One of the seminaries that I have long admired and loved is Trinity School for Ministry in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Ambridge) Trinity was born in the renewal movement of the 60s and 70s. Leaders in that movement saw the need for a place to train its future leaders founded upon the authority of the Bible, trusting the leading of the Spirit, and working to know Christ and make Him known. However, the Episcopal Church was then seriously discussing closing some seminaries – founding another one was clearly a step in faith.
In 1975, a retired Australian missionary bishop answered a call from members of the Fellowship of Witness, came to the Pittsburgh area, and set up an office in his home, using his garage for the library. Alfred Stanway, bishop of Central Tanganyika from 1951 to 1971, had been recommended by John Stott, James I. Packer, and other evangelical leaders for his vision of renewal and his extraordinary ability to translate his vision into a lively Christian body. He called John Rodgers, a professor and chaplain at Virginia Theological Seminary, to be the senior professor. Bishop Rodgers, a brother I count as my friend, is dean and president emeritus of Trinity, having recently retired a second time from leadership at TSM.
Trinity has received growing affirmation over time. Birthed in such a humble context it has become, and remains, an effective and Christ-centered place to prepare students for ministry to this day. My visits to Trinity have always refreshed my soul very deeply. I also read the Trinity magazine, Seed & Harvest, with prayerful interest every three months.
It was in the July-August-September 2010 issue of Seed & Harvest that I learned of the passing of one of Trinity’s long-time trustees, Martin B. Clark (1922-2010). John Rodgers wrote a personal tribute to Clark saying “It is impossible to overstate Martin’s contribution to Trinity School for Ministry, both as a brother and friend in Christ.” He spoke of Clark coming to every meeting prepared and willing to speak on items of concern to the school. He had ideas and suggestions that impacted Trinity in the area of communications and fundraising. These attributes are particularly needed in good board members of any institution or mission. I have learned this from first-hand experience by founding and directing the mission of ACT 3, begun back in mid-1991.
What particularly interested me in Rodgers’ tribute to Martin B. Clark were two things. First, he said Clark always understood the relationship of the mission to money. He never doubted God’s ability to provide for Trinity. He held the principle that a mission should always “put money in a secondary place.” The first question is not, “What can we afford to do?” but rather, “What is God asking us to do?” If we have God’s purpose then God will provide. The second thing my friend John Rodgers said about Clark impressed me even more. His favorite self-designation was: “I am a recovering Pharisee!” Me too brother, me too.