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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

The Francis Schaeffer Institute and Me

Francis Schaeffer

Udo Middlemann

We have just finished our annual New York journalism course at The King’s College and this year our worldview component was taught by Udo Middelmann of Switzerland, who was this year’s WJI Francis Schaeffer scholar for cultural apologetics. The selection was appropriate since he is Dr. Schaeffer’s eldest son-in-law, and he and his wife Debbie care for Edith Schaeffer in Switzerland. Mr. Middelmann is president of the Schaeffer Foundation, at one time housed at The King’s College, a former teacher at TKC and a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary. I have known him for 15 years since he and I had adjoining booths at the L’Abri Jubilee celebration in St. Louis in l995. Udo was typically insightful, complex and completely winsome in his lectures this year, and his involvement caused me to reflect on my involvement with the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis.

My wife Kathy and I were introduced to Francis Schaeffer in December 1968, when Larry and Arlene Hatfield, co-workers and good friends on the European staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, went to study at L’Abri in Switzerland. Schaeffer’s book Escape from Reason had just come out weeks earlier in England. I had been made aware of the work of Schaeffer by another friend and Crusade colleague, the late Paul Cowan. I was living in London, England, at the time and was struggling with the desire to retreat from the culture because it was so hostile to my new faith in Christ. Cowan told me of this knickers-wearing little man who caused such a stir at Wheaton College when he spoke there in 1965. Anyway, off went the Hatfields and the Cases to the mountains of Switzerland and L’Abri to study with Francis Schaeffer in the winter of l968.

In the summer of l969, Kathy and I left Crusade, moved back to Seattle and began a radio news broadcasting career (which lasted all of two years!). When Kathy and I moved to Seattle, I wrote Schaeffer and asked him which church I ought to attend. He suggested Bible Presbyterian Church in the Green Lake area of Seattle. Schaeffer said it, so I did. That’s the way it was in those days for us camp followers.

After a year in radio news, I wrote Schaeffer again and asked him where I should go to seminary. He wrote back and suggested I go to either Westminster in Philadelphia or Covenant in St. Louis. At the time Covenant was not even accredited. So I “applied” to both and both accepted me. (It was very simple in those days.) The acceptance was not a foregone conclusion since my academic record at the University of Washington needed all the registrar’s assistance it could get due to my 2.00 grade point average. How you do that, I am not even sure, but it was the Vietnam War era and all kinds of crazy things were permitted. In any event, times must have been desperate at Covenant Seminary, because I received this wonderful handwritten card from John Buswell, dean of students and the son of the famous theologian and statesmen, J. Oliver Buswell, accepting me for that fall’s class. I was in the first generation of L’Abri students to come to Covenant. My time at Covenant was a wondrous time of enlightenment, self-improvement and friend-making that has lasted for decades. I am thankful that John Buswell took pity on this savage from Seattle and let me in to the delights of Reformed theology. Anyway, Schaeffer told me I should go to Covenant, so I went to Covenant.

I did well at Covenant and graduated in l973. I moved on through various jobs, unable to keep my overlords happy. However, one constant in my life was my appreciation for Covenant Theological Seminary and the contribution it made to my life.

Jerram Barrs

Jumping ahead 15 years, the Francis Schaeffer Institute began at Covenant Seminary in 1989 with the return of my extraordinarily gifted classmate, Jerram Barrs, from the English L’Abri. Barrs had been a confidant of Dr. Schaeffer’s and an outstanding graduate of CTS (in 1971). An admirer of Dr. David Clyde Jones, distinguished professor of systematic theology at Covenant, Barrs looked forward to working alongside his friend and mentor, Jones, in St. Louis. In forming the institute in March l989, seminary president Dr. Paul Kooistra stated, “The institute will offer an M.Div. major as well as a Graduate Certificate in Christianity and Contemporary Culture.” Later that spring Paul wrote me that “already the institute has made an impact on our student recruitment.” This was confirmed a year later by Jerram when he wrote me that twice as many applicants had applied to Covenant over the year before and that his classes needed to be divided due to increased enrollment.  Clearly the leadership of Kooistra in garnering the Schaeffer family approval for the location of the institute at

