FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–C.W. Brister Jr., a pastoral ministry professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1957 until his retirement in 2001, died Aug. 9 after a battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 82.
Brister, who was named distinguished professor emeritus of pastoral ministry at Southwestern, was the father of Mark Brister, president of Oklahoma Baptist University from 1998-2007.
“He’s truly one of the seminal thinkers in the area of pastoral care,” George Gaston, a former student and faculty colleague at the Fort Worth campus, told the Dallas Morning News.
Gaston, now vice president for mission and ministry of Baptist Health System in San Antonio, said Brister may have taught pastoral care to more ministers than anyone, given his 45-year tenure at Southwestern, which is among the country’s larger seminaries. “His classes were always full,” Gaston said.
Brister authored more than a dozen books, including “Pastoral Care in the Church,” which has been translated into several languages and used as a text at various schools throughout the world.
Southwestern’s C.W. Brister Pastoral Ministry Award is given to the outstanding graduate in the school of theology each year in the field of pastoral ministry.
Among other books by Brister were “Change Happens: Finding Your Way Through Life’s Transitions,” “Dealing With Doubt,” “Caring for the Caregivers,” “Spiritual Wisdom for Successful Retirement” and “The Promise of Counseling.”
Among those writing tributes for his memorial service were Rebekah Naylor, a longtime Southern Baptist missionary physician in India and daughter of the late Robert Naylor, a former president of Southwestern. Naylor noted that Brister played a key role in beginning a chaplaincy training program at the Baptist hospital in Bangalore, India, where she has served over the years. That program “has since trained scores of chaplains who have gone all over India. He was a partner in ministry and a great encourager. Knowing him was a blessing.”
Dick Lincoln, pastor of Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., and a former student of Brister’s, recounted, “When I arrived on Seminary Hill [SWBTS campus], I had been a Christian 11 months. One of the few classes available to me that summer session was Pastoral Care by C.W. Brister. Little did I know there was divine providence in the limited class schedule. He became a mentor and friend to me and my family that began in 1971 and ended only at his death. I do not believe I would have remained a Baptist minister nor understood people in the setting of the church as I do were it not for him. His friendship, prayers, love and affirmation have touched me deeply.”
Mark Brister told Baptist Press Aug. 21, “I am profoundly grateful to God for allowing me the opportunity to be with my father throughout the closing months of his life on earth. I loved Dad. He loved me.”
Before joining Southwestern’s faculty, Brister had served churches in Louisiana and Texas as pastor. During World War II, he was a warrant officer in the U.S. Maritime Service (now U.S. Coast Guard).
A native of Pineville, La., he was a graduate of Louisiana College there. He subsequently received a master of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Southwestern.
In addition to his son, survivors include his wife Gloria and two grandsons.
A memorial service was held Aug. 16 at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, with burial in Pineville. The family requests that memorials be made to the Gloria and C.W. Brister Chair of Pastoral Ministry, Hardin-Simmons University, Box 16000, Abilene, TX 79698.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston.