 25th Anniversary celebration for the church. At that time I reached out to Faith’s pastor, Chuck Johnston, to see if he could secure an opportunity for me to speak in Central Seminary’s chapel during that week. This would be my opportunity to close, in an important way, the breach that existed between me and my seminary alma mater since my days in St. Paul when my independency had placed me on the outside.
On the day I arrived for chapel I was thrilled that 86 year old Dr. Clearwaters was at the chapel service that day. As soon as the Doc saw me he made a bee-line for me and treated me like a long-lost son. He took me to his office – at that time mostly ceremonial – and talked to me about my ministry, and asked about “his old friend” Al Janney. Al was the president of AACS and my boss. Al Janney was also one of those gifted men who had risen to the top of the independent Baptist movement. Time can heal wounds and I was glad for that.
During my years at Faith Baptist, and later at AACS, I made many trips to the Maranatha campus, and many to Pillsbury. Actually, during my time in St. Paul we went to the Owatonna campus for athletic events or student programs, partly due to the fact that my sister Priscilla was student at the college. But never was there an invitation to speak in chapel or teach a class at Pillsbury. At Maranatha I was asked by Cedar to come at least yearly to preach in chapel and teach the preacher’s boy class.
When I became connected with AACS I conducted annually a national basketball tournament for Christian schools on the Maranatha campus. Still through all of these years I endeavored to keep a good relation with Pillsbury and Central. Several times I reached out to the leaders of both institutions with offers to help them in various ways. I was directly involved in the establishment of the American Association of Christian Colleges and Seminaries. Dr. Cedarholm and Dr. Rammel were the two who made the motion to form the organization and to officially repair the institutional breech that had existed since the beginning of Maranatha.
I must say that during the years of Cedar’s administration at Maranatha I had some differences or minor incidents with him. Back in the early days of the 70s Cedar, and his administration, became very conscious and reactive to what they believed were threatening influences from the beat-nick, hippie culture that was sweeping America. Some of the reactions were understandable; others left me, and many other Maranatha supporters, scratching our heads. One time I showed up to preach in chapel wearing new wire-rimmed glasses that my optometrist had prescribed. They were light and wearable – but Cedar evidently considered them sinister and problematic. I simply took them off when I preached. Another time, he didn’t like the dress shoes that I wore that were smooth toed zipper-boots. That time I held my ground and didn’t go shoeless.
I never took offense to these attitudes and tendencies that Cedar had about fashions fads and cultural clashes. I could certainly see that students could go to excess, and I gained some appreciation for the difficult task that Christian educators face to resist truly unbiblical influences and trends. Still it was a time when reasonable institutional standards were sometimes elevated to a level of spiritual importance that caused lines of demarcation between scriptural commands and declared institutional standards to become blurred.
Finally, I had a difficult disagreement with him that was not resolved until many years had passed. Cedar had originally strongly lobbied against my dating relationship with Connie. He thought I should date around at Pillsbury and he later thought that Connie should attend Bible college for at least a year before we married. I keep a hand written letter from him where he waged that argument. But he was wrong – and I knew it at the time. Still I always respected his fatherly concern and did not reject him with bitterness. Connie won Thelma over way before she won Cedar, but in the end he came to realize that my Connie was God’s special gift to me.
Doc & Cedar
I’ve come to realize that both of these men were gifts to me and to countless others. They were human, and therefore fallible, but they were gifted men of God who blessed the lives of many.