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Passing of Dr. J. Ellsworth Kalas

UPDATE: Services for Dr. Kalas will be Friday, November 20th at 2pm in Estes Chapel.
A live stream of the service will be available.
A reception will follow in the Sherman Thomas Student Center.

ellsworth-kalas-300x450It is with great sadness we announce the passing of Dr. J. Ellsworth Kalas.

Dr. Kalas was 92, the same age as Asbury Seminary, as many have delighted in pointing out – both born in 1923. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (BA 1951), Garrett Theological Seminary (BD 1954), and did additional graduate work at the University of Wisconsin and Harvard University. He was awarded four honorary degrees, including one from Asbury Seminary (1986).

Dr. Kalas served for 38 years as a pastor in churches in Wisconsin and Ohio and then five years as an associate in evangelism with the World Methodist Council. He came to Asbury Seminary in 1993 with the opening of the Beeson International Center for Biblical Preaching and Church Leadership , where he served as mentor to the Beeson Pastors and as their preaching professor until joining the Seminary preaching faculty in 2000.

In the Fall of 2006 Dr. Kalas became interim president of Asbury Seminary, and in 2008 the Board of Trustees voted to change his title to president. Dr. Kalas came to the presidency at a time of turmoil, and his tenure was characterized by healing as well as advancement. During his tenure, the cluster education program began, as well as what is now known as the Advanced Standing Program, whereby students with religion majors and minors from accredited colleges and universities could, upon meeting certain requirements, receive credits towards the Master of Divinity or Master of Arts degrees. It was also during his presidency that the relationship between Asbury Seminary and Mr. and Mrs. William Latimer blossomed into deep friendship. The Latimers made substantial gifts to the Seminary, beginning with scholarships and leading to the building of two single student residences and 150 married student apartments on the Wilmore campus.  The married student housing complex was named in honor of Ellsworth and Janet Kalas. It was also during Dr. Kalas’ tenure in the presidency that the Seminary’s new mission statement was adopted.

When he retired from the presidency of Asbury Seminary in 2009, Dr. Kalas continued to teach homiletics. He was renowned for preaching without notes and for insisting that his students do the same. In March, he preached his last sermon, which was, fittingly, in the Seminary chapel; his message was about the Sabbath.

Dr. Kalas was among the five living Asbury Seminary presidents present at the Seminary’s 90th anniversary celebration in 2013.

A prolific writer, Dr. Kalas had dozens of books published, as well as writing 13 adult study quarterlies for the United Methodist Publishing House. He recorded the entire Bible on audiotape, and wrote The Grand Sweep Bible study series. He was also the author of Christian Believer, an intensive study of Christian doctrine produced for interdenominational use. Among his most popular writings were his “back side” series, looking at various themes, such as parables, Christmas, the Beatitudes, and the Ten Commandments, from a different perspective.   

Asbury Seminary President Timothy Tennent remarked, “A true giant of the faith has passed into the presence of the Lord!   He faithfully taught thousands of our students to preach, and he shepherded Asbury through a difficult season in its history.  Only eternity will tell the full story of his faithfulness.  He regularly reminded me of his prayers for me and his love for the ministry of Asbury. On behalf of the entire Asbury Seminary community and over 10,000 alumni, he will be greatly missed.”  

Dr. Kalas is survived by his wife, Janet, four children, and nine grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Posted on November 12, 2015

Categories: News