Two for the Higher Road

After their encounter with the Army, new soldiers and Ambassadors for Holiness Bill and Diane Ury talk with Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee about how they now help others encountr the living God.

War Cry: How did you two meet?

Diane Ury: When I was at Asbury College in the early eighties, my roommate pointed out to me this wonderful young man who was at the seminary and she said, “That’s Bill Ury.” And I kind of tucked that away in my heart. Two years later his sisters—good friends of mine—decided that I should meet their brother. They introduced us. I never hinted at any interest.

Bill Ury: I’d had some rough relationships in college and so I’d gone through a long period of being a monk.

My sisters thought something was wrong with me. They worked out this meeting on Easter weekend in the cafeteria. I was in seminary and Diane was in college. Getting together was a no-no. You didn’t cross the street to date college girls. But I went over and of course fell in love with her immediately and my monkness went away very quickly. I went on to graduate school for a year and Di when to seminary for a year. We just couldn’t take being apart.

Diane: He was in New Jersey and I was at Asbury Seminary (in Kentucky) and we said, “This stinks.” We got married one year later.

WC: How did you meet The Salvation Army?

Bill: When I was asked for the first time to speak at Indian Springs Camp Meeting in Fort Valley, Georgia.

They had services at three o’clock in the afternoon in July or August. A guy in a buttoned up blue tunic was sitting by himself in the Georgia sun. Afterwards he came up to me and I thought, “Who is this guy?” And he said, “Would it be okay if I invited you to our Bible conference.” I said, “Sure, I’d love to do that.” I had no idea what he was talking about. That guy was Commissioner Fred Ruth.

Within a few months I had a letter of invitation and the Lord has blessed my life from that encounter until today. The invitation was to speak at the Lake Junaluska Bible Conference in the Southern Territory. Other invitations followed, to officer councils and other kinds of things. Over the years it kept going and growing into an amazing work of God’s grace in my family’s life and mine.

WC: Was there a moment like that when you came home and said, “I met these people”?

Bill: My wife is very perceptive. Diane said, “Bill, there’s something different about you when you come home from these councils. You’re alive. You just have a vibrancy in you that’s not there other ways.” And the jokes began. “We’re going to give you the uniform. We need to see you in a tunic.” She’d say, “You need to think about this. At first, I thought she was joking.

Diane: I wasn’t joking. I said, “This is something we really need to think about.” Now, being together in ministry, teaching and preaching to people that you can be everything that Jesus ever dreamed you would be, that He can do that in your life—I just don’t know if there is a higher thing. For me, it’s a dream come true.

WC: Any connections to the Army in your past?

Diane: I transferred to Asbury College as a sophomore. I wasn’t even a Christian yet, but I was put in the dorm and about 80 percent of the girls in my hall were Sallies. That was my first introduction to The Salvation Army. And I met some godly women my own age who knew Jesus and who loved me. I’m still in touch with a lot of them.

Bill: My first real contact with the Army was with my roommate in college. About a year in he began to date Sue Baxendale. I didn’t know at that time when you dated a Salvation Army woman you become a Salvationist quickly. With that came his sanctification. I remember distinctly the night he came in after a long walk on the golf course. I could tell when he came in the room that something was radically different in his life. Then came the quotes by Brengle and Booth on 3×5 cards on the wall of our dorm room.

He strategically placed a quote by (Army Founder) William Booth right in my eyesight as I got out of bed every morning. It said, “O Christ, of pure and perfect love/Look on this sin-stained heart of mine!/I thirst Thy cleansing grace to prove,/I want my life to be like Thine./O see me at Thy footstool bow,/And come and sanctify me now!” (The Song Book of The Salvation Army #728, v. 1). I had no idea what that meant, but for the next two years but I watched his yieldedness, his openness, his heart. That’s where I really began to encounter the mission of the Army. In class I read Samuel Logan Brengle’s Portrait of a Prophet. I thought, “Man, who are these people?”

WC: What led to you joining the Army?

Bill: I was taking part in an officers council meeting in Florida. Commissioner Jeffrey was territorial commander. We were in the restaurant. I was next to him. I was nervous, overwhelmed by that kind of authority. He knew we were going to the pastorate and he leaned over he said, “Bill, go and get this pastoral thing out of your system in a year and give me a call.” I was kind of offended by that. “What do you mean this pastoral thing? You know, the Lord’s called us to this.” We got super spiritual.

