Mark Gornik Describes "The Legacy of Harvie Conn"

The Legacy of Harvie M. Conn

 

NOTE:  This article is taken from the October 2011 issue of "The International Bulletin of Missionary Research," pp. 212 - 17;  http://www.internationalbulletin.org/ .  A .pdf version of this article is available at http://www.wrfnet.org/c/document_library/get_file?folderId=20&name=DLFE-61.pdf .


God’s future, the prophet Isaiah announced, is to be found in the city, where all of life finds its peace in God and God’s purposes for the renewal of creation.[1] Harvie Maitland Conn (1933–99) was a missionary to Korea, evangelist, mission theologian, pastor and scholar, and, most significantly, an urban visionary in prophetic form. Known for his robust laugh, tall frame, worn-out suits, bib overalls, ardent and foundational commitment to the work of the kingdom, and mission foresight, Conn leaves a legacy of prophetic insight and continuing significance to the church in the twenty-first century. His life and work is a witness that the urban world belongs to God.[2]

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, on April 7, 1933, Conn was the son of Irish immigrants. When his father, a hockey player who passed the sport on to his son, sought work in the shipyards of California, the family moved to the United States. Conn was converted to Christ as a teen at Covenant Presbyterian Church, a congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, California. Here he was known for drawing pictures of the pastor during catechism class and in general functioning as his “thorn in the flesh.” According to one of his Sunday school teachers, it was felt that “Harvie would never make it.”[3]

In 1951 Conn entered Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, an institution of the Christian Reformed Church that is rooted in the Dutch Reformed tradition. The experience appears to have been formative. As Conn would later reflect, Calvin College’s “understanding on how the world was broken and that Jesus had come to reclaim it discipled me.”[4] During his Calvin years fellow classmate Roger Greenway remembers that Conn worked nights at a downtown Sears and Roebuck auto repair shop, often turning up in class with greasy hands and little sleep.[5]

After completing his studies at Calvin College, Conn went to Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, graduating with a B.D. in 1957 and a Th.M. in 1958. According to fellow student and later seminary colleague Clair Davis, Conn was a brilliant student and had a photographic memory. It is reported that when writing an exam he would answer with the exact words of a particular professor, who once remarked, “Another superlative and felicitous choice of language,” not recognizing his own words.[6]

During his years as a student at Westminster, Conn started a new congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Stratford, New Jersey. He often recounted later how one Sunday in church he noticed Dorothy Diedrich, an attractive nurse who had been appointed to go to Eritrea as a missionary. Soon he too developed an interest in the mission field! In October 1956 Harvie and Dorothy were married, and in 1957 he was ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In 1960, with funding from the Classis Eureka of the German Reformed Church, the Conns and their two children, David and Elizabeth (in later years the family would grow to include also Peter, Andrew, and Ruth), moved to Korea to begin missionary service under the Committee on Foreign Missions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Missionary to Korea

The Korea that the Conns arrived in was filled with American troops, beggars on the streets, political protests, a military coup, and economic rebuilding.[7] Under the leadership of fellow Orthodox Presbyterian Church missionary Bruce Hunt, the Conns became involved in an array of activities. After language training came radio broadcasting, aimed primarily at the north but also gaining an audience in the south. Conn’s radio talks were often turned into pamphlets. A major focus was teaching at the Presbyterian General Assembly Theological Seminary, Seoul, also known today as Chongshin Theological Seminary. Here Conn taught New Testament, but he also seemed to cover a bit of the entire curriculum in addition to working in the library. His commitment, and that of his mission, was to conservative Calvinism.[8]

Harvie Conn in Korea

Courtesy of Orthodox Presbyterian Church Archives

Harvie Conn in Korea, ca. 1970

Everywhere he went and with everyone he met, Conn talked about Christ. At that time hundreds of prostitutes were gathered near American military bases, and Conn began holding Bible studies among the brothels of Seoul. His personal involvement, one of sharing the Gospel—distributing copies of the Gospel of Mark, but also listening to the stories of young girls and helping to bring about tangible changes in their lives—led him to see that “sinners” can also be the “sinned against.” Later, he would memorably title a book that captured this lesson Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace (1982).

Conn began a Bible study among a community of boys who begged for food and collected trash. “Blessed are the poor in the Spirit,” they read together in Matthew’s gospel. “What does this mean?” Conn asked in an inductive study. One boy answered, “It means being sent off to the market and returning to find your family and house gone. Now I go to bed hungry.” After the Bible study, Conn recalled walking through the city wondering, What does “the poor” mean in the Bible? Maybe this beggar boy has a better grasp of the Gospel than I do, he concluded.[9] In later years, Conn’s critical interaction with liberation theologies took the reality of the poor and God’s solidarity with the poor as his starting point.

The time in Korea was filled with seminary teaching, Bible classes, literature distribution, writing, and evangelism and preaching both in rural villages and in Seoul. These were not easy years physically for the family. Conn had endured physical beatings for his evangelistic work in the brothels, and Dorothy faced personal health issues.[10] Besides the many responsibilities of mission work, there were the everyday challenges of life in postwar Seoul.

To the major disappointment of the mission leadership in Korea, after two terms and twelve years of service, in 1972 Conn accepted a position at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. “We have no feeling of leaving missions behind, simply shifting our place in the line,” he wrote.[11] Though the missionary context would change, the influence of missionary experiences—Bible studies among the poor, new hermeneutical questions, and the shaping impact of the city—all this and more would find new expression in Philadelphia.[12]

Philadelphia and an Urban Focus

Conn returned to Westminster Theological Seminary with the hope of making a significant impact in the work of the seminary. Identified as the successor to Cornelius Van Til, pioneer of “presuppositional apologetics,” he accepted as his first task to teach apologetics. Not only was Conn considered an excellent communicator of Van Til’s ideas, but he also added a practical emphasis, engaging contemporary culture through the study of film. Since he lacked a doctoral degree, increasingly an important requirement for evangelical institutions,[13] it was stipulated that he be enrolled in a doctoral program in philosophy at nearby Temple University. With his interests turning elsewhere, however, Conn later left the program without completing the degree.

Until Conn joined the faculty, Edmund Clowney, the highly esteemed professor of practical theology and president of Westminster from 1966 to 1984, taught the standard missions course. Conn took over the class, and soon missions became his exclusive focus. Eventually he became the first professor of missions in the history of the seminary.

The city of Philadelphia soon became Conn’s classroom. The groundwork for his involvement there was laid in 1969 by Bill Krispin and a group of African-American pastors in Philadelphia who later formed the Center for Urban Theological Studies (CUTS). Pentecostal and Baptist pastors without college degrees, they turned to Krispin, a recent Westminster graduate, to help provide theological education. In turn, in 1971 they formed the Westminster Theological Ministerial Institute. On behalf of the seminary, Conn joined in the work in 1973, formally directing the institute until 1975. As the program developed, emphasizing college-level training and degree completion, CUTS was born as an independent institution, with supportive involvement by Westminster although not a leadership role.[14]

In 1975, at a time when approximately 35 percent of the world was urban, demographers projected the planet would be more than half urban by the turn of the century. At the time, white evangelical churches and their members had nearly all moved out from the city. If American cities were addressed at all, it was largely as a “social problem”; if the urban church was mentioned, it faced a great “plight.”

Through the lens of the kingdom of God, Conn saw the city differently. Because cities were the future of the world, they were also the future of the church and missions. We no longer live in a “global village,” Conn would repeat, but a “global city.” Focusing on evangelical pastors, missionaries, and mission agencies, he called for a shift from a rural to an urban mind-set. His argument followed a certain logic: an urban world required not suburban theological and missionary education with a class on the city, but “training in the cities. And training that combines the study with the street, that teaches people to move easily from the books to the barrios.” Such training, Conn believed, “is the calling of Westminster Seminary in teaching missions today.”[15]

This emphasis reshaped degree programs at Westminster and gave the seminary a unique identity. At the heart of this was a doctor of ministry degree (D.Min.) in urban mission, but there was also a master of arts in missiology (M.A.Miss.) and a master of arts in religion (M.A.R.) with urban missions as a focus. Conn became the director of the new Urban Missions Program. As Roger Greenway pointed out, “In the 1980s, Westminster became the first evangelical seminary to offer academic programs focused on urban mission studies from entry-level master’s work through doctoral studies.”[16] The vision was much wider, however. One memorable year the seminary canceled classes for a day, rented yellow school buses, and invited all students to visit neighborhoods and churches throughout Philadelphia.

