At InterVarsity’s recent Graduate and Faculty Ministry staff conference, we honored Terry Morrison for his many years of ministry. Terry is currently Director Emeritus for Faculty Ministry, and served as IVCF’s second Faculty Ministry Director. Terry has a powerful ministry among Christian faculty around the country, and he played a small, but crucial, role in my own journey.
In college, I became an English major because I loved to read. Only after I responded to the call of Christ did I start to see that there were truths that could be understood through language, and began to desire to integrate my love for Christ with my love for literature. At the time, I thought that a PhD in English was the most direct route to this integration, and besides, I loved school and had very good grades and test scores, so a PhD made sense. I knew from personal experience, however, that English departments were not necessarily friendly to Christian faith, and explicit questions about, say, how Christ’s identity as the Word of God influences our understanding of human words were not exactly welcomed. I wrote a lot of poetry back then, and I was especially interested in the practice of language, and my relationship with Christ was a central theme in my poetry. I knew that I would have to be careful in my choice of graduate school, so that I would be free to explore this integration project.
Through a series of InterVarsity connections, I was put in touch with Terry Morrison. Robbie Castleman’s True Love in a World of False Hope had been very influential in my relationship with Elizabeth, and we had met Robbie at chapter camp in Florida. At the time, Robbie was working with graduate students in Florida, and she directed me to Terry, then the Director of Faculty Ministry. One of Terry’s gifts is countless relationships with Christian faculty around the country, and he immediately pointed me to three Christian English professors who he thought could help me.
I emailed all three, and put to them a question that, looking back, I think is a little odd: “Where I can I go to earn a PhD, where I can integrate my love for Christ with my love for literature?” The first emailed me back and said, “I have no idea, but don’t do what I did.” The second wrote back and said, “I have no idea, but perhaps Baylor.” The third wrote back: “I’m not sure there is such a place. I think you will be facing a long and lonely battle. You can, however, do what I did, and earn a theology degree first. That way, you will have the foundation you need to do the integrative work yourself.” I just happened to be reading Knowing God by J. I. Packer and Earth and Altar by Eugene Peterson at the time, and both men “just happened” to teach at a school I had never heard of, Regent College. And now you know the rest of the story.
Looking back, that series of conversations and connections – from Robbie, to Terry, to those three Christian professors (whose names, alas, I have forgotten) – was one of the key turning points in my walk with Christ and my understanding of my vocation. As I have joined ESN, I have spoken to many people about these conversations, and reflected on them frequently to understand why (I think) God has called me to ESN. I would be willing to wager that Terry was a central link in more conversations like these than he will ever know on this side of heaven.
And that’s why I praise God for Terry Morrison.