I never forgot that conversation. He’s a leader. He sees things and he was saying, “We need something that you have in the Army. You connect with the Army in ways that we need. Would you?” Last year Di and I began to pray about a change. We sensed the Lord leading us in new ways and began to say, “Lord, what would that be?” I said “Di, maybe I should text or email Dave Jeffrey.” She said, “Yes, I think you should.” I emailed him and within 10 minutes he emailed back. He said, “We need to talk. We need to meet.” And so we met in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Di and I, we’re overwhelmed. The chance for us to minister together in this way is a huge draw for us. To be in the saddle together, in a Wesleyan-Arminian organization that affirms our gifts together as a couple is beautiful.

Diane, what’s this doing to you?

Diane: I’m just extremely humbled and honored. I don’t feel worthy to wear this uniform. Lt. Colonel Ron Busroe told me, “No, this is like a sacrament. This is all about Jesus. It’s not about you.”

“Okay, I can wear it if it’s all about Him,” I said.

I am just thrilled. There’s nothing in the world that I love more than to teach and preach about how to give one’s whole self to the Lord and receive all that He has for us. That’s my passion. And to be asked to do that in your job description with your husband, I just can’t believe it.

WC: Describe what you will be doing.

Bill: We have the job of going around the country and reminding a group of Christians what their roots are, how we can describe or live that kind of life, the roots of biblically loving God with all of our hearts, loving our neighbors, ourselves, that perfect love, that whole love, the foundation of the Army’s ministry.

Diane: We have been in pastoral ministry and have experienced the pain and disappointment, the feelings of failure, the fear. Now we are able to come into contact and offer words of encouragement that would help people who are serving with the Army to feel encouraged and more connected to Jesus and restored. I love theology. Many of my highest moments of worship have been in a classroom setting where someone is teaching me about the depths of our beliefs. I’m hoping that we can present theology and doctrine in ways where it feeds people’s hearts and they meet and encounter the living God.

WC: What is most on your heart right now?

Bill: We want to bring what is valuable and meaningful, something that lasts. My heart is concerned about how we join with other arms of the Army’s ministry to encourage ongoing biblical and theological reflection. How can we come along and say encouragingly, “This is a way to deepen your preaching, prayer life. Walk with Jesus while you’re responding to needs that come by the hour of every day!”

Diane: I want to learn how to serve the people in the Spirit of Jesus wherever we go, to be an encouragement.

WC: Is there a particular lesson from the Lord that stands out?

Diane: I learned of holiness and the idea of sanctification when I was a young adult. It took a long time for me to learn that holiness is not about my really nice, good behavior, but about the very presence of Jesus Himself in my life, His nearness, His intimacy. His actual presence is what holiness is, and good behavior comes as a result.

Bill: The first thing that comes to mind is that pastoral ministry is not primarily preaching or teaching. I learned that pastoral ministry means offering the heart of Jesus in a context where people may not even recognize that’s what’s happening. Most of the time, they don’t. People aren’t always grateful, don’t recognize, don’t understand; but in the Spirit, you keep on offering love, acceptance and forgiveness. I would love to talk with Salvation Army officers about how they experience their corps, their context, and ask, “How can we promote that kind of reality in everyday ministry?”

WC: Is there anything either of you would like to add?

Bill: I spent most of my adult life studying the nature of God. I am so grateful that the Lord’s given us a chance to focus on the central core, the essence of God’s own life, holiness and love. I was reading last week about ambassadorship, and happened to read in Brengle’s book what it meant to be an ambassador. I was grateful for him to say that ambassadors have no authority of their own. They have nothing about themselves to talk about. Ambassadors only point to the one who has sent them. That’s all we want to do, is point to Him. The title “Ambassadors for Holiness” frightens us a bit but the idea of giving our life to doing that is a gift—pointing to the One Who is holy. We know there are lots of things we’re going to learn, but what an amazing gift to offer to people. The Army’s blessed me since 1980, and the blessing just keeps getting better. This is probably heretical, but there’s a third blessing and Diane and I are experiencing it right now: The blessing of becoming a part of the Army.

National Ambassadors for Holiness

Dr. William and Diane Ury, renowned exponents of Wesleyan Holiness who were enrolled As Soldiers in the Raleigh, NC Corps this spring, have been named by Commissioner David Jeffrey, USA National Commander, as National Ambassadors for Holiness (NAH), effective as of July. Assigned to National Headquarters, they serve as teachers, writers, and communicators of the evangelistic mission of the Army, engaging Salvationists in seeking the life of holiness, proclaiming the doctrine of holiness, and emphasizing the practice of holy living as a continuing characteristic of Salvationism. They will serve as guest speakers/teachers at Salvation Army events in all four USA territories, including officer councils, retreats, Bible conferences, Family Camps and divisional and territorial events. They will also serve as adjunct professors at any of the territorial Colleges for Officer Training, as requested, and mentor future Salvation Army leaders.