Drawn in by a vision of equipping leaders, missionaries, and pastors for the urban church, Roger and Edna Greenway became part of the Westminster program in 1982, serving until 1987.[17] A journal was key to spreading the word, and the first issue of Urban Mission, edited by Roger Greenway, was published in 1983. In this and other ways, Greenway’s role was crucial to the program. Through a typewritten newsletter called “Serving Christ in the City for the City,” which later ran under the title “Urban Missions Newsletter,” Conn also kept regular track of urban trends, relevant church models, and faculty writing.

Manuel Ortiz joined the Urban Mission Program of Westminster in July 1987. Bringing rich pastoral experience and an ecclesiology formed in Chicago, he emphasized church planting, community ministry, and leadership development. In 1993 Susan Baker, a colleague of Ortiz’s from Chicago with a focus on research and education, began working in the program.[18]

For Conn theology did not stop with the Reformation period, nor was it limited to Western creedal formulations.

“Will we see in the future a theology of mission in the city or a theology of mission for the city?” Conn wondered.[19] He hoped for the latter and with it an urban missiology.[20] An emphasis of the seminary in the 1970s and 1980s was the redemptive-historical approach to Scripture of Geerhardus Vos and Herman Ridderbos, which located Jesus and the kingdom as the center of the unfolding biblical narrative. Conn applied this reading of Scripture to the city. Moving through the Old Testament from Genesis to the prophets and on to Luke-Acts, Paul, and Revelation in the New Testament, he taught that the narrative of Scripture is that Jesus has come to redeem the city, and the church is called to join in this kingdom story as it stands between the “now” and the “not yet.” In this approach the city was not a problem to be solved, but the site of Christ’s redemptive work, and the urban church, a demonstration community of the kingdom.[21]

In summary, the early years of the Urban Missions Program were a vibrant time of creative thinking, writing, and developing new programs that keyed the best of Westminster’s tradition of biblical studies and Reformed theology to emerging missiological thinking and practice. Through the Urban Missions Program, Westminster was able to serve the cities of the world, not just its historic constituency.

Gospel and Culture

Conn became an active participant in a number of consultations subsequent to the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization held in 1974, including studies on the homogeneous unit principle (1977), Gospel and culture (1978), and simple lifestyle (1980). For the last of these he wrote a Bible study with questions that linked a biblical-theological approach to Scripture with concerns for the poor, justice, and lifestyle. Such consultations, and Conn’s involvement, highlight the watershed moment that Lausanne was for so many in evangelical learning and mission engagement.

The Consultation on Gospel and Culture, also known as the Willowbank Meeting, may have been most significant in Conn’s formation. Here, “for the first time in anyone’s memory,” Charles Kraft notes, “theologians sat with Christian anthropologists in an attempt to hammer out both theological and anthropological implications of the entrance of Christianity into non-Western societies.”[22] Evangelical discussions on contextualization were fairly new in the 1970s, and Conn was deeply involved.[23] Along the way, friendships formed with missiologists such as Orlando Costas were important.[24]

Conn’s masterwork is Eternal Word and Changing Worlds: Theology, Anthropology, and Mission in Trialogue (1984), a work based on lectures given at Fuller Theological Seminary. In it he argued for theology and the process of doing theology to set a new course. Drawing particularly on what he was learning from the church in the non-Western world, Conn believed theology should be:

 

Biblical-theological: approaching the Bible not as a dogmatic handbook but as a historical book about the story of redemption that affirmed historic contexts.

Covenantal: a process of radically transforming reflection, the disciplined action/reflection of knowing God.

Culture-specific: all theology as cross-cultural in character and therefore dialogical.

Confessional: an affirmation of loyalty to Jesus Christ. The richest service of creeds and confessions lies in their function of translating the Gospel to address the needs of their own day and cultural context.

Communal: as confession, theology is “saying along with others.”

