My dad had a unique friendship and relationship with Doc. Our family moved to Minneapolis in the summer of 1946. Dad became pastor of Lake Harriet Baptist Church that was located at 50th and Upton, on the beautiful southwest side of Minneapolis – the city of lakes. We lived in the parsonage at 5248 Vincent Ave. South, which was a comfortable two-story, three bedroom home on a tree-lined street about four blocks from the church.
Minneapolis has an interesting street naming system that features a successive series of alphabets. Therefore, if you knew which alphabet you were in – going from east to west – you could figure out easily where a particular street fit into the grid. Perhaps this system was designed to teach, or reinforce, the learning of the alphabet for school children. It worked for me. I can still recite the street names in my alphabet after sixty years.
As the Lord would have it, my future wife and the pastor who influenced me so dramatically both lived on a street in the same alphabet as our parsonage. The Clearwaters and the Cutlans lived on Zenith, but they were way up on the north side. Another thing we discovered was that both Connie and I had attended the same Saturday morning Children’s Rally in the Billy Graham Crusade in 1950. Both of us vividly remember the service Cliff Barrows conducted that day and his Bible story telling ability. But, of course, as 9 and 7 year olds we did not have any idea the other existed.
It was during this time that my father became closely involved with Doc. They taught together at Northwestern Theological Seminary, and they worked closely together on various local and national boards and committees. In fact, my mother served for a few years on the board of the Conservative Baptist Foreign Missionary Society alongside Doc, and Mrs. Harriet Bratrud who was a prominent member of Fourth Baptist Church. Later in the early 60’s Connie and I attended numerous youth singspirations at Mrs. Bratrud’s large home on the south shore of Lake Calhoun.
Lake Harriet was a growing church and it drew the attention of many leaders in the Conservative Baptist Movement of that day. After over six years of ministry in Minneapolis a large church on the south-side of Chicago contacted my dad about the opening in their pulpit. Dad was president of the Minnesota Baptist Convention, involved in a two-phase building program at the Lake Harriet church, and so he declined to pursue their entreaty to take the Chicago pastorate. However, that church did not give up and ultimately my dad felt that he should at least pray about considering Marquette Manor Baptist Church as the possible leading of the Lord.
Thus, it was after a successful eight year pastorate in the idyllic neighborhood of southwest Minneapolis we moved to the mean streets of Chicago’s southwest side. What a difference! But as a thirteen year old kid I thought it was an exciting adventure and invigorating. We even had a deacon who owned a hamburger shop – and the first week in our new home he brought us a whole bag of hot & juicy hamburgers.
But that was not the end of the drama. After one year in Chicago, Dr. Clearwaters and the leadership of the Minnesota Baptist Convention were pressuring my dad to return to Minnesota and assume the position of Executive Secretary for the state convention. Here is where I first heard of a slight conflict between my dad and the Doc. Dad told the Doc in no uncertain terms that the Holy Spirit had led him to Marquette Manor, and Dick Clearwaters was not the Holy Spirit – or words to that effect. That rebuff seemed to strengthen their friendship and deepen a mutual respect for each other. Dad was twelve years younger than Doc, but he had matured as a respected thinker and leader among his peers and was obviously esteemed by his friend Dick Clearwaters.
At the same time the Marquette Manor church was growing and I remember that dad was bringing in notable speakers to stir the church for vigorous evangelism and serious Bible teaching. Well known evangelists, pastors and teachers came to the pulpit during those years like R.R. Brown of Omaha, Evangelist Eddie Liberman, Dr. Lee Roberson, Dr. Charles Anderson (father of Leith Anderson, past NAE leader) and my favorite – Dr. James McGinley. Marquette was a strong church with a large cadre of spiritual men who witnessed fervently, served the Lord eagerly, and supported their pastor faithfully.
A year later – in 1956 – Doc Clearwaters was in the midst of launching Central Seminary after the seminary program at Northwestern was announced to be closing. In the hurried planning for that launch Doc had been talking with my father again and urging him to return to Minneapolis to give leadership and academic respectability to the new seminary venture. Dad, once again, said no to the idea of leaving Marquette church, but agreed to consider flying one day a week to Minneapolis to teach in the opening year. “Consider” was the operational word at that time.
In a rush to announce the new seminary Doc leaked the proposed announcement of George Carlson, Th.D., as professor of Theology and Church History, in some kind of written communication to potential supporters of the new school. This news reached some of the Marquette Manor lay leaders before my dad had the opportunity to approach the deacons about this unorthodox arrangement for that day and time. Because we lived only a few miles from Midway Airport, which was Chicago’s major airport at the time, it would have been possible for him to commute weekly to Minneapolis on Mondays. However, when the Doc took this presumptive action my dad told him “no deal.” On a matter of principle he would not subject the church to the uncertainty of losing their relatively new pastor of only two years to the new seminary. (Photo: Original Central Seminary faculty, 1956.)