Another function will be to devise, initiate, and contribute content for interactive programs via the Internet to advance holiness and holy living, working in close operation with others within the Program Section/Christian Education Department. The NAHs will make an annual visit to The Salvation Army Student Fellowship Center at Asbury University, support the relationship between the university and the Salvation Army Student Fellowship (SASF), and engage with the SASF Leadership Council and students.

Prior to becoming Salvation Army soldiers, the Urys served as ordained ministers within the Evangelical Methodist Church. Dr. Ury earned his M. Div. at Asbury Theological Seminary and completed his M. Phil. and Ph.D in Theological and Religious Studies at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey in 1991. He was Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS from 1989-2012 and pastored the Elizabeth City, NC EMC from 2012-2017.

Diane earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from Asbury University from 1980-1983 and continued study at Asbury Seminary with a concentration in Theology and Philosophy. In 2008 she completed a Master of Arts Degree in Theology at Wesley Biblical Seminary.

— Major Frank Duracher

 

The Case for Believing

Award winning investigative journalist Lee Strobel set out to reveal the claims of Christianity as false, asked scholars and historians such questions as:

Can the biographies of Jesus be trusted?

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Does archeology confirm or contradict
Jesus’ biographies?

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Was Jesus crazy when He claimed
to be the Son of God?

The answers Strobel uncovered through exhaustive research to these and other questions are detailed in his book (and recently released movie) The Case for Christ. In this conversation with Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee, Strobel and his wife Leslie consider the profound implications of his research.

War Cry: Why were you an atheist?

Lee Strobel: Well, on the one hand, I had a lot of intellectual objections to Christianity. I thought that an almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator of the universe was absurd. I was reinforced by the books of Bertrand Russell and Anthony Flew and other famous atheists. But, there were also underlying emotional and psychological reasons as well as moral reasons. Rarely is it purely intellectual that a person becomes an atheist.

Famous atheists throughout history—Camus, Sartre, Nicci, Freud, Voltaire, Welch, Feuerbach, O’Hair—all had a father who died when they were young or had a terrible relationship or were abandoned by their family when they were young. The implication is, “Why would you want to know a Heavenly Father, if your earthy father has disappointed or hurt you?” I had a very difficult relationship with my father. The Case for Christ movie portrays that. That may have been something that nudged me towards atheism.

There’s usually a moral issue involved. Frankly, I was happy in my sin. I was a happy drunk. I was the most gregarious guy in the bar who bought pitchers of beer for everyone. It cost me a fortune. I got drunk and enjoyed it. I reveled in my sin and didn’t want to come out of it.

War Cry: There’s a character in the movie that is shown reaching out to you.

Leslie Strobel: One of the first people that reached out to me was an African-American woman that I worked with at a bank, who was my boss. She was a strong Christian who witnessed to me. But I was not interested in hearing. Later in life, Lee and I were married, and we had Allison. Downstairs in our apartment building were Linda and Alfie and Ruby. They came up with some cookies and started witnessing and becoming friends with me. She’s the one that eventually led me to the Lord. But for the movie’s sake, they combined the characters.

WC: What bothered you about Leslie’s conversion?

Lee: I felt that she was cheating on me. There was another Man in her life who was giving her emotional support, and I thought that’s what I was supposed to be doing. I felt jealous of Jesus. I felt she was going to be pulled into some part where I wasn’t welcome. I didn’t know what she was turned into, something that I didn’t sign up for. I felt like it was blatant switch. I married the one Leslie, now she’s turned into a different Leslie. She tried to reach out to me awkwardly in those early years. That just made me more angry. I saw that our two different worldviews paving the way to the horizon with conflict. Different ways of raising the kids, spending money, spending our weekends, values and morality.

WC: Leslie, what was it like for you to disclose to Lee?

Leslie: I was afraid to even mention it but I just felt—I felt compelled to tell him. I didn’t feel like I should just keep it quiet. He was really angry, upset and confused. He wanted to know how this all happened. It put him a little bit off on my friendship with Linda and he let it be known that he wasn’t interested in it, that I shouldn’t be bothering him. He didn’t want to go to church with me, give any of our money. He was pretty adamant.

WC: Lee, What was your first surprise?