Prophetic: inevitable confrontation between Gospel and culture that leads to liberating hope.[25]

 

In other words, for Conn theology did not stop with the Reformation period, nor was it limited to Western creedal formulations, but is a continual, dynamic, multifaceted, and contextual activity.[26] Drawing on themes and theologians particularly meaningful to Westminster, Conn pressed for the missiological dimension of all theology. Here he operated as a committed “insider” but also as someone who sought to be a bridge to a larger vision of God’s reign, church, and world. “Theology must be biblical,” he wrote, “but it need not be borrowed.”[27]

The timing for such proposals was propitious. Coming to the fore at Westminster was a period of serious attention to hermeneutics.[28] Following Van Til, Conn recognized not only built-in preunderstandings of God, but also how cultural and social contexts influence how we see the world and read Scripture. Theology, he argued, needed to take all such presuppositions into account, questioning the often hidden assumption that while “other theologies” are contextual, Western dogmatics stands above culture and context.

The redemptive-historical (or biblical-theological) reading of Scripture noted earlier was crucial for Conn. Scripture with its unifying testimony but also diversity of contexts, Conn argued, affirms God’s attention to human context. New contexts would lead to new questions and then to enlarged theological agendas. “Perspectivalism,” the idea that biblical truth can be seen from different angles, a theme developed by then Westminster professor John Frame, was part of this discussion. All this, Conn proposed, could help move the church beyond the limits of Western systematic theology and models of theological learning. Theology forged in the cultural settings of Africa, Asia, and Latin America could help lead the global church in mission. Once again we can see that Conn was being changed by his encounters with the church and realities of the non-Western world. Many implications flowed from these encounters, among them his hope that theological education would emphasize scholarship in the service of discipleship for the kingdom of God.

Preaching and Teaching

Conn had an obvious love of and gift for preaching. In both his preaching and teaching he used humor as a way to communicate and to break down barriers. For example, in a sermon at a house church Conn might use Cheerios as a narrative thread, or at a global missions conference he might offer running commentary on missionary attire. Conn always laughed at his own jokes, usually before others, and would often end a joke with “Oh boy!” He had a joyous laugh that would fill any room he entered.

Conn played a role in promoting a global “awakening” toward the city and the Gospel for the city. In the role of revivalist, he helped lay the groundwork for renewal in the city, particularly through emphasizing the importance of church planting, church growth, and evangelism. Timothy Keller, founder and senior minister of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, recognized for its commitment to the city and global urban church planting, remarked, “I would never, ever have been open to the idea of church planting in New York City if it were not for the books and example of Harvie Conn.”[29]

At Westminster, countless students considered a course taken with Conn a highlight of their seminary experience, but also one of the most demanding. Conn taught a heavy load that reflected his wide range of reading, interests, and gifts as a “practical” theologian. A keeper of bibliographies, Conn read widely and often asked others for suggested reading lists on a field he wanted to learn. His courses included “Doctrine of the Church,” “Theology of Urban Mission,” “Elenctics,” “The Old Testament and the Poor,” and “The New Testament and the Poor.” Conn also taught doctoral-level classes such as “Two-Thirds World Theology” and preaching classes in Korean. Teaching classes at the Center for Urban Theological Studies (CUTS) remained a great joy for him and for the students. In each class Conn’s commitment to exegetical work was prominent.

“Questions captured how Conn functioned,” Bill Krispin succinctly notes. This was evident in the title, “The Missionary Task of Theology: A Love/Hate Relationship?” of his extraordinary inaugural address as professor of missions in 1983.[30] As a pattern in speaking and writing he had a unique way of asking thought-provoking questions, often a string of them, but bracketing out discussion of their fullest personal and ecclesial implications. Conn pushed things and created important space for others, but he did not always personally take the steps he seemed to urge on others. When he raised questions on the role of women in the church, coming out of his exegetical and hermeneutical work, as well as pastoral concerns for justice, he placed himself in a difficult situation.

A Decade of Challenge and Service

For some years Conn had been wrestling with the matter of women and the church.[31] Ground-breaking books, like Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s In Memory of Her (1983), were challenging him to see that the kingdom of God was not patriarchal.[32] Perhaps, he suggested, there was a need to be clearer on what Scripture says and does not say in order to dig deeper and understand how culture shaped the Bible and contemporary readings, and to be open to new readings of the Bible. Perhaps, Conn mused, Paul’s prohibitions on women’s speaking and leading did not apply to the church at all times but addressed historically and culturally specific matters. A hermeneutical spiral, not circle, was at work, and over time, Conn believed, the Spirit would guide the church to a new point.

Such questions could be unsettling in an environment that did not believe women should preach or serve in church leadership. In 1990 Conn faced ecclesiastical charges from the New Jersey Presbytery of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, where he was a member. The charge was: “Mr. Conn makes human culture the supreme judge of 1 Timothy 2:12–13 and 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 rather than Scripture, which is contrary to the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter I (Sections VI, IX, X).” Following a process that took some three years and a trial that covered nine lengthy sessions, the charges were dismissed.

For some, Conn had gone too far; for others, he seemed not to have moved at all.[33] According to Bill Krispin, his whole approach during the trial was to be vulnerable. Conn had said, “I’m not going to fight; I’m going to be honest where I’m at.”[34] Yet once again, he had sought to move the community he was a part of to consider new mission questions. That he did so came out of his Reformed faith, exemplified in a working fidelity to sola Scriptura and tota Scriptura, Scripture alone and all of Scripture. While highly respected by many in his denomination and among colleagues at Westminster, both for his brilliance and for his heart for Christ, for many he was an enigmatic figure in their midst. Although rumors were frequent of offers from other schools, Conn intentionally stayed where he felt he was needed the most, and he remained deeply loyal to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Westminster Theological Seminary.

When he raised questions on the role of women in the church, he placed himself in a difficult situation.

Following the trial, Conn’s writing in the area of women, ministry, and hermeneutics ceased. He did continue to publish, however, in the area of urban mission, including The American City and the Evangelical Church: A Historical Overview (1994), a largely overlooked book that continues to fill a major gap in urban studies.

Over the years Conn’s eyesight started to decline significantly, making travel and work increasingly difficult. Unrelated to his loss of vision, he developed cancer, and in 1998 he retired from teaching full-time at Westminster Theological Seminary. Retirement also enabled him to provide more care for his wife, Dorothy, who had Alzheimer’s. To the surprise and disappointment of readers, friends, and contributors, in 1999 he announced that Urban Mission would cease publication.

Harvie Conn died in hospice care on August 28, 1999. His final work was Urban Mission: The Kingdom, the City, and the People of God, a collaborative effort with colleague and friend Manuel Ortiz. It was released in 2001 and again in paperback in 2010. With its rich redemptive-historical reading of the city and concern for holistic evangelism, Urban Mission was a fitting summary of Conn’s mission passion and scholarly gifts, as well as the many gifts of Ortiz in seeing and engaging the city for Christ.

Mission Legacy

Near the end of his life, weakened from cancer, Conn gave the charge to the Westminster Theological Seminary class of 1998. His text was 2 Peter 3:18, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Peter, Conn suggested, was not talking about “a once for all, let’s have a little growth for today,” but a call to make “continual advances” in faith and “not to stand still in the middle of our journey.“ But such a calling would not come easy, and to illustrate, he told the story of Lillian Hamer, missionary to the Lisu people in Thailand. Hamer, Conn shared, struggled with rejection and a difficult ministry and was nearly overwhelmed with loneliness. “For twelve months I have been alone; however, whether alone or with a companion, the Lord is able to work,” he quoted her as writing. In 1959 she was shot to death while traveling alone on jungle trails. “Lord Jesus, help us to end well,” Conn urged.

Conn may well have had the widest and most significant influence of any professor in the history of Westminster Theological Seminary.

The parallels to his life will be apparent. The demands of being a missionary in Korea, the personal and family health problems, the costs to his family from the choices he made in ministry, and a trial within his own church—these were real and wounding.

