STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 11/22/2010

The Ongoing Legacy of Adoniram Judson Gordon

A. J. Gordon: A Brief Biography

He was born April 19, 1836, in New Hampton, New Hampshire, to devout Christian parents. Named after Adoniram Judson, a Baptist missionary to Burma, at 15 he had a conversion experience and was baptized in his father’s millstream. One year later he openly confessed in a church meeting his desire and determination to prepare for Christian ministry.

In 1856 he entered Brown University, where he met his future wife, Maria Hale. In 1860 he entered the Newton Theological Institution. Upon graduation in 1863, he accepted a call to become pastor of the Jamaica Plain Baptist Church near Boston. After six successful years there, he accepted the pastorate of the Clarendon Street Baptist Church in Boston, the church where his ministry would have its broadest impact.

Dr. Gordon remained pastor of Clarendon Street Church for more than a quarter of a century. His many books include In Christ, The Two-Fold Life, The Ministry of the Spirit, and How Christ Came to Church. The church became one of the most active churches in America, with an outstanding effort in missions.

A. J. Gordon traveled, preached, wrote, and served with the passion of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ worldwide. In 1889 he founded the Boston Missionary Training Institute, later to become Gordon College. He continued as minister of the Clarendon Street Church until his death, due to influenza and bronchitis, on the morning of February 2, 1895. “Victory” was his last clearly audible word.

An excerpt from “Adoniram Judson Gordon 1836–1895,” on the Gordon College website.

A Founder's Vision

Adoniram Judson Gordon knew how important higher education was. But because of his vibrant relationship with Christ, he also believed that how a person learned could make a lasting impact on the world.

So in 1889 he started a missionary training institute in Boston with a global vision, immediately enrolling not just young white men, but African Americans and women as well. The college grew not away from Jesus but toward Him, and soon it blended biblical and theological training with a fully liberal arts education that today still acknowledges learning as a gift from God.

In every classroom at Gordon, Jesus is relevant. And Gordon College is not alone. As part of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, it is one of over 120 member institutions throughout the world that remains committed to the spiritual education of the next generation. As a result, thousands of young people today are entering their careers with a Christ-centered foundation. I have always been encouraged by the reality that so many positive contributions have been made by faithful Christians in fields such as music, science, art, journalism, politics, technology or medicine. These women and men recognized that Christ’s daily and real presence wasn’t a side note to their careers but the very reason for them. At the center of their faith there has always been a Book from which they’ve renewed their minds and sharpened their visions. And there has always been a Teacher who has made a habit of guiding His students through some of history’s most difficult periods.

An excerpt from “Teachable Moments,” in A Desperate Faith: Lessons of Hope from the Resurrection (Baker: 2010), by Jo Kadlecek, senior communications writer at Gordon. Copies of the book were given this year, due to a generous donor gift, to all incoming students.

The Gordon DNA: Tracing Family Resemblances
These eight Gordon College “family members” are living A. J. Gordon’s legacy with faithfulness and originality. Some are known to many; the influence of others is “hidden in Christ.” Their stories are intended to honor all who are part of the growing Gordon family.

Themla Damon Langley '34
Thelma gave her life to Jesus Christ in high school and knew even then she wanted to be prepared to serve. Gordon College was the obvious choice, one she’s never regretted.

Lillian Woodworth Aiken '47
Lillian came to Gordon College seeking to deepen her faith and broaden her intellectual horizons. The result was a Harvard doctorate and an adventurous career as a philosophy professor.

Melville Stewart '58
Fifty-two years after graduating from Gordon, with 19 books to his credit and five years of travel to China as visiting professor, Mel Stewart believes God was opening doors all along.

Mark Shaw '73
Mark Shaw, a missionary and scholar, believes that the real emerging church is “a wildly global and culturally pluralistic one, which moves us toward the vision of 1 Corinthians 12.”

Patrick Gray '92
For Patrick Gray, the “Field of Dreams” model of evangelism (“If you build it, they will come”) is dead. So he’s practicing new models of reaching out to people in postmodern times.

Kirsten Heacock Sanders '05
As a Ph.D. student in theology, Kirsten identifies strongly with the monastic principle of “love of learning and the desire for God.” It’s a principle she began to understand as a student at Gordon.

Rachel '11 and Joshua '11 Bell
The Bell twins, from Harare, Zimbabwe, both find Gordon rigorous in ways that stretch their thinking. Both current A. J. Gordon Scholars, they intend to return to Zimbabwe someday.