Farewell to Darwin Glassford

Date Published

May 1, 2016

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Published by Calvin Seminary

The majesty of the mountains enthrall Darwin Glassford, who dedicates time each year to hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail with one of his two daughters, and summiting a 14,000-foot peak in Colorado with the other.

Amid scenic vistas along mountain trails, the allure of adventure speaks to Glassford’s soul and sensibilities, offering both abundant beauty to behold and the opportunity to explore places he’s never encountered before.

Now, after a decade as professor of church education at Calvin Theological Seminary, Glassford is forging onward, seeking out a new venue in which to serve the church.

“I move on praying and asking that God will continue to bless this place in order to continue to train and equip the next generation of ministers in the church whether that’s commissioned pastors, ordained ministers, Ph.D. students, whatever it might be,” said Glassford, who came to the seminary after 16 years of teaching and academic leadership at his alma mater, Montreat College in North Carolina.

“My wife and I sense that God is calling us to continue our journey in a different context, and so we step out in faith, trusting in God’s Providence,” he added.

For the past few years, in addition to his teaching responsibilities at Calvin Seminary, Glassford has been serving as the part-time executive pastor for Harderwyk Ministries, a Christian Reformed congregation in Holland, Michigan. He intends to continue in that position while pursuing a new role that will allow him to equip people for church planting and church renewal.

“I’m one of those people who just gets restless,” he acknowledged. “I think one of the things I’ve wrestled with during my 10 years here, and probably much more acutely in the last three or four, concerns the role of theological education and whether it should be anchored in an academic setting or in the church.”

As Glassford has reflected on that tension, he increasingly has felt drawn to exercise his gifts “in the heat of the fire of ministry.”

His experience at Harderwyk, he added, has fueled that desire, although he remains open to returning to the classroom in an undergraduate setting, or even in a theological training setting that’s focused on distance-learning instruction.

“The big question is how do we prepare the next generation of church leaders in a changing culture,” Glassford said. “I’m not against academics, but at some point do we become gatekeepers to ministry or are we empowering people for ministry?”

Glassford grew up in Miami, Fla., in a family that attended church services on Christmas and Easter, and spent most weekends fishing in the Keys or hunting in the Everglades.

“I became a Christian late in high school,” he said, adding sheepishly that he began attending Old Cutler Presbyterian Church “for all the wrong reasons — why does a high school guy show up at a youth group?”

But a youth director at Old Cutler “immediately took me under his wings, started discipling and mentoring me, and that sparked an interest in learning more,” Glassford recalled. “The church was very encouraging and very supportive when later I wrestled with a call to seminary and to ministry.”

Glassford said that he and his wife, Janet, are taking leave with the conviction that “this is a healthy decision both for us and for the seminary. One of the great joys of this has been processing this decision with the administration. It wasn’t a decision that was made in a vacuum and we leave with great appreciation for what we’ve been able to do here, and having been able to serve here. We are parting as friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ.”

For now, the Glassfords will remain in Grand Rapids, experimenting with intergenerational living with one of their daughters and two of their grandchildren. The fact that both of their daughters and all four of their grandchildren live in Grand Rapids is a powerful attraction, but Glassford said he would love to return to Salt Lake City, where he taught earlier at a now-defunct evangelical seminary. There are, after all, some mighty mountains in Utah.



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