Paul Kooistra

CTS was bearing fruit. In March 1989, Francis Schaeffer’s widow, Edith, is quoted in a March press release as saying, “I’m very thankful that his ideas will be relayed to another generation of pastors. I feel very strongly that so much of what is taught today is shallow and meaningless. And of course, we have the problem of extreme liberalism, where people no longer believe anything at all. Or that you should feel instead of think.” Clearly the feeling was mutual because decades after this, Kooistra wrote me and stated, “The most memorable day in my entire life was the day that my wife, Jan, and I flew to Rochester, Minn., to talk to Edith about starting the institute. No one else could have filled our day with such warm hospitality, excitement, eccentricity, and faith, than Edith did on the December 11th, 1988.” Indeed.

As an admirer of Schaeffer’s and a graduate of CTS, I expressed my interest to President Kooistra in being a part of the Schaeffer Institute in some fashion.

A couple of years later, in December 1991, Dr. Kooistra pulled together a group of about a dozen Covenant Seminary staff and Schaefferites for a meeting called, “A Time to Persuade,” held on the eastern shore of Maryland at the Osprey Point Retreat and Conference Center (Cedar Point Farm). Attending this first apologetic roundtable of the Schaeffer Institute were folks from Covenant (Barrs, Kooistra, Bryan Chapell, Andrew Southwell), prominent friends of Schaeffer (Os Guinness, Bill Edgar, Dick Keyes, Mike Tymchak, David Wells), some interested supporters [Bob Kramer (Alexandria), Sam Yeager (Huntsville), Allen Morris (Miami), Harry Krieg (St. Louis), and myself]. The “consultation,” which was to explore the idea of a board of advisors for the institute, was co-hosted by an organization called The Second Watch, a Guinness group staffed by John Seel, Amy Boucher and Jennifer McDonald. All in all, a very distinguished group. The apologetics roundtable met on a Thursday night and Friday at Osprey. Friday night we left the Maryland shore to move to Washington, D.C., (more precisely, Old Alexandria) for the organizational meeting of the Schaeffer Institute advisory council on Saturday. On Friday night, after arriving in Alexandria, we had dinner at the unique Casablanca Restaurant on King Street. It wasn’t Rick’s, but it was close enough. Pretty exciting stuff for a country boy from central Washington state.

A sidebar: I have stayed in touch with many of the group. Indeed, Edgar, Keyes, Chapell and Seel have all spoken to our students at the World Journalism Institute. I have also brought Wells out to speak to my church in Tacoma. We have used Barrs’ book on evangelism in journalism courses at the World Journalism Institute since it came out in 2001. Chapter 30 (“Building Bridges for the Gospel”) is worth the small price of the book and should be required reading for every Christian journalist.

In Alexandria, we stayed at the new boutique hotel Morrison House, built by a Covenant friend, Robert Morrison. In the mid 70s I had been in a Bible study with Bob and Mike Cromartie in Bob and Rosemary’s kitchen. Cromartie was a newly minted B.A. from Covenant and was an assistant to a new ministry called Prison Fellowship run by the tough-as-nails Chuck Colson. Mike, of course, has been vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center for decades, and is a capital fixture and a long time friend.

Back to the Schaeffer meetings in December 1991. At our brief organizational meeting on Saturday morning, we discussed whether something like a Schaeffer study center could be funded and sustained at Covenant Theological Seminary. There was already an aggressive program of classes, lectures, community outreach and plans for the future (including the remodeling of the lovely president’s house on the CTS campus for the institute offices for $55,000). Andrew Southwell (a CTS student from Australia) was functioning as a part-time administrative assistant alongside Vicki Barrs, Jerram’s wife. In addition to the CTS men at that first meeting were Morris from Miami, Yeager from Huntsville, Krieg from St. Louis and myself from Ellensburg. During our stay at the Morrison House, Jerram asked me if I would be interested in being the chairman of the first advisory council. Of course I said I would.

