Pastors' Memoirs

L. Harold DeWolf, 1905-1986


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L. Harold DeWolf was born in Columbus, Nebraska, January 31, 1905. The son of a Methodist minister, he lived in several cities as a boy, the last stop being York, Nebraska, where Harold attended York College (now united with Westmar College, Iowa) for two years, then transferred to and graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan College. From there he went to Boston University School of Theology for his S. T .B., and a few years later for his Ph.D.

Harold served various churches in Nebraska and Massachusetts as pastor for 14 years before becoming a lecturer, instructor and professor in Boston University. In 1965 he was named first dean of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., a position held until his retirement in 1972. During these seven years he helped establish Wesley as one of the top United Methodist seminaries in the United States.

In 1955, Harold traveled to Southern Rhodesia as a lecturer and consultant on theological education in Africa. His collaboration as representative of the Methodist "Conference" (American) with the Methodist "Synod" (British) resulted in Epworth Theological College, now a large ecumenical seminary in Harare, Zimbabwe. Later, he was sent by the Board of Higher Education in Southeast Asia to visit theological schools in Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Borneo, Thailand and India, again lecturing and holding seminars for their professors.

Evangelism, though a high priority, was to Harold only half of the Christian Gospel. He believed that "By their deeds ye shall know them" challenged every Christian to work to overcome the problems of the world-hunger, poverty, fear, crime, war, injustice- and he, himself, wrote, lectured, and traveled extensively in the field of crime and justice. He was president of the board of directors of  "Offender Aid and Restoration in the United States of America." Each year at their annual banquet the L. Harold DeWolf Distinguished Service Award is presented to a worthy recipient. He worked in community groups to improve methods of justice, and frequently visited inmates in city and state prisons. He was instrumental in bringing about the release of at least two prisoners who had received unjustified sentences.

There are 15 published books by L. Harold DeWolf, covering all aspects of Bible, theology, ethics and criminal justice. Perhaps best known is "A Theology of the Living Church," for many years the textbook for systematic theology in seminaries of many denominations. His "Crime and Justice in America: A Paradox of Conscience" was acclaimed by many judges, criminologists and law professors as one of the best definitive books on that subject. His last book, "Eternal Life: Why We Believe," expressed his unswerving faith in immortality.

Harold DeWolf was a good man. The many tributes from former colleagues and students on his influence in their lives, his pride in his children, his never-failing kindness and compassion for disadvantaged and forgotten humanity, the high regard for his many contributions to the United Methodist Church, made him, to me, and many, one of God's chosen people, who will live on in his impact on countless lives.  
--Mrs. L. Harold DeWolf  

 

 

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