Two giants in North American Christian ministry died this week. One was well known across various Christian traditions. The other was not, but was no less a giant. Gordon Cosby of The Church of the Saviour fame died this week. He contributed so much to Christian ministry during his decades of service. Hundreds of thousands of words will be written and spoken about his life. All will be deserved.
Quentin Lockwood also died this week. He was not nearly as well known and his notoriety was primarily in one denomination. He was also a gentle giant in Christian ministry. I had the great joy to serve with him on the staff of a Baptist missions agency back in the 1980s. While a gentle soul, he was also a person of great conviction.
I knew Quentin best when he was the national leader for ministry in non-metropolitan areas of North America. It was called Rural-Urban Missions. One affinity I had with his work is that my father back in the 1940s was the first person in the 20th century selected by a state level Baptist denomination to direct rural/urban missions.
Quentin was funny, and a delightful person to be around. His wife Alene was even funnier. She always added laughter to any conversation. Both were unmistakably committed to Christian ministry in the Baptist tradition. They instilled this commitment into their children and urged them to respond to the call of God upon their lives.
At times the response of their children to God’s call created complicated situations. One was when their daughter, Susan, was called as pastor of a Baptist congregation in Chicago. In a Baptist denomination drifting increasingly conservative, a woman serving in the role of senior or solo pastor of a church did not go without notice.
Here is my recollection of how part of this story unfolded. In my circle of friends it is a story that is big enough that some urban legend factors may have crept in, yet the core meaning is present.
Pressure was placed on the Baptist missions agency and its president, Bill Tanner, to explain why the missions agency would have a staff person whose daughter served as pastor of a church. The level of staff served by myself and Quentin was about three levels away from the executive office, but we were hearing rumors and partial reports of what was going on.
At one point the rumor was that Bill Tanner had said, “If I get one more letter or phone call about Quentin’s daughter, he’s gone.” Yet, at the same time we knew that Bill Tanner was resisting the demands to take negative action. He understood Baptist polity. He understood the call of God on a person’s life. He understood how to be president of an organization. He understood what should and should not happen to respond to family situations experienced by staff persons.
Meanwhile Quentin and Alene were unmovable in their support for their daughter and her response to God’s call. I suspect, however, it made for interesting conversation among the family. It did create anxiety; not knowing what Bill Tanner might ultimately decide.
Then there was the elevator encounter between Quentin Lockwood and Bill Tanner. I was not there. Only the two of them were in the elevator. But this is how I remember the story of the encounter. It was the only time Quentin and Tanner talked directly about the situation.
Tanner turns to Quentin and says, “Quentin, I’ve heard about your daughter.” “Yeah, Doc, I understand that . . . “, began Quentin. “Shut up, Quentin, and let me tell you something”, says Tanner. “Quentin, when all else fails, you gotta support your kids.”
The elevator door opened. Tanner walked off. That is all he ever said to Quentin. Susan continues to serve as an ordained minister in local church ministry. Quentin is still in the elevator smiling. Now he has gone all the way to the top floor.