Donald Guthrie, President
In 2012 Donald accepted a position at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago where he became director of their Doctorates in Educational Studies. Previously, Donald had been at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis for fifteen years where he served as Associate Dean of Educational Ministries and Senior Director of the Francis Schaeffer Institute. We think the major perk of that position was that he could park anywhere he wanted on campus. I don’t know whether he continues this in Chicago or not.
Donald holds a doctorate in adult education from the University of Georgia which he occasionally uses to teach us such things as – I’m from Apollo, PA which spelled backwards is Apollo, PA. Donald is also an elder in his local church in Chicago. He consistently models dialogical teaching that includes people in true discussion as they process new ideas and apply them to real life. No one does it better, and his example inspires us.
Few people know that before Donald joined the faculty at Covenant, because he is such a kindred spirit, he became a co-worker with us here at Ransom Fellowship. We knew it would be a temporary between-jobs ministry position when the Guthries first moved to St. Louis so their daughter, Erin, could attend the Moog school for the deaf. We admired their faith and the risks they took in making a move without the common American securities firmly in place: job, home, and a community where you are known. Donald remains on our board of directors, and as our president, we benefit from his vision and ability to challenge and direct our gifts. We also enjoy his impertinence and great sense of humor.
Donald answered most of my questions for this bio with Jesus, Mary, or The Bible. It is true, that his wife’s name is Mary, and she is his best friend and favorite companion for walks along the shores of Lake Michigan. For the record: Though he will let you think it, he did not write the book New Testament Theology – a widely recognized theological work he describes as the go-to book for pastors, students, doulas, and, really, anyone with a question about Jesus’ life. So for all the trusting seminary students who’ve been misled, the truth is, there’s another “Donald Guthrie” out there who is the real author.
When he has the chance, Donald enjoys hanging out at a local store that sells fine, hand-crafted furniture. He says it inspires him to build pieces himself. There is something satisfying and calming about running your hand over an intricately grained, smooth piece of wood and imagining what it might become. The sight, the smell, the feel of unfinished wood all combine to make a lot of us wish our first calling in life was to be a carpenter, like Jesus.
Together, Donald and Mary lead lives that are consistent with their beliefs. On many occasions, you can find them welcoming doctoral candidates – including internationals who will return as leaders in their own countries – into the warmth of their home. Mary, also works at Trinity International University as Advertising Manager in the Communications Department. They have two children who are now young adults.
Bonnie Liefer lives in Pittsburgh where she is Vice President of Marketing & Communications for the Coalition for Christian Outreach. CCO is an interdenominational campus ministry whose mission is “transforming college students to transform the world.” She’s been with them since 1978 – a humble person in times of honor and accomplishments, and hopeful through the difficulties and changes of life and ministry. We wanted this creative, decisive woman on our board the minute Donald Guthrie introduced us to her. She became a close friend and has been on our Board of Directors since 1996.
It isn’t just that Bonnie is an excellent graphic artist with an eye for layout and web design who can offer Ransom advice; her non-profit organization experience is something we highly value. She also has a combination of gifts we need: Honest and practical feedback for a bunch of dreamers. She’s a good listener. She gets being committed. Working with her in the kitchen is like working with that Japanese maul-thrower and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, but that doesn’t distract us from the best thing about her; she’s acquired wisdom that comes from loving God and from suffering in real life – it makes her a wonderful friend and board member.
Bonnie lives with her husband, Dave and enjoys gardening, and watching movies with Dave when she’s not working. In fact, her garden is a redemption narrative as she and Dave slowly turned a steep, ugly backyard full of trashed rocks and evil weeds into a place of living beauty. One of her greatest joys has been helping raise her stepson, Jake, who is now on CCO staff, married and with a family of his own. We give him credit for helping Mom see the potential brilliance of blogs way back when he began one himself. Before that she was pretty certain they were a waste of time.
Bonnie designs outstanding greeting cards for the CCO, you won’t find the likes of them in the Christian bookstore or anywhere else either. They can be seen and ordered at http://www.cards.ccojubilee.org.
Bonnie is a kindred spirit and encourages Ransom’s calling to help ordinary believers live in and see culture from a Christian perspective. I doubt we can offer her anything more than a certificate for her work, but we hope she stays with us for at least another 25 years.
Henry Tazelaar, Secretary/Treasurer
Along with being a close friend and lover of good wine, Henry’s special gift to Ransom’s Board of Directors is keeping our board’s business agenda moving and on target. He also keeps us better connected to the professional world where obligations, advancement, and fulfillment are not always in your control, and where daily understanding of the providence and sovereignty of God are just as important as they are to someone in a ministry position.
In July of 2005 Henry became Chair of the Division of Anatomic Pathology for Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona . He is also a Professor of Pathology at the medical school. So if you have serious heart or lung disease, he’d be the guy you’d want looking at your path slides.
