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hope for churches in stress


“Elders who direct the affairs of the church well,” the apostle Paul wrote, “are worthy of double honor” (1 Timothy 5:12). In accord with this biblical directive, I want to honor Harvey Sider.

On November 23, at the age of 91, Harvey graduated to his heavenly reward. After earlier service as a teacher, pastor, missionary, and bishop, Harvey led the Brethren in Christ Church in North America as moderator. During these eight years, I had the privilege of working with him as my mentor and colleague.

Without charisma, eloquence, or drama, Harvey moved in a straight line toward what was right and good. He effectively applied his experience, wisdom, and administrative skills to whatever needed to be done to build up the Church, present and future.

Amid difficult decisions, Harvey prayed much and conferred widely, then moved ahead without second-guesses. In hard conversations he was direct, yet always with respect and kindness—a remarkable balance that few are able to manage.

Harvey was an active communicator. By notes, emails, phone calls (usually early in the morning), and one-to-one conversations, he kept in touch, conferred, assigned tasks, checked on details, and encouraged. He offered his insights clearly in sermons, articles, chapters, and books.

Harvey did have a quirk or two. He organized his life, quite literally, to the minute. If there was a penny to be saved, he found it. He was a minimalist before the word was coined. Yet if there was a donation to be given, he was extravagant. As moderator, he set a breath-taking pace in generosity by giving away about 50% of his income.

Harvey exemplified the values of the faith community he led. He and Erma, his wife and collaborator, markedly believed the Bible, followed Jesus, nurtured community, served the world, pursued peace, lived simply, and saturated all of this with prayer.

May the Lord raise up more like Harvey and Erma who will dedicate their lives to Christ and the Church with such steadfast diligence and generosity of spirit (Matthew 9:38; 2 Timothy 2:20-21).


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