Northern Seminary is saddened by the loss of Myers Chair of Ministry, Dr. Robert E. Webber, who died Friday, April 27 at age 73 at his home in Sawyer, Michigan, after an eight-month struggle with pancreatic cancer.
Dr. Webber’s work and witness have impacted the evangelical world by bringing worship and ministry back to their historical Christian roots as established by the early church. Because of his influence through the publication of significant works like The Complete Library of Christian Worship, his Ancient-Future Series (The Divine Embrace, Ancient-Future Time, Ancient-Future Evangelism and Ancient-Future Faith), the “Chicago Call” in 1977 and more recently “The Call to an Ancient-Evangelical Future” in 2006, the church and a generation of pastors have been encouraged to challenge old assumptions about what constitutes an effective Christian witness in today’s postmodern culture.
“Robert Webber influenced many thousands of Christian leaders through his speaking and writing,” said Dr. Charles Hambrick-Stowe, Dean of the Seminary and Professor of Christian History. “Two qualities are at the heart of his teaching ministry – authenticity and accessibility. Northern Seminary students were blessed by these qualities in the classroom, in informal conversations on and off campus, and in times of prayer. We on the faculty were constantly blessed by his wisdom, his humor, and the no-nonsense way he brought the gospel to bear on everyday circumstances. We are grateful to have enjoyed Bob’s presence among us these last seven years, which he described as the best years of his teaching career.”
Dr. Webber was born in the Congo to Baptist missionary parents, and was raised in the Philadelphia area. Webber’s educational path was denominationally diverse and unique–a BA from Bob Jones University (Greenville, NC); a BD at Reformed Episcopal Seminary; a ThM at Covenant Seminary (Presbyterian Church in America) and a ThD at Concordia Seminary (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod).
He began his teaching career at Covenant College in 1960; Covenant Seminary in 1965; and then spent 32 years teaching at Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL) beginning in 1968 as Professor of Theology. In 1998, Webber founded the Institute for Worship Studies (now the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies) in Florida, which is a Masters and Doctorate level graduate school focused on the study of the theological, biblical, historical, sociological and missiological foundations of Christian worship. Webber retired from Wheaton in 2000 and was named Professor Emeritus upon his retirement. Also in 2000, Webber was appointed Myers Chair of Ministry at Northern Seminary and stated in his inaugural address, “Northern’s commitment to develop a new kind of seminary education to prepare men and women for ministry in a postmodern world, is visionary and compelling. It’s a great honor to be a part of this cutting-edge vision!”
Webber leaves behind a wife, Joanne, four children, John (Isabel), Alexandra (Jack), Stefany (Tom), and Jeremy (Susie), seven grandchildren, and a rich legacy of friends, colleagues and students.
A Memorial service will be held in the Chicago area at Christ Church of Oakbrook (31st and York Rd. Oakbrook 60523) on Wednesday, May 16, 2007 at 7 p.m. and at Grace Episcopal Church in Orange Park, FL on Friday, June 15 at 7 p.m., during the June session of the Institute for Worship Studies. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the Robert E. Webber Center for an Ancient Evangelical Future, c/o Northern Seminary, 660 E. Butterfield Rd. Lombard, IL 60148 or the Robert E. Webber Endowment Fund at the Institute for Worship Studies, 151 Kingsley Ave. Orange Park, FL 32073.
Northern Seminary will be erecting a Memorial page on the website to honor Robert E. Webber through the thoughts, comments and memories of his friends, students and colleagues. If you would like to submit a thought or comment for this page, please go to: Webber Memorial Page Tribute.