Congratulations Dr. Edgar!
July 01, 2012
Honorary Doctorate Recipient
On Friday, June 15th, Rev. Dr. William Edgar, professor of apologetics, received an honorary doctorate from Faculté Jean Calvin (or, the Jean Calvin Reformed Seminary) in Aix-en-Provence, France. Rev. Dr. Peter Lillback gave the evening sermon. Also in attendence were Aix faculty and Westminster alumni Drs. Paul Wells (M.Div. '72) and Yannick Imbert (Ph.D. '10).
See below to read a recap of the weekend's events.
It was a momentous weekend for the Faculté Jean Calvin (formerly Faculté Libre de Théologie Réformée). A number of events pointed to the strategic importance of this modest-sized institution, and to its renewed vitality as it looks toward the future.
On June 15th, a special luncheon was held in order to introduce Andzej Turkanik, Director of Quo Vadis Institute in Salzburg, to the personnel at Aix. Plans were made for future collaboration between these two institutions. Through an initiative called “Culturfac,” the Seminary sponsors numerous events and colloquia meant to relate all of life to the Lordship of Christ. Similarly, Quo Vadis reaches out to guilds such as health care, law, and the arts.
That evening the graduation ceremony was held, signaling numerous landmarks. After opening hymns and prayers, our own President Peter Lillback delivered a stirring message on “The Seminary of Elisha,” based on the text from 2 Kings 6:1-7—the story of the miracle of the axe head. Dr. Lillback stressed the way the school of the prophets was a model for the training of leaders to understand the death and resurrection of sinners, because of Christ’s own descent into the deep waters of condemnation, and his triumph over death. He urged Aix-en-Provence to be such a school.
Following the sermon, two people received the Doctor of Divinity Honoris Causa. First, Professor William Edgar, then Dr. Harold Kallemeyn. Edgar was introduced by Westminster Ph.D. graduate Yannick Imbert. His career and writings were described, and he was specifically thanked for his work on the Huguenot Fellowship, a resource organization in support of the Jean Calvin Seminary. In his acceptance speech Dr. Edgar was able to thank a host of people who had made these achievements possible: from his dear wife, Barbara, to his colleagues and friends at Aix. Kallemeyn was fêted for his outstanding work in publications, especially his ministry Timothée, which is dedicated to training leaders in French-speaking Africa with pioneering methods. He was introduced by Aix board member Noro Andrianalisah, a wonderful Malagasy alumna. His remarks centered on the growth of the church in the Global South and the urgent need for biblical training in these places.
Next, the degree La Licence (an equivalent honor to the Bachelor of Divinity) was conferred upon a dozen graduates. This is a remarkable number, considering the small size of the Seminary. Two students made remarks about their own journeys and thanked the Seminary professors for their efforts.
Finally, Mademoiselle Marie de Védrines, former Academic Secretary, and one of the most faithful friends of Jean Calvin Seminary, addressed inspired remarks about Dr. Paul Wells, who is retiring at the end of the summer. Paul Wells has been to Westminster several times, including graduation of 2009, when he received the Honorary Doctor’s degree. It is fair to say that without Dr. Wells’ tireless work for nearly 40 years, the Seminary at Aix would either not exist, or would be a pale shadow of what it is today.
Retiring librarian Aline Dieleman was also thanked for her nearly 40 years of service both in the library and the classroom. Finally, former Dean Pierre Berthoud gave the benediction.
That same evening, as only the French can do, a great celebration was held in the Seminary garden, with food and drink, music and speeches, into the wee hours. Dr. Lillback was persuaded to bring out his guitar, and lead the group in “Amazing Grace.” Dr. Edgar played a few tunes on the piano, including the freshly minted “Peter and Paul Blues,” in honor of Professors Berthoud and Wells.
If this were not enough transition, Saturday’s trustees’ meeting saw Pascal Geffroy step down from the chairmanship and pass the baton to Pierre Berthoud. Professor Berthoud is another founding father who has been emeritus for two years, but who is staying in Aix in order to serve this Seminary and many other causes. Berthoud has been to Westminster many times giving lectures and presenting the Jean Calvin Seminary to its American friends. His vision for the future of Aix is unabated.
Dr. Edgar preached Sunday morning in the Reformed Church at Plan de Cuques, a suburb of Marseille. He and Dr. Lillback then met with colleagues from Aix to discuss ways in which Westminster and Jean Calvin might collaborate in the future. One suggestion was to have regular exchanges of professors, especially now that the European Masters degree is well established. Another was to make good use of “smart” classrooms in order to make lectures from both seminaries available to the other.
Dr. Edgar wants everyone to know how deeply grateful he is for Peter Lillback’s great gesture of friendship in making this special trip to honor him. Also present were two singular Westminster friends, Collier Kirkland and Philipp Coffin. One person was very much missed, Linda Boice, widow of James Montgomery Boice, in whose memory the Chair of Practical Theology at Aix is named. She had a family obligation which prevented her from joining the festivities.
The Seminary at Aix will soon celebrate its 40th anniversary. Humanly speaking, the future looks very good. Yet such ministries are always vulnerable. In his acceptance speech, Edgar stressed the need not to look at the old days as better (Eccles. 7:10), but to see each era with its trials and triumphs as a gift of God. His prayer for the Jean Calvin Seminary was from Isaiah 60:1-3: “arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you… And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Indeed, may nations and leaders come to the light of the gospel through the humble work of La Faculté Jean Calvin.