Henry was drawn to Ransom’s ministry partly because he appreciates our focus on Bible study and small group interactions as a way to exhibit community and foster accountability. He says, “Denis and Margie’s emphasis on faithfulness in the ordinary has also been an encouragement in my daily life.”
We also like Henry on the Board because he’s married to Peggy, our favorite Dutch heritage person of all time. Her love and prayers have often sustained and nourished us along with her incredible cooking gifts.
Henry stays in shape by working out and eating the South Beach Diet. Even though he doesn’t consider it a good day unless he’s gotten up at some ungodly hour to exercise and has eaten a head of broccoli and a fish or two, he never makes me feel like a slob for getting short of breath as I walk to the refrigerator looking for a slab of butter to snack on. And he always eats almost everything I cook without a murmur.
In the summer of 2005 Henry and Peggy moved from Rochester, MN to Phoenix. The only good thing about them moving away is that before they left, they lived with us at Toad Hall for two and a half months. We know it was a tiny trial for them because on the last day Henry noted that our guest bed was a piece of, I believe he called it “a piece of junk.” I thank him for that honesty, since it convinced Denis to let me buy a new one for our visitors.
We are especially pleased to have Paul join us as our newest Board Member. For many years he and his wife, Kathy, have been close friends.
Paul grew up in the beautiful Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina where he seems to have left his accent and moonshine behind. He left home as a young man to serve in the Navy and made three tours to the Antarctic with Operation Deep Freeze. He may have some advice on how to avoid getting trapped by sea ice. Or on how to endure the cold winters in Minnesota.
For sixteen years, Paul served on InterVarsity staff in Missouri. During that time he met and bonded with Denis at a student camp in the early 70’s. For eight years he was Associate Pastor at Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Louis. Along the way he earned a Masters of Divinity from Covenant Seminary. He recently retired after working for sixteen years as chaplain at a retirement community, and since then has continued to serve as an elder at New City Fellowship in St. Louis. His life remains full as he tutors children in their central urban neighborhood and leads Bible studies for men.
Paul and Kathy have been married for 45 years, and recently, he sent us a lovely and provocative quote on marriage by G.K. Chesterton about “suffering fools gladly”:
… An obvious instance is that of ordinary and happy marriage. A man and a woman cannot live together without having against each other a kind of everlasting joke. Each has discovered that the other is a fool, but a great fool. This largeness, this grossness and gorgeousness of folly is the thing which we all find about those with whom we are in intimate contact; and it is the one enduring basis of affection, and even of respect.
Hospitality has been at the heart of their lives together. Even Paul’s work at Friendship Village demonstrated a kind of hospitality – helping older people to live and die well – walking with them right up to the last door of life, helping them say good-bye to their families and then turning to comfort those left behind.
As a board, as individuals, we need his wisdom, his kindness and insights as we head into years that will involve transition and retirement. And I, for one, (Margie) will need courage to do it. So, it is together, with this small band of friends that form a sort of community, that we feel, yes, sometimes challenged, but always safe and loved. Paul will add much to our group.
Board Member, Emeritus
Although Steve has been on our Board of Directors since Ransom Fellowship began in 1983, in 2016 he needed to resign from an active position. As he wrote, “Life is always complex, and mine is just like everyone else’s. But with the work I am doing, and the requirements that are mine, I must resign.” It is with regret we accept his resignation and yet we keep him here on our “About People” because his presence and voice have played such an important role in the shaping of our ministry and vision. We wish him well as his life’s work and calling take him to many places in the world.
Currently, Steve is director of The Washington Institute [www.washingtoninst.org] where he writes, teaches, and faithfully challenges us to live as Christians who engage our culture, our vocations, and our loves in a way that begins to heal the fractures that come from living in a fallen world. He puts it like this: “We are not interested in knowledge for its own sake — never, ever. Rather our concern is for a way of knowing that connects what we believe with the way that we live – our convictions about God, human nature, and history, with the reality of everyday experience. From beginning to end we are most interested in understanding why, how, and that ‘mere Christianity’ shapes life, from the most personal areas of human concern to the most public arenas of human responsibility.”
Steve is widely known as a scholar, a writer, a speaker. He’s been many things to many people– a Lilly Scholar at Calvin College, a professor at the American Studies Program in D.C., author of The Fabric of Faithfulness, a mentor, a thoughtful friend and net-worker for people in every calling of life. Steve’s latest book Visions of Vocations: Common Grace for the Common Good, addresses the question what if the vision of vocation can be recovered―allowing us to step into the wounds of the world and for love’s sake take up our responsibility for the way the world turns out?
It has been a great grace to know him as a fellow pilgrim and faithful friend. We have known him as a city farmer, a keeper of chickens who once flew half dozen eggs across the country so we could share some of his “organic eggs.” He’s been one to share our follies, our sorrows, our joys.