STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 07/09/2013
Professor David Lumsdaine passed away February 27 following a heart attack. An international relations and foreign policy specialist, he had broad interests in other fields: poetry, classical music, theology, history. In his political science classes he encouraged student participation and writing, and students speak with deep appreciation for a beloved professor and mentor to many.
“David Lumsdaine passionately loved God, others, and God’s world,” recalls Ruth Melkonian-Hoover, chair of the Political Science Department. “We have been richly blessed by him, and his passing represents a tremendous loss to our department and to all of us in the Gordon community.”
Dr. Lumsdaine was a regular discussant at the Jerusalem and Athens Forum, one of Gordon’s honors programs. “For you,” writes Ryan Groff, JAF program coordinator, “there was life to be found in ancient texts, and our cohorts kindled their own fascination with the life of the mind and Christian faith by reading at your side such great works as St. Athanasius’s ‘On the Incarnation.’ We will forever miss your evident and deeply felt appreciation for the beauty of Christian thought and life.”
He leaves two brothers, and extended family, on the West Coast.
These remembrances are among those delivered at Dr. Lumsdaine’s funeral, held March 2 at at Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church in Danvers, Massachusetts.
Timothy Sherratt, Gordon College professor of political science
Could it be just about six years ago that I met David Lumsdaine for the first time, when we brought him to interview at Gordon College? The Wheaton political science chairman who urged me to consider him for our open position described David’s demeanor as pastoral; he said that in one short year many students had beaten a path to David’s door for advice and counsel. And in the subsequent years, more than I could ever have expected to, I gained a new purchase on the meaning of loyalty in friendship. I got closer to humble genius than I ever expected to, and I saw teaching and scholarship practiced with passion and care from one who loved God and neighbor with unguarded enthusiasm.
We mourn the loss of our friend. The suddenness of his departure is shocking. We will feel the full weight of it over the weeks and months ahead as we grieve. And yet I believe we will witness something else, too, something even weightier. We will witness the fruit of the good seed David cultivated in the lives of students and colleagues and church family alike.
Genius can be breathtaking. Genius mediated through humility can only be a blessing. Why? Because humility allows genius to serve the community, and I can give our late friend no higher compliment. Extraordinarily gifted as David was, he thought others were better than he. He routinely began recollections of his own life and career with a litany of his failures (describing them more colorfully than “failures”). There was nothing false about these claims. He thought he failed a lot. He was contrite in seeking forgiveness. “I’ve really blown it this time,” he confessed to me on more than one occasion as he came by my office to apologize.
Our mutual friendship also came to life on Wednesday mornings, in a circle of friends who meet regularly for breakast. Politics, art, theology, the college where we teach: one by one David brought his humility, his erudition and his enthusiasm to bear on them all. Little by little, the sheer scope of his learning and his delight in life emerged: his love of the Book of Common Prayer and the Anglican way; his deep knowledge of Asian art (well, of everybody’s art, really); the poetry that enlivened his being, so much of it committed to memory. And then there was the joy he took in recitation—highbrow or lowbrow verse, it didn’t matter. I recall offering up the opening lines of that ditty about the Gunpowder Plot: “Remember, remember the Fifth of November / Gunpowder, treason and plot…,” the only lines I could recall. Lumsdaine, of course, didn’t miss a beat and gleefully picked up where I had left off, reciting every one of the additional four or five stanzas of the original, and printing out a copy for me later in the day!
I close my reflection with this thought. I, and we, have been loved. We have witnessed a life lived in unapologetic enthusiasm and unguarded service to the Body of Christ, to the Truth, to the Christian Hope, and to our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Let us grieve and give thanks together for the life of our friend.
Thanks be to God.
Stan Gaede, Gordon College scholar-in-residence
David was unlike anyone I have ever met. He was one of the most intelligent fellows that I’ve encountered anywhere, at any time. There’s a downside to that, of course; I found myself perpetually arguing with David about all kinds of things, and learning (thereby) the significant deficits in my own line of reasoning.
This education came with no small degree of intensity and emotion. David was quite willing to not only show me the error of my ways, but do so in a manner that made evident the profound consequences of my stupidity to everyone who was in the room . . . or restaurant . . . or wherever. He spoke his mind, in other words. And we all learned, in the process.
But here’s the rest of the story, the part that few people in the room ever heard, unfortunately—the part that told me something about David that was even larger than his brain. Call it his heart. You see, after the debate, there came the man. Sometimes he would follow me out of a restaurant asking me if we could continue our discussion the next day; sometimes he’d apologize for his tone (if not his conclusion!). But always, he let me know that he wanted to listen: to learn more about what I was thinking, to read what I was reading, to continue a discussion rather than letting an unresolved matter drop, to pursue the truth that we were both seeking.
We separate truth and love these days, thinking they have nothing to do with each other. David knew better. He loved the Lord with all his heart, mind, soul and strength. And for that reason, he loved his neighbor, his students and his colleagues as himself. That is why he shared what he learned with us. Without guile. Without pretense. Without hesitation. How could he do otherwise, with those he loved?
Thanks be to God, he did not!
Timothy Sherratt recently published “Political Symbolism and Elevated Political Discourse” in the Center for Public Justice Capital Commentary series.
Stan Gaede is president of the Christian College Consortium, and the author of many books and articles.