This past weekend I was blessed to attend the retirement parties for two people that have greatly influenced my life. I made a special effort to be at their retirement parties because they have enriched my life in so many different ways and by their influence saved me from some major mistakes I could have made in my life. One friend is Dr. Ron Sider, the founder of the Evangelical for Social Action Association and faculty member at Palmer Theological. The other is Dr. Henry P. Davis Jr, the Pastor of the St. Paul’s Baptist Church here in Atlantic Highlands. I do not know if these two gentlemen have ever met, but I was privileged to know both of them.
Dr. Sider is 76 years old and I encountered him for the first in the publication of his book in 1976 entitled Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. Since the publication of that book he has written over 31 books and hundreds of articles, yet none had the impact of his first book on me. I read his book while a second year student in the seminary at Gordon-Conwell and I knew that this was a seminal book. There have been slight modifications, some additional statistics and many subsequent printings; however, the central message continues to challenge those who are willing to listen to the message of the gospel. Hunger is a global problem and there are rich Christians who should do something about it. Hunger is not a problem of scarcity of supplies, but a distribution problem in which some people become extremely rich and some people extremely poor. The compounded problem is that some Christians, who know the gospel and what desires from us, prefer to get rich and richer instead of helping the needy and the poor. In the passing of the years, many people have called Sider many names from socialist to Marxist, but all the people have to be fair that Sider always interpreted the Bible correctly.
I enjoyed his advice to those who will continue to work for the improvement of the situations of the ones who are marginalized, impoverished and ostracized. He told us to: Listen to your critics, but do not let them bother you, 2) Stay faithful to the Scriptures and the historic Christian faith, 3) Seek a balanced perspective.
Dr. Sider has been a great contributor to the development of the Kingdom of God throughout the world, a colleague who was able to raise penetrating questions, and a teacher who trusted the young to do their best and who was not afraid to make his conclusions clear when many people did not agree with him.
In contrast with Dr. Sider who is an internationalist who has written 31 books, Dr. Davis has written only one book and has been in the gospel ministry for over 52 years of which 40 years were here in Atlantic Highlands. Dr. Davis is a fairly local man with very deep roots. What made over 530 people to come out on a Saturday afternoon and say farewell to Dr. Davis? As I listened to many words of thanksgiving and testimonies, a number of praises came together. Among them: you could count on Dr. Davis – there was no discrepancy between what he preached and what he lived; he made you feel important because he wanted you to achieve your best; he was willing to participate in the life of the church, community, county and state; he raised an exemplary family; he was willing to admit when he was wrong and make necessary changes and he poured himself in raising ministers so that when he is gone others will step in and do the work of the Christian ministry.
Therefore, Dr. Davis has been a brother in the ministry, a mentor in areas that I was inadequate or unaware, a keen observer of the society in which we live and a willing partner brining our our churches together to experience the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
To both brothers I wish blessed years in active retirement. May they enjoy their years knowing that the world is a blessed place because of them.