After the morning meeting, we trundled over to Jack and Joanne Kemp’s Alexandrian home for a brief meeting with Joanne who was a friend of the Schaeffers’ and one half of a power couple in the nation’s capital. I had written Joanne a month before inviting her to meet with us at our December Alexandria meeting. I can’t remember if we met her because of my letter or not. I had met Joanne at several other earlier events so I had a slight acquaintance with her. In a follow-up letter to her I wrote, “With the new initiatives we discussed on Saturday, (involving Schaeffer Foundation, Schaeffer Institute, Second Watch, WORLD magazine), we are on the verge of another apologetic renaissance and you are right in the middle of the action.”

Three things came out of that first meeting at the Morrison House in l991:
*the commitment to host an annual apologetics roundtable,
*an apologetics resource center located at CTS, and
*the formation of a board of advisors to help raise money for the institute.
Of course Jerram was the key ingredient in all of this activity and shortly we had our founding board members: Allen Morris, Harry Krieg, Sam Yeager, Sissy Kramer (St. Louis), Carol Clarkson (St. Louis), Joe Pottebaum (St. Louis), Ray Phillips (Atlanta) and myself. Additionally, Kooistra and Chapell represented the seminary on the board.

The first constituted meeting of the new FSI board of advisors was a couple of months after the Alexandria meeting in February 1992.  One of the tasks was to determine what the purpose of the board was. There was some confusion because many on the new council were not connected to Covenant Seminary but rather owed their presence on the council to being devotees of Francis Schaeffer or potential donors to the seminary. I was the only CTS grad on the board, though there were CTS staff members. Contributing to the initial confusion was the fact that we had no personnel or programmatic authority since the institute rightfully came under the direction of the seminary president and academic officers who had the authority of the seminary’s board of directors.

As l992 began, I was functioning as the appointed board chairman and it wasn’t until the annual meeting in September that the board itself endorsed me as its chairman. We determined that the council would meet twice a year – spring and fall, with the council members paying their own travel expenses. In the fall I wrote Paul Kooistra with some suggestions as to how the Schaeffer Institute should interface with the Schaeffer Foundation. We also planned a second apologetics roundtable to be held in December in St. Louis. We invited Bill Edgar (Westminster Seminary), Hal Farnsworth (RUF), Steve Garber (American Studies Program), Dick Keyes (L’Abri Fellowship), Richard Lints and David Wells (Gordon Conwell Seminary), John Seel (The Second Watch), Mike Tymchak (University of Regina) and Dick Winter and Paul Kooistra (Covenant Seminary) – quite a line-up! Years later, Garber would join Seel, Keyes, Edgar, and Chapell as guest teachers for the World Journalism Institute. In 1992, Covenant hired Richard Winter, British psychiatrist and scholar connected to English L’Abri, to come to St. Louis and begin a counseling program at the seminary.

In early l993, I proposed a set of bi-laws for adoption of the institute and ran them by Dan Doriani (faculty member at Covenant), Bryan Chapell (dean of faculty), Andrew Southwell and Paul Kooistra. In May we met on campus in the old president’s house, occupied by the Rayburn family during my time at Covenant. The house was now functioning as the institute headquarters. I thought it was a beautiful setting, off the beaten path of the seminary, providing offices and meeting spaces for small classes and gatherings. In the summer of 1993 Jerram and Vicki visited us in Central Washington for a couple of days for R & R. In September, we met at the beautiful St. Albans estate west of St. Louis, courtesy of Joe Pottebaum. At that fall meeting we were still talking about what the mission and purpose of the advisory council was and how it fit into the mission of Covenant Seminary, although we did tentatively approve the bi-laws. In December of 1993, the third annual apologetics roundtable met in St. Louis. I presented a short paper at the roundtable that was later printed by Denis Haack in his provocative publication, Critique entitled, “Saintly Case at Secular U.” Denis later reported to me that Campus Crusade for Christ ordered enough copies for all their staff working with faculty.

