Remembering Dr. J. Ellsworth Kalas

261105189_1280x720Good News joins with United Methodists all over the globe in mourning the passing of Dr. J. Ellsworth Kalas, former president of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He was 92 years old.

“Ellsworth Kalas was a great leader among United Methodists. He was one of the most gifted and effective preachers I have known,” Dr. James V. Heidinger II, president emeritus of Good News, said. “Ellsworth was a gracious, Christ-like giant of a man. His kind spirit made his Christian experience winsome and contagious. I thank God for this dear friend and for the great ministry he has had within United Methodism and beyond. I consider him one of the great Christian leaders of our day.”

A pastor, teacher, and associate in evangelism with the World Methodist Council, Kalas went to Asbury in 1993 with the opening of the Beeson Preaching and Leadership program. He served as mentor to the Beeson pastors and as their preaching professor until joining the Seminary preaching faculty in 2000.

Kalas has received honorary doctorates from four colleges and universities. More than 35 of his books have been published, as well as 13 adult studies. He authored Christian Believer, an intensive study of Christian doctrine produced for interdenominational use. His study The Grand Sweep is now available for iPhone. Kalas is survived by his wife, Janet, four children, and nine grandchildren.

“A true giant of the faith has passed into the presence of the Lord!” Asbury Seminary President Timothy Tennent remarked. “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.”

Elsworth was also a friend of the renewal efforts within United Methodism. He was one of seven prominent United Methodist pastors to sign a letter of invitation that led 48 leading UM clergy to gather in Houston in December of 1987. The result of the meeting was the issuing of a statement that became known as the Houston Declaration, cautioning the United Methodist Church against any move away from traditional doctrine.

–Good News


  1. Bishop Bennie D. Warner says

    I knew him in his gentle spirit, a great teacher. He lives in our memories

  2. Grace Kirkland says

    Years ago he wrote the material for our Sunday School for a quarter. He is the ONLY writer that I remember by name. His teaching was so different from any of the others—such biblical doctrine.
    I’m thankful for his legacy he has left behind.

  3. Amanda Sammons says

    Dr. Kalas was like family to us, and he will be greatly missed. He was ever faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he preached many Campmeetings at the Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Brownsville, Tennessee, where services have been held every year since 1826. Heaven gained a beautiful soul on November 12. Farewell, Brother Kalas, til we meet again at Jesus’ feet.

  4. John Clinton says

    For 35 years I taught Adult Bible Study classes at the UMC churches we attended in suburban Maryland (ie., between Baltimore & Washington). Over those years,we used most, if not all, of Dr. Kalas’ books. I especially remember when the lesson was from the Book of Daniel. Dr. Kalas described the significance of a group of bees making honey in the decaying skull of a lion. He used the phrase “honey in the rock.” His words so touched our class that one of the members wrote a stirring essay about “honey in the rock.” I sent it to Dr. Kalas, told him about how he had touched our class so many times. His gracious reply is a treasure for me to keep. I — like so many others — will miss his presence — because he really was present in our classrooms and in our hearts. May you RIP, “good & aithful servant.”

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