Lee: When I was a little kid I had an inflatable clown punching bag weighted on the bottom. You would hit it and it would fall backwards then it would spring back up. I thought Christianity would be one punch, one weekend, and I could falsify it. But it was like hitting that punching bag that you’d hit it and it would fall back, then it would pop up. Hit it again and it popped back up. I was shocked that I couldn’t disprove Christianity in a weekend. I was stunned every time I attacked that Christianity came up with a new fact or new evidence. I thought the idea of evidence in faith were totally contrary, that faith was believing in something even though you know in your heart it can’t be true. I didn’t realize that true Biblical faith is a step we take in the same direction the evidence is pointing, which is logical and rational.

WC: When did you perceive your first crack in the atheism?

Lee: I don’t know if I can pinpoint the exact moment of the first crack but it got to the point where on November 8, 1981 I assessed all the evidence that I studied for a year and nine months. Trying to reach verdict like a good jury reaches a verdict. In light of the avalanche of evidence I had seen that points so convincingly toward Christianity being true, it would have taken more faith to maintain my atheism than to become a Christian. Now, the arrows of the evidence were pointing toward Christianity. I couldn’t maintain my atheism.

WC: Was there anything that kept playing over in your mind?

Lee: One of the most dramatic bits of evidence in which He authenticated the claim to being divine—the Resurrection. In the life of Alexander the Great, it was 400 years after his life that Arian and Plutarch wrote their first biography of Alexander the Great and yet they’re considered reliable. There’s a record of the Resurrection of Jesus that the apostle Paul preserves for us in I Corinthians 15:3 that talks about Jesus dying for our sins, He was buried, on third day He rose from the dead. Then, Paul mentioned specific witnesses and groups to whom He appeared. That is an ancient creed of the church that has been pegged by scholars within months of His death. Here you have a news flash from ancient history and a piece of evidence that goes right back to the beginning—that is historical gold. This continues to convince many people that the resurrection actually happened. It’s too quick to write it off as merely being legend.

In the ancient world it took at least two generations for legends to develop and wipe out a solid core of historical truth. We don’t have two generations time here. We have a news flash that goes right back to the beginning—that’s a powerful bit of evidence. There have been scholars who’ve come to faith in Jesus because of that report that is so fresh, hard to dispute and so historically reliable.

WC: When you accepted Christ what was the reaction to those around you?

Lee: They pretended like everything was okay. But then I heard later in the elevator, some guy had said, “Hey, I heard Strobel got God. He got religion. What the heck was Strobel doing?” I think they were puffing on their cigars, drinking their whiskey and thinking, “Something weird going on with Lee.” I had a conversation with a guy who was a colleague of mine back then. He said, “Yeah, Lee, we all thought you were going to be the Editor of the Chicago Tribune. We all thought you we’re going to work for you someday. Then this comes up.” I said, “Yeah, God had other plans.”

WC: How do you handle doubt now?

Lee: I distill it down, “What is the problem? What is the question?” A lot of people have this vague cloud of doubt and they’re not sure what is it exactly. I get it down on paper. “What is the doubt? What is the fact or something I’ve encountered that has me questioning?” That makes it easier to research. There are many good resources to resolve these issues. I wrote a book called The Case for Faith in which I dealt with the top eight objections to Christianity. Nothing comes up anymore that makes me seriously doubt my faith. It may raise a question and out of curiosity, I’ll try to find an answer because I know somebody else is going to ask me about it. Knowing Jesus personally for all these years now it would be hard to convince me He doesn’t exist.

WC: Leslie, what was this was like for you?

Leslie: I almost didn’t believe it (Lee’s conversion) because it came out of the blue. It was always two steps forward, three steps back. There’s this one time he disappeared for a while and said he had to be alone. He came back and said, “I just accepted Christ. I just met Jesus. I felt like I’ve been reaching out for Him and I just met Him. He’s alive.” I’m thinking, “Am I hearing this right” The whole time, I was excited. We hugged and I cried and he cried. It was really precious.

WC: What was the proof to you?

Leslie: When he wanted to pray. He said, “I got to pray about this, I just need time to pray and I’m so excited and grateful.” You could tell that there’s something. It was on his face that something has changed.

WC: Lee, what gives you a sense of wonder?

Lee: I’m still in wonder of the grace of God. I wrote a book about it called The Case for Grace and how God changes lives dramatically, powerfully, 180 degrees. I’ve seen so many people whose stories knock me over and made me in awe of the grace of God—that He loves us, that He offers forgiveness and eternal life as a free gift. That just blows my mind.

WC: If facts don’t support atheism, why do atheists persistent?