Conn was a complex person. He was a public figure yet also very private, a loyal churchman but often lacking a supportive local church community. He believed in the communal nature of theology but worked independently. But through it all, he heeded the doxological words of the apostle Peter, spending a lifetime growing in service to Christ, never standing still in his theological and mission development. He ended well, leaving many enduring contributions. His most important mission contribution is a visionary emphasis on the city as the context for mission. From Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York to the barrios of Latin America, in Seoul and the urban centers of Asia to the growing cities of Africa, his call to serve Christ in the city for the city is given continued testimony through his students and the churches they pastor, the ministries they lead, and the visions they offer. Alongside colleagues Bill Krispin, Roger Greenway, Manuel Ortiz, and Susan Baker, Conn left an example of how a seminary can chart a new direction in theological education.

Conn’s mission legacy is evident in other areas as well. He not only helped set a new agenda for theology, but also modeled a process that many find crucial to pastoral and missionary practice—close reading of the biblical text, willingness to ask new questions, openness to what the Spirit still has to say, and concern about the whole world, especially the outsider. “His was a contextualization of practice, not just of theory,” as Charles Kraft put it.[35] Conn exemplified a life that, by remaining faithful to Scripture, did not stand still.

Conn stands in the line of pioneering Reformed missiologists such as J. H. Bavinck and Johannes Verkuyl. With his sense of humor and commitments to justice and solidarity with the poor, biblical theology, contextualization, focus on the city, and global relationships, he may well have had the widest and most significant influence of any professor in the history of Westminster Theological Seminary or minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Harvie Conn was a profoundly unique individual, gracious, pastorally present to others, and brilliant. As Conn’s friend and co-worker Manuel Ortiz distilled the focus of his life, Conn was a servant of the kingdom. He did it all with a hearty laugh, leaving no doubt as to the ultimate joy and meaning of life he found in Christ. As is the way with prophets, Conn not infrequently unsettled the religious establishment, especially his own tribe. But his prophetic word to the church in what is now an urban age remains: “Expect great things from God for the city; attempt great things for God in the city.”[36]

 

Selected Bibliography


 

Works by Harvie M. Conn in English

1981 Bible Studies on World Evangelization and the Simple Lifestyle. Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing.

1982 Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

1984 Eternal Word and Changing Worlds: Theology, Anthropology, and Mission in Trialogue. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

1987 A Clarified Vision for Urban Mission: Dispelling the Urban Stereotypes. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

1994 The American City and the Evangelical Church: A Historical Overview. Grand Rapids: Baker.

1997 (ed.) Planting and Growing Urban Churches: From Dream to Reality. Grand Rapids: Baker.

2001 (with Manuel Ortiz) Urban Ministry: The Kingdom, the City, and the People of God. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Work About Harvie M. Conn

Ortiz, Manuel, and Susan Baker, eds. The Urban Face of Mission: Ministering the Gospel in a Diverse and Changing World. Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2002.

 

 

Notes


 

 

[1]. Carolyn J. Sharp, Old Testament Prophets for Today (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2009), chap. 6, and Walter Brueggemann, Using God’s Resources Wisely: Isaiah and Urban Possibility (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox, 1993).

[2]. This article would not have been possible without the assistance of Grace Mullen, archivist at the Montgomery Library, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. For additional help, I thank Bill Krispin, Manuel Ortiz, Susan Baker, Clair Davis, John Frame, Roger Greenway, Charles Kraft, Samuel Logan, Sung-Il Steve Park, Linda Posthuma, Ronald Sider, Jon W. Stevenson, and Jeffrey White. I of course bear sole responsibility for the views expressed in this essay.

[3]. Mission profile, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, p. 1, located in Archives of Montgomery Library, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia (hereafter ML WTS).

[4]. Account from talk given by Harvie M. Conn at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Charlottesville, Virginia, February 23, 1996.

[5]. Interview with Roger Greenway, May 26, 2010.

[6]. Telephone interview with D. Clair Davis, October 29, 2009. The professor in question is John Murray, late professor of systematic theology. See also Davis’s paper, “The Significance of Westminster Theological Seminary Today” (2008).

[7]. The material in this section draws on Conn’s “missionary letters,” distributed through the Committee on Foreign Missions, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1960–72 (ML WTS).

[8]. For historical background on the Orthodox Presbyterian Church work in Korea, see D. G. Hart and John Muether, Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (Philadelphia: Committee for the Historian of the OPC, 1995), pp. 71–85.

[9]. Conn, at Trinity Presbyterian Church (see n. 4).