I have often said to close friends that my dad, I think, was one of the few men who could say no to Dr. Clearwaters, or disagree with him sharply, and remain steadfast friends. They had worked together on a number of issues and fought some spiritual and theological battles together in the preceding ten years.
The two men had testified together as expert witnesses in several of the notorious court battles with the old Northern Baptist Convention over local church autonomy. Dr. Clearwaters was the expert on church polity and Dr. Carlson was the expert on Baptist History. My dad, I believe, could temper Doc’s powerful personality with a patient and firm resolve, plus balance Doc’s dominating leadership skills with a respectful logic and recognizable graciousness. There was always a mutual respect between the two men.
That relationship and balance came to a halt in 1957 when the Lord took my dad to heaven. It seemed in the years to come that Doc could have profited from a friend who both brought respect and perspective to some of the controversies that came later. But one does not know.
I started college in the fall of 1959 as the third year of Pillsbury College was beginning. The young college had already undergone its first conflict when the original faculty clashed with Dr. Monroe Parker, who was recruited to be the first resident president of the college. Dr. Parker brought an administrative philosophy and institutional approach that had been developed at Bob Jones University over its 30 year history. Dr. Parker had been instrumental in instituting many of those organizational policies at Bob Jones. The resultant change at Pillsbury brought a batch of new faculty members who would become integral to the early growth of the college.
In the fall of 1959 the enrollment at Pillsbury was about 175 students. By the time I graduated in 1963 the college had grown to about 350. That growth continued on for more than another decade when it reached the peak of 700-800. My view is that growth was the result of a number of factors. First, there was the natural constituency of the churches who had been part of the Central Regional of the CBA. This represented probably about a 1,000 churches in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Nebraska and the Dakotas. Doc Clearwaters was well known and respected within these churches. Second, Myron Cedarholm had been tireless in promoting church planting and growth nationally within the CBA orbit and he became a diligent promoter of Pillsbury.
Finally, Dr. Parker was an amazing promoter and strong administrator. Parker maintained a vigorous schedule of evangelistic meetings and travel in addition to exhibiting a strong leadership presence on the campus. He would often drive through the night to return to campus in time for daily chapel services where he preached and motivated the entire campus community. Under his administration an aggressive program of campus and student activities grew and flourished that included music, drama, athletics and most importantly – student extension activities among the churches.
The Cedarholms had already been a profound influence musically on my life. Music had always been a part of my church life, but it was at the little Baptist church at Lake Nebagamon where I especially remember Aunt Thelma’s piano prowess. She could make that old upright piano sing and ring. Another neighbor at the Lake was the indomitable Don Hustad – then director of the Moody Chorale and later organist for the Billy Graham crusades. I never aspired to be a musician, but I enjoyed singing and it was Uncle Myron and Aunt Thelma who encouraged me to form a quartet in high school.
In my senior year in high school I organized a quartet associated with a high school Bible club organization in Chicago. Two of us from that group enrolled the following year at Pillsbury where we formed a Freshmen Quartet with another acquaintance from the Chicago area and a recruit from Michigan. We traveled all over Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota during that year. Every time Uncle Myron came to campus he would want to know about our ministry exploits. He gave me fatherly advice about staying busy, and about how to juggle my college studies, athletic participation and weekend ministry extension.
I remember one time he visited my dorm room and advised me to take short afternoon naps and gave me tips about doing my laundry. He said that wearing sweaters would allow me to only iron the collars of my shirts and thus save time. Uncle Myron was always practical, and it seemed he was always on a mission. Traveling with him it was known that he’d tell the waitress that we were in a hurry and he would appreciate quick service. But he’d always do that with a friendly and upbeat spirit, and never would he diminish an opportunity to witness. He had the ability to encourage, inspire and be interested in to whoever he was talking.
During this period of my life Uncle Myron always amazed me with his whirlwind preaching. Often I would see him take note paper – sometimes the back of envelopes – out of his suit pocket and jot notes for later reference. I realized that many times these notes became the basis for messages – especially when he was preaching one of his inspirational/motivational messages. He was often called upon to give a report about church planting, or give a missionary challenge based upon his legendary around-the-world mission trip. No one could talk faster and cram more words into a time frame. I would say that he could preach an hour sermon in twenty minutes.
Later my friends who were students at Maranatha in its early days would talk about his rapid-fire delivery and long messages. I would say that they never really heard him in his prime. By the time Cedar founded Maranatha Baptist Bible College he had already slowed down quite a bit. It was during his barn-storming days as General Director of the CBA that he was at the height of his energy and vitality. He was a strapping ex-football player who was a house-a-fire in the pulpit. As he would say: “Keeping on the firing line for the Lord.”
During those days he would trade-in his Pontiac sedan every nine months after he would reach 65,000 miles. Myron and Thelma would be on the road over ten months out of the year. They would stop home in Chicago for short visits to be ready to dash off on the next trip. I worked one summer during college in the CBA office, and Lois Moyers, his secretary, would always breathe a big sigh when he would leave on his next trip because the office could calm down again. She was a devoted supporter of him, but she knew she could not keep up with his whirlwind energy.