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Pastor Tom Gillespie has died

November 17, 2011
Pastor Tom Gillespie

Dedicated husband, father, teacher and friend, Pastor Gillespie's life encouraged many to reach their God-given purpose and potential through his encouragement.

Pastor Tom Gillespie has died at the age of 83, and I never told him all that he means to me. Tom said with pride that 16 young people from his congregation went into Christian ministry; I was one of them. But when I stood before the San Francisco Presbytery and the ministers asked me pointed questions about my evangelical statement of faith, I became confused, answering ploddingly, and there was some debate on the floor as to whether I should be accepted into the ordination process. Then Tom spoke on my behalf, asking the Presbytery to give me the chance to improve my ability to think on my feet. Tom believed in me, and I hope you have a few people like Tom in your life.
Tom suggested that I go to Fuller Seminary, where he was teaching as an adjunct professor. But Tom was ambitious to change at least one of the eleven Presbyterian Church USA seminaries back into an evangelical seminary. He was elected President of Princeton Seminary in 1983 and made his most important contributions there.

But I remember his earlier years, shooting hoops in the church fellowship hall, and telling me that he would go shopping with his wife, Barbara, just to be with her, even though he disliked shopping. And one Christmas eve I saw, Tom after the evening church service, putting a new bicycle in the trunk of his car; it would be next to the tree in the morning, and I thought to myself, “What a good father.” And I remember that he read a book every week, and that when he found a new book on how to teach Greek he taught me Greek every week in 1973-1974. And I still have some of his sermons on . . . on cassette tapes, of all things.

Tom wrote to me last January 7 when I completed my PhD studies. He wrote, “Where have the years gone?” And I wrote back with a two page letter that I just now re-read. And did I mention that Tom believed in me, and that I hope you have a few people like Tom in your life?

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