In November of 1970, I became pastor at Faith Baptist in St. Paul, Minnesota. In January of 1971 Bud came to preach at my installation service, and our friendship strengthened over the next eight years. In 1975 he and I worked together to host the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship annual meeting at Faith. The year before that he engineered my election to the FBF board, and I still serve as an emeritus board member of FBFI today.
It was during my time in St. Paul that Bud became a strong and well-known leader. He started a Christian school and then became the leader in a new state Christian school organization. He became recognized as a substantive preacher and was invited to preach in many churches, schools and conferences.
Calvary experienced explosive growth during the 1970s, rising to over 1,000 in regular attendance. From 1970-1978 Bud led the church in five building programs that culminated in the 1,000+ seat auditorium that was completed in 1977 in time to host the FBF Conference. It was during this time that he was invited to join the board and executive committee of the American Association of Christian Schools. The AACS was still in a developmental state and in the summer of 1977 Dr. Al Janney, AACS President, asked Bud to consider taking over the administrative leadership of that growing, but struggling, organization.
It was in the early fall of 1977 Bud called me and asked if I would consider coming back to Normal to work with him in running this new venture? He said, “I don’t think there is any money, and I’m not sure what the number of schools are…but, would you pray about it?” I didn’t hear anything more until January when Bud called and asked me to fly to Illinois and then drive with him to Indianapolis to meet Al Janney. Dr. Janney did not know me at all – but, he trusted Bud and agreed to extend me an invitation to join the AACS staff as Field Director.
During our time ministering in Minnesota, Bud’s wife Marilyn was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and life began to change for the whole Weniger family. Connie and Marilyn had become close friends during our youth pastorate days, and so it was with mutual fondness that Connie and Marilyn anticipated renewing their relationship. Even though Marilyn’s condition progressed she maintained an indomitable spirit and continued to be a shining testimony of dependence on God’s strength.
We moved back to Normal by the end of June in 1978 and a new relationship between Bud and me was started. Bud was full time pastor of the growing Calvary Baptist Church, but he was also Executive Vice President of the AACS, and I was to do the work of the association. The AACS offices were located in the church and shared much of the church office staff and equipment. My duties required much travel, although Bud also traveled to many Christian school meetings and conferences.
The church program and activities continued at a fast pace, but now both of us were heavily involved in travel all over the country. Bud had already launched the large AACS Midwest Conference that became an annual affair in October. It was held at the flagship Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago and drew over 2,000 attendees. He brought in nationally known speakers like former California Superintendent of Education Max Rafferty, Eagle Forum Founder Phyllis Schlafly, and North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms. One year, Illinois Senator Chuck Percy asked to address the convention attendees so that he could assure them of his support.
Bud had grown to be an impressive personality with a strong platform persona and insightful organizational instincts that translated into the ability to bring growth and development. In the fall of 1981, he was even invited to appear on the nationally syndicated Phil Donahue TV show that emanated from WGN-TV in Chicago. I accompanied him on that trip and we rode to the studio in a chauffeured limo from the Hyatt Regency where we were put up for the night. Those were the days that the national media was just discovering the booming Christian school movement. AACS grew from about 600 member schools to 1,600 during the ten years I served under Bud’s leadership.