7 May 2012

Pepperdine 2012: Memories & Reflections on the Jerry Years

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Church, Jerry Rushford, Lectures

Pepperdine 2012. This year was a year of transition! Thirty years of Jerry Rushford at the helm of the Pepperdine Bible Lectures has come to an end … that means Jerry has been doing this since I was 12! My wife Tifani, and I, drove out to CA and spend a few days together. We arrived on campus on Tuesday around noon. One of the first people we ran into was Joella Michael. We got our room in the Towers (opposite of John Mark & Jennifer Hicks). We took in the breathtaking beauty from various “altitudes” … finally soaking in the view from Heroes Garden.

But for me Pepperdine is not just the beauty it is a time when God’s Spirit brings together men and women from all nations singing, worshiping and fellowshiping as in Revelation 5.9b-10 and 7.9. Getting to visit with my friends and sit at the feet of disciples who are wiser than me. What a blessing. This year I listened to Tom Olbricht, Rick Atchley, Don Kinder, Terry Gardner, keynotes … bought books from Leafwood/ACU Press: Don Kinder Capturing Head & Heart: The Lives of Early Popular Stone-Campbell Movement Leaders, Juan Antonio Monroy, An Autobiography, Edward Robinson’s I Was Under a Heavy Burden: The Life of Annie C. Tuggle.  Other books I got was Calvin Bowers Ollie’s Kids: Our Family Journey, Warren Baldwin’s Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems from Proverbs, and for fun I got Peter Schafer’s Jesus in the Talmud.  Can’t wait …Tolle lege!!

But Pepperdine is more. I will never forget back in 2001 I got not only a letter but a phone call from Jerry Rushford inviting me to come to Pepperdine to teach a one part class. I had no idea how he knew who I was. I had recently been fired from the congregation I was working with in Grenada, MS. I had not yet found a place to move my family too (fired preachers are not a hot commodity in Churches of Christ … I would later discover that divorced preachers are not either). But Jerry said my name was passed on to him by Tom Olbricht. To this day I do not know why Dr. Olbricht did such a thing. I have been grateful for that grace ever since. I was, and still am, a nobody yet I will never forget when I arrived at Pepperdine that Jerry spoke to me and my wife and even knew our names. My class in 2001 was “hidden” away in the Keck Science Center and I think there were 20 or so people that attended. It was called “Desperately Seeking SPIRIT-uality: Connecting to God’s Refreshing Spirit.” A lot of water has gone under the bridge since 2001. The transmission of our Saturn broke down on us a mere 25 miles from Pepperdine in 2007 (HERE). That year the Three Amigos spoke on “A Gathered People: Revisioning the Assembly as Sacramental Encounter” (Adventures at Pepperdine &; Adventures at Pepperdine 2). Jerry has graciously asked that we return and we do our best to have something worthwhile to say. Among the other classes have been

Deuteronomy: The GOSPEL According to Moses

The Struggle for the Soul of the Churches of Christ, 1883-1983 (originally planned with JMH. I spoke at the Restoration Quarterly luncheon on “Jesus, David Lipscomb and the Spanish-American War)

A New Hope: Creation to New Creation (with John Mark Hicks)

The Holy Spirit Unleashed: Robert Richardson, James A. Harding & K. C. Moser 

Walking with the Spirit: The Transitions of K. C. Moser (with John Mark Hicks)

I am sure that my experience with Jerry Rushford is not unique but typical of those who have been blessed to share in this blessed event. I dare to say that over the course of his thirty years that, with Rushford at the wheel, the Pepperdine lectures have impacted the Churches of Christ more than any other forum including Jubilee, the ACU Lectures, Tulsa Workshop or even the Freed-Hardeman Lectures. I’ve been blessed to participate in some of these other venues and they do marvelous work for the Lord … I am still waiting for Dr David Lipe to invite me to address the FH Lectures.

Certainly at Pepperdine there has been no attempt to serve as a “Church of Christ Vatican III.” That is to declare what is, or is not, “Church of Christ doctrine.” Rather at Pepperdine, and for this I am thankful, one can hear both Carroll Osburn and Everett Ferguson taking two sides on the role of woman. At Pepperdine you can hear both Cecil May Jr and Rubel Shelly. When others have attempted to draw lines, on both sides, Jerry has reached out in the spirit of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians on the one hand and James and the Jerusalem Church on the other because the family of God is more important and greater than our pettiness.

The breadth of the Pepperdine lectures however is not limited to the so called theological spectrum.  A refreshing wind blowing by the Malibu beach is that the lectures are not focused on hot brotherhood topics but are centered around biblical exposition. Entire books of the NT and Hebrew Bible have been covered like Deuteronomy (yes Deuteronomy!), Exodus, Genesis, Psalms, Matthew, John, Acts, Romans, etc, etc.  This is not to say that some speakers or classes did not scratch where there was an itch but simply to acknowledge the driving force is Scripture … as a “People of the Book” it is nice to see that sometimes we actually want to listen to the word and not worry about the controversy raging all around.  Other fresh breezes blowing on those Pacific slopes is the ethnic and gender diversity on the programs.  By my count in the brochure over 45 non-Anglo speakers were on the program this year alone.  Likewise over 140 women were also on the program this year.  I think this is amazing and simply is unmatched anywhere in Churches of Christ.  

 I believe Mike Cope will do a wonderful job with the new lectures, Revelation is already a great theme for 2013. I do not know if I will be on the docket, or if I will get phone calls at 11:30 at night (wish Jerry was known to do from time to time), but I will be at Pepperdine simply because the Lectures have become a little piece of the New Heavens on the Old Earth a blessing for a formerly fired and divorced preacher struggling to get on in the world. Now the journey continues with Tifani, Rachael, Talya, Avery, Evan and John Mark and Jennifer and thousands more.

For several years now John Mark and I have been been scheduled after the evening keynote.  Jerry is always so guilt ridden that he makes mention of it while making announcements … I get a kick out of it.  Well Jerry thanks for the memories I hope to see you at Pepperdine in 2013 even if you are a passenger rather than the pilot.

One Response to “Pepperdine 2012: Memories & Reflections on the Jerry Years”

  1. K. Rex Butts Says:

    I too have enjoyed the Pepperdine Bible Lectures for the same reasons (minus the class teaching part). Also, it was nice to hear Jerry Rushford preach. His keynote address was a brilliant example of inductive sermon too. I never knew the sermon had transitioned until it already did, eventually winding up with one point…we do not need to fear death (the river).

    Grace and Peace,

    K. Rex Butts

    P.S., It was great to see you in Malibu.

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