Covenant Theological Seminary

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Rayburn1956Born in 1915 in Newton Kansas, Robert Gibson Rayburn early distinguished himself in both academics and the arts.  An outstanding student at Newton High School, he also excelled as a pianist, winning both state and regional awards.  Closing his high school career by winning the National Oratorical Contest, he went on to graduate from Wheaton College and Omaha Presbyterian Theological Seminary (ThB, 1939, ThM, 1941).  His first pastorate was in Bellevue, Nebraska (1938-42) and he next served the First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville, Texas (1942-44) while attending Dallas Theological Seminary, where he earned the ThD degree in 1944.

Rev. Rayburn’s first term as an Army chaplain came in 1944, serving in Europe from 1944-1946.  Thereafter he returned to pastor the church in Gainesville, but was soon called to pastor the College Church of Wheaton, IL (1947-1950).  With the start of the Korean War, Rev. Rayburn was called back to the chaplaincy, serving with the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team.  Making his first parachute jump behind enemy lines in North Korea was but the first of a series of thrilling episodes recorded in the book you now hold.

By the time of his retirement from the military chaplaincy, he attained the rank of Colonel.  Following the Korean War, Dr. Rayburn emerged as a leader in the Bible Presbyterian Church, being appointed to serve as president of Highland College in Pasadena, CA, and subsequently as the first president of both Covenant College and Covenant Theological Seminary (St. Louis, MO).  When Covenant College relocated to Lookout Mountain, TN in 1964, Dr. Rayburn incredibly managed to teach at both institutions during that next year, dividing his time each week between the two schools.

From 1965 to 1977 he served as president of Covenant Theological Seminary.  In 1976 he was diagnosed with cancer, and while stepping down from the presidency of the school in 1977, and despite operations and treatment, he continued to maintain an active schedule, working as a full professor at the school, as well as maintaining an extensive itinerary of travel and speaking engagements.  Occasions of teaching at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Dehra Dun, India were especially rewarding for him during this time.

From 1980 to 1982, Dr. Rayburn was one of the more active proponents of the union of two conservative Presbyterian denominations.  His successful efforts led to the 1982 merger of his own denomination, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).  His final years were spent doing what he loved best, teaching homiletics to the students at the Seminary, all the while continuing to write, speak and teach as God gave him strength.  Ever a soldier in the service of his Lord, Dr. Rayburn worked right up until his death on January 5, 1990, at the age of 74.

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excerpted from the Minutes of the 157th General Synod of the RPCES, page 172]:

belzmax03aWhen the Lord took the Rev. Max Belz home to heaven on December 2, 1978, the Midwestern Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, lost one of its most colorful and most beloved members. He had been a member of this presbytery continuously since his entrance into the denomination in 1948 at the time when he led his congregation at Cono Center near Walker, Iowa, to throw off the shackles of the compromising fellowship of the Presbyterian Church in the USA.

Although his was a rural church, it was always under his leadership a veritable beehive of activity. Max Belz was one of the first pastors in the denomination to recognize the significant importance of the preservation of the faith and nurture of the hearts and minds of children of the church in an age when the public school systems were becoming increasingly anti-Christian. With the support and encouragement of some of his faithful elders and friends he established Cono Christian School. The influence of this institution has been a blessing throughout the entire denomination. It has set an example of high quality Christian education which has been followed in a good many of our churches.

belzmax1948Max Belz was always deeply involved in the work of the church as a whole. He was a member of the founding board of Covenant College and Covenant Theological Seminary. He has also served on the board of Christian Training, Inc. It was through his initiative that the Bulletin News Supplement was begun, and for years he was responsible not only for its editing but also its printing-and he rejoiced in serving the church he loved so well.

His last extended journey away from his home was to the Grand Rapids meeting of the synod last June. Of this visit his son, Joel, wrote, “I think he sensed a foretaste of his welcome to heaven itself as he was embraced by so many with whom he has worked in the last 30 years.

Surely the greatest witness to the life and testimony of Max Belz and his dear wife, Jean, is the family that he left behind when he was taken to glory. Every one of his eight children is an active, dedicated Christian reflecting the godliness that their father and mother exhibited day after day in their home. Max and Jean Belz instilled in their children an appreciation for the value of hard work, but they also surrounded them with parental love and tender care even as they taught them of the love of God.

Although he lived in a rural area there are some respects in which Max Belz was ahead of his time. His founding of the Cono Educational Network is an example of this. Everyone who has been closely associated with him is grateful to God for this gifted servant of the Lord whose zealous commitment to his Saviour was an inspiration that remains even though Max Belz himself is with the Lord he loved so fervently.

On this day, December 2d, the following PCA churches were particularlized:
1979 — Trinity Presbyterian Church, Harrisburg, PA (Mid-Atlantic Presbytery)
1990 — Presbyterian Church of Wellsville, Wellsville, NY (New York State Presbytery)
2001 — Crossroads Community Church, Fishers, IN (Central Indiana Presbytery)
2007 — Jordan Presbyterian Church, West Jordan, UT (Northern California Presbytery)

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