In 1994, James Albritten, a bright senior at CTS who was headed for graduate study in history at Alabama, took over from Andrew Southwell as

Bryan Chapell

administrative director for the institute. Andrew had married Sissy (and Jack) Kramer’s daughter Constance and was off to Oxford University for graduate studies. James would serve the institute as an administrator until 1996, and then serve on the board for years after that. He had worked at the institute since l992. In 1994, Dr. Bryan Chapell succeeded Paul Kooistra as president of Covenant Theological Seminary as Paul moved on to become the director of the troubled Mission to the World committee, the foreign mission board of the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. Chapell’s 2004 lecture to the WJI journalism students in Washington, DC was published as a WJI monograph entitled, “A Christian Journalism.”

In l995, we held our meetings but I can’t remember much of what we did. Maybe because we didn’t cause any trouble I was asked to serve another four-year term as chairman. We did form the Founder’s Circle for the institute which was to be composed of anyone who would commit to donate $1000/year for three years.

In l996, as we were making plans to replace James Albritten, Jerram and I talked of me being the replacement. I chatted with Dan Doriani (now academic dean), President Chapell and Sissy Kramer about the possibility, and Kathy and I finally decided that the timing of the move from Ellensburg to St. Louis was not propitious. Due to my being seriously considered for the executive director position, I resigned as chairman of the council and Sam Yeager, a member of the founding board, became chairman. In March 1996, Kathy and I arranged to have Edith Schaeffer and Jerram come out to Tacoma for a weekend of talks at the Faith Presbyterian Church and the annual Pregnancy Care Center celebration. Wade Bradshaw, a long time L’Abri worker in England with an extensive academic record was selected as the next executive director of the Schaeffer Institute.

In l997, we didn’t have an apologetic roundtable but rather a series of October lectures featuring such worthies as Richard Pratt (Reformed Theological Seminary), J. I. Packer (Regent University) and Richard John Neuhaus (First Things). Fr. Neuhaus would later be a speaker at a World Journalism Institute course in New York. A highlight of the weekend was dining with the speakers, particularly Packer, at the lovely home of Jack and Joan Hughes. Joan was a council member and Jack was a fellow board member of God’s World Publication (WORLD magazine). At our fall meeting we received the great news that we had received some substantial donations toward endowing the Schaeffer Chair of Apologetics which needed to be a primary focus of the council. Wade reported that we had almost reached 100% of our financial target goals for fiscal 1997.

In l998 and l999 the council met and did things but I wasn’t too involved. In 1999, Luke Bobo, a student at Covenant was appointed the administrative director of the institute as the Bradshaws returned to English L’Abri.

Earlier in 2000, Sissy Kramer died and there was a memorial service for her at the April meeting of the advisory board. We met again at St. Albans, and I attended this meeting. Later that summer I invited Luke Bobo to speak to the journalism students at the World Journalism Institute in Asheville, N.C.

In 2001, I resigned from the board of advisors having fitfully served since 1991.

A couple of thoughts come to mind as I think back on my 10-year term on the Schaeffer Advisory Council. I don’t know the subsequent history or accomplishment of the council since 2001, but during my time it suffered from the very nature of Schaeffer’s legacy as a historic figure in Christian apologetics and evangelism. What was needed for council membership were not ideas but money. I wanted to be a part of the program at the institute and help shape the ministry. What was needed from me was financial support for the excellent work being done by Jerram and Richard and others at CTS. There was such enthusiasm for apologetics and it was easy for the council and support staff to be programmatically oriented and not development-oriented. There was less of a need for another Jerram and more of a need for an Allen Duble (dean of Reformed development men). The executive director should have been a fundraiser and development person, and let the apologetics and practical theology work of the institute be framed and implemented by the institute’s faculty. We had good people on the council during my 10 years but I don’t think I gave sufficient leadership in the development area.

Covenant Theological Seminary is still the place to go to understand the heritage, approach and strengths of the ministry of Francis and Edith Schaeffer.

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