Rejoicing with Phil Ryken, Wheaton College's Eighth President

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It was a joy to represent the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and my own congregation, the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi (PCA) at the Inaugural Festivities at Wheaton College. There's a brief description here.

As most of the folks reading this blog will know, The Reverend Dr. Philip Graham Ryken is a Council Member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. He also is the speaker for the Alliance's radio broadcast "Every Last Word." Having served faithfully and extraordinarily at the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA for some fifteen years (most of that time as Senior Pastor) he was called to Wheaton College (his alma mater) as President.

Friday, September 17, 2010 (seventeen years to the day and hour after Duane Litfin's inauguration as the seventh President of Wheaton), Dr. Ryken was installed in grand ceremony in the Edman Chapel that began about 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

It was exhilarating. On Friday morning, I walked across the campus from the Billy Graham Center to Edman Hall, and was greeted all the way by enthusiastic and welcoming students. One of Dr. Ryken's kind assistants walked me to Blanchard Hall and up to his office. I enjoyed a brief time of conversation with Phil, and then the privilege of praying for him in his new duties as President, along with his longtime friend, the Reverend Dr. George Robertson, Senior Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Augusta, Georgia.

I then walked to the Inaugural Luncheon, where I enjoyed fellowship with my dear friend, Dr. R. Albert Mohler. Al and I found a delegate's table and enjoyed a long meal together, along with Dr. David Garner from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) and Dr. John Fesko of Westminster Theological Seminary in California. The contents of the program were deeply moving. I'll tell you about them sometime. What a gift it was to be there with so many old friends and new (Al and I got to speak briefly with Dr. Don Sweeting of RTS-Orlando, there, Niel and Kathleen Nielson of Covenant College too, Bryan Chapell of Covenant Seminary, and more - and it was my special privilege to chat with Florence Graham, Phil's grandmother, in whose church I had served when I was at Covenant Seminary).

After the luncheon, we all made our way to Edman Chapel for the service, which was stately and Spiritual.The ceremony was marked by "gravity and gladness" and plentifully peppered with beautiful music ("Pilgrim's Hymn") and poetry (Robert Siegel's inaugural poem: "In My Beginning Is My End"), and appropriate introductions, welcomes, charges and presentations.  Dr. Ryken's address "A World Servant in Christian Liberal Arts Education" was sturdy and inspiring.

The whole Wheaton family seems to know what a special man their new president is. They certainly seem to know that he genuinely loves them and cherishes the institution.  Wheaton is led by a loving shepherd, with a rock solid commitment to historic Christian orthodoxy, a capacious intellect, a voracious appetite for knowledge, a prodigious literary output, a knack for acute cultural observation (as well as timely, bold and gracious engagement), an almost genetic understanding of the mission of liberal arts education, a commitment to what he (aptly) calls the reintegration of faith and learning, and a vision for deploying Wheaton's resources "for Christ and His Kingdom" globally.

There are challenges to be sure, but this day was a day for celebration and thanksgiving. Our prayers will continue to go up for Dr. Ryken and his family, and for the fidelity and fruitfulness of Wheaton. There is much cause for hopefulness here, and even anticipation.

Posted September 18, 2010 @ 11:37 AM by Ligon Duncan

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