Beloved teacher, author, and pastor influenced generations of students
Ray S. Anderson, professor emeritus of theology and ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary, passed away on Sunday, June 21. Dr. Anderson, who was 83, served on Fuller’s School of Theology faculty for more than three decades.
“Ray Anderson, first as a student and alumnus, then as a deeply beloved professor, contributed his gifts to our seminary community for over 50 years,” says Fuller President Richard J. Mouw. “He strongly believed that theology was relevant to all aspects of life and ministry, and passionately encouraged his students to bridge the gap between the practical and the academic. Widely respected as a theological scholar, he will also be remembered as a dedicated pastor, mentoring the next generation of pastors.”
“When I think of Ray, 'incarnational theology' is what comes to mind,” says Fuller trustee and former student Anne Huffman. “He was brilliant, passionate about theology, down-to-earth, and had a pastor's heart. He will be greatly missed by scores and scores of his students across the years—he left an indelible imprint on minds and hearts.”
After spending his childhood and early adulthood working on a farm in South Dakota, Anderson came to Fuller as a Bachelor of Divinity student in 1956. “I first knew Ray Anderson when, sensing a strong call from God to go into the ministry, he left the farming in South Dakota which he loved so much to come to seminary,” says Daniel Fuller, professor emeritus and son of seminary founder Charles E. Fuller. Anderson was active as a student, serving as student body president before graduating in 1959. “Ray’s academic rigor and evangelical passion were obvious from his first days at Fuller. He led teams and excelled in the classroom,” says Fuller alumnus and former classmate Al Jepson. “Ray’s faith seemed always to be rooted in the soil of his childhood to manhood as a farmer in South Dakota. He loved and depended on the land, but its disciplined care formed his own values and commitments.”
Ordained in the Evangelical Free denomination, Anderson then entered 11 years of service as founding pastor of Covina Evangelical Free Church. He earned his PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 1972 and taught at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, as Assistant Professor of Theology for four years.
In 1976, Anderson returned to Fuller to teach systematic theology, as well as courses on theologians Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He also served for nearly 20 years as the associate dean responsible for field education and the extension program and as a theological mentor to Doctor of Ministry students. In addition to serving students, Anderson continued to edify the local church, pastoring the Harbour Fellowship for 27 years and most recently ministering as teaching pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, both in Huntington Beach, California, for the past four years.
“Ray blended a strong theological instinct with a passion for giving theology traction on the ground, in real-life situations,” says Kurt Fredrickson, associate dean for Fuller’s Doctor of Ministry program and a student of Anderson’s at both Westmont and Fuller. “He was never content with lofty theological ideas. Those ideas had to connect with real people. He also was never satisfied with the status quo, in theology or in the church. He challenged his students to think freshly, and even at the edges, all the while anchored to tradition.”
“Dr. Anderson’s great interest in theology was always concerned with its application to ministry,” agrees Dr. Fuller. “He perhaps did more than any other in the actual mentoring of theology students in ministry.”
A prolific author, Anderson published over 25 books on theology and ministry, including An Emergent Theology for Emerging Churches; The Shape of Practical Theology—Empowering Ministry with Theological Praxis; The Soul of Ministry: Forming Leaders for God's People; Christians Who Counsel: The Vocation of Holistic Therapy; Theology, Death, and Dying; On Being Family: A Social Theology of the Family (co-authored with Dennis Guernsey); On Being Human: Essays in Theological Anthropology; and Theological Foundations for Ministry: Selected Readings for a Theology and Church in Ministry (editor and contributor). He was a contributing editor for the Journal of Psychology and Theology.
Additionally, two books of essays were written in Anderson’s honor: Incarnational Ministry: The Presence of Christ in Church, Society, and Family, edited by Christian Kettler and Todd Speidell, and On Being Christian… And Human: Essays in Celebration of Ray S. Anderson, by Todd Speidell. Always a favorite professor, he received Fuller’s Theological Graduate Union Outstanding Faculty Award in 1996 and the C. Davis Weyerhaeuser Award for Excellence in 1997. He was also honored during his time at Westmont as 1974-1975 Teacher of the Year.
A memorial service for Dr. Anderson was held on Saturday, June 27, at Grace Lutheran Church in Huntington Beach. To view a video of the service, click here.
For those wishing to make a contribution in honor of Dr. Anderson, donations may be sent to:
The Ray S. Anderson Scholarship Fund (a scholarship fund for Fuller Seminary's regional campus based in Irvine, California)
c/o Office of Development
Fuller Theological Seminary
135 N. Oakland Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91182
The Ray S. Anderson Fund (a fund designated for Grace Lutheran Church, where Dr. Anderson served as Teaching Pastor)
c/o Grace Lutheran Church
6931 Edinger Avenue
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
To read a tribute to Dr. Anderson by Christian D. Kettler, one of his former students, click here.