Lee: Some of them have authentic, legitimate questions that really hang them up. They don’t feel they’ve yet gotten the sufficient answer. I understand that. There are some tough questions. A philosopher friend, said, “Skeptics have some legitimate questions like ‘Why does a loving God let pain and suffering in the world?’” That’s probably one of their best objections. But we’ve got at least 20 categories of evidence that point powerfully and persuasively toward the truth of the faith. You put them on a scale and weigh them out and say, “Yes, there are some legitimate questions that atheists have and maybe they just haven’t yet found the right answer.” As with me, there are emotional undercurrents to the reason they’re an atheist. There are often moral issues involved. Perhaps, their refusal to open their eyes to the evidence is a reflection of not wanting to give up the life that they’re living and/or the wounds of a past, the father that disappointed them and they’re reluctant to know a Heavenly Father might hurt them more. I think, there are more issues than just the intellectual going on.

WC: You have a Salvation Army story?

Lee: When I was an atheist at the Chicago Tribune, I was assigned a story to do a thirty-part series on the poor of Chicago. So I thought, “Great. I have to find a bunch of poor people and I don’t like to do that. Oh, I know Salvation Army, they will help me.” I went to the Salvation Army homeless shelter on the northwest side of Chicago. And the woman who was the captain who was running that facility, welcomed me in and said I could do research there. I almost lived there for a couple of weeks. I watched as The Salvation Army provided shelter to people that nobody cared about, helped them find work, help them financially, help them get off of drugs and alcohol. They loved their children. They even had a golden retriever that was kind of an unofficial Salvation Army officer who would sit and let the children pet her. They would talk to her and they would tell the dog things that they wouldn’t tell another person. At the end, I laughed and I said to the captain, “I got to go now and write my stories.” And she said, “Before you go, you said you were an atheist, when you first came. Do you ever think about Jesus?” Now, if somebody on the street had asked me about Jesus, I would have shut them down. But because I had seen the love of God expressed through volunteers in that facility and watched them care for people that nobody else cared for, they had a special credibility with me. We had a very profound spiritual conversation. I consider her to be one of the links in the chain that led me to faith.

The Last Flight of Plane N312RC

“Just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people” (Hebrews 9:27-28). This became a reality for the over 150 people aboard Northwest Flight 255 on Sunday evening, August 16, 1987, at Detroit Metro Airport.

The possible reasons for the crash (wind shear, incorrect wing-flap position, a malfunction, pilot error) seemed to matter little as one looked out at the sea of yellow bags containing the remains of the dead.

How can you comprehend whole families wiped out in a single crash? How can you comprehend the grief experienced by loved ones left behind?

It was an eerie feeling to be standing by the Salvation Army canteen at this crash site as numerous planes from other flights ascended over our heads on their takeoffs. It was a long time before I was able to look at another plane and not think about this fatal crash.

General Albert Orsborn wrote: “It was necessary for me, before I was commissioned, to come to terms with the fact of death. I could not honestly accept many of the things sung and said about the subject. When marching in the funeral procession of a greatly loved officer, cut down in his prime, and leaving a broken-hearted wife and family, my mind was battling with the complicated problem of the nature of death, and where God came into it.”

The first reports over the television fostered hope for survivors. Later reports into the night, covered the extent of the damage. One survivor! A survey of the wreckage, with burnt automobiles, a brick building with a hole through its side and the highway viaduct through which the plane passed through, made it appear miraculous that one four year-old survived.

Percentages as they are, there is a high probability many of those on this flight perished without knowing Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Some of the passengers may have thought they would accept Christ on their deathbed. But with the suddenness of death, with no anticipation, no warning, and the finality of it, no longer could they change their minds. Their fates were sealed.

Lest I sound too pessimistic, we also hope. We pray there are those from Flight 255 who are right now saying: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:54-57).

The appointed time to die came on Sunday, August 16th for many more than just those who died on Flight 255. For some it will be this very day. And for others it will be tomorrow. Perhaps you will have an opportunity to witness to someone today. Maybe this person will never have another opportunity to hear of Jesus and accept Him into their own lives before their appointed time. What will you do with your opportunities to share Christ?

Major Keith Welch first wrote this after the crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 30 years ago. He was a cadet in the Salvation Army training school for officers at the time. Major Welch lives in Kalamazoo, MI.

Kroc Centers — A Look Inside

It’s ‘50 Love’ for Greenville Kroc Tennis Center

GAME. SET. MATCH.

The Salvation Army’s award-winning, state-of-the-art tennis center at the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Greenville, South Carolina, is the only one of its kind in nation—not only serving up tennis instruction, but life lessons.[...]