[10]. Correspondence contained in the Bruce F. Hunt Archives (ML WTS).

[11]. Missionary letter, July 1972 (ML WTS).

[12]. Given the rapid development in Korea of churches emphasizing the Holy Spirit, it is curious that a discussion of Pentecostalism did not find a prominent place in Conn’s missiological work.

[13]. While Westminster awaits its own larger treatment, certain parallels can be found in George Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987).

[14]. Bill Krispin, however, continued in his leadership role at CUTS and in Philadelphia.

[15]. Harvie M. Conn, newsletter, December 1983.

[16]. Roger Greenway, “The Vision Driving Westminster’s Urban Program” (unpublished paper, 2008), p. 3.

[17]. Ibid.

[18]. The team approach of Ortiz and Baker was not only central to the program, but also crucial to the establishment of Spirit and Truth Fellowship in Philadelphia, a base for church planting and community development.

[19]. Harvie M. Conn, foreword to God So Loves the City: Seeking a Theology for Urban Mission, ed. Charles Van Engen and Jude Tiersma (Monrovia, Calif.: MARC Publications, 1995), p. vii.

[20]. This may not go far enough, for there is a need for more comprehensive theologies of and for the city.

[21]. Harvie M. Conn, “Lucan Perspectives and the City,” Missiology 13 (1985): 411–28; and “A Contextual Theology of Mission for the City,” in The Good News of the Kingdom: Mission Theology for the Third Millennium, ed. Charles Van Engen, Dean S. Gilliland, and Paul Pierson (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1993), pp. 96–104.

[22]. Charles H. Kraft, Christianity in Culture: A Study in Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective, 25th anniv. ed. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2005), p. xxiv.

[23]. Harvie M. Conn, “Contextualization: A New Dimension for Cross-Cultural Hermeneutic,” Evangelical Missions Quarterly 14 (1978): 39–46, and “Contextual Theologies: The Problem of Agendas,” Westminster Theological Journal 52 (1990): 51–63.

[24]. From 1980 to 1984 Orlando Costas taught at nearby Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. See Samuel Escobar, “The Legacy of Orlando Costas,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 25 (2001): 50–56.

[25]. Harvie M. Conn, Eternal Word and Changing Worlds: Theology, Anthropology, and Mission in Trialogue (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), pp. 225–60.

[26]. In addition to Conn’s Eternal Word and Changing World, see his “Contextual Theologies."

[27]. “Contextual Theologies," p. 63.

[28]. See Harvie M. Conn, ed., Inerrancy and Hermeneutic: A Tradition, a Challenge, a Debate (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988).

[29]. Timothy Keller, “In Memory of Dr. Harvie Maitland Conn," Westminster Theological Seminary Web site, accessed December 14, 1999.

[30]. Interview with Bill Krispin, October 23, 2009; Conn’s address was published in the Westminster Theological Journal 45 (1983): 1–21.

[31]. See Harvie M. Conn, “Evangelical Feminism: Some Bibliographical Reflections on the Contemporary State of the ‘Union,’” Westminster Theological Journal 46 (1984): 104–24; “Normativity, Relevance, and Relativism,” TSF Bulletin, January–February 1987, pp. 24–33; “Feminist Theology,” in The New Dictionary of Theology, ed. Sinclair B. Ferguson, David F. Wright, and J. I. Packer (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1988), pp. 255–58.

[32]. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1983).

[33]. One historical note is a report that Conn wrote with two other authors, “Report of the Committee on the Hermeneutics of Women in Ordained Office,” submitted to the Fifty-second General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. This report articulates core hermeneutical ideas that later caused controversy.

[34]. Interview with Bill Krispin, October 23, 2009.

[35]. Charles Kraft, e-mail correspondence with author, October 13, 2009.

[36]. Harvie M. Conn, preface to Planting and Growing Urban Churches: From Dream to Reality, ed. Harvie M. Conn (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), p. 11.

 

 

Mark Gornik

Mark R. Gornik, Director of City Seminary of New York (www.cityseminaryny.org), is the author of To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City (Eerdmans, 2002) and Word Made Global: Stories of African Christianity in New York City (Eerdmans, 2011). mark@cityseminaryny.org