AN INTERVIEW WITH TERRY FULLAM
By David W. Virtue
DESTIN, FL-- He's 72 now, and he has been confined to a power chair for the last eight years since he had a stroke which affected his right leg and effectively made him unable to travel and preach.
But Terry Fullam still commands great respect as a key figure in Anglican renewal in the US. He is a disciple of Dennis Bennett and he has lead many to Christ over the course of a life time. During the Anglican Mission in American conference he received a standing ovation for his life time of service.
The Rev. Everett L. Fullam or Terry as he is fondly known graduated from Gordon College with a degree in Philosophy and did his graduate work at Harvard and Boston Universities. He was ordained in the Episcopal Church without ever going to seminary, and in 1972 became Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Darien, Connecticut. Under his leadership St. Paul's became one of the most active Episcopal churches in America. Its focus on parish renewal became widely-known and thrust Dr. Fullam into a much broader ministry. He left St. Paul's in 1989 to devote himself full-time to renewal of the wider church. From his base in Deltona, Florida, Terry traveled extensively, lecturing and ministering to churches around the world till his stroke. He resides with his wife and family in Deltona, Florida.
Virtuosity interviewed him between teaching sessions at the Hilton hotel in Destin.
VIRTUOSITY: Are you still an Episcopalian? Your presence here might be construed that you have left the Episcopal Church?
FULLAM: Yes, I am still an Episcopalian, and I am here because I have a lot of friends and we go back a long way.
VIRTUOSITY: Is the AMIA the answer to ECUSA's apostate drift?
FULLAM: Yes, I think so. It has connected with and has the support of Primates from Africa and Southeast Asia, which none of the other Continuing churches has received. That gives them the edge.
VIRTUOSITY: Do you believe that ECUSA is finished as a major Christian denomination in America?
AMIA: Yes, I think ECUSA is finished.
VIRTUOSITY: On whom do you put the blame?
FULLAM: I blame the seminaries, because they do not give proper instruction. The process has been a gradual breakdown but it has accelerated over time, and so I don't believe The Episcopal Church can be reclaimed. I would like to be proven wrong, but I see little sign of hope. I think Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry and Nashotah House hold out the best hope for any kind of renewal if there is going to be one.
VIRTUOSITY: Are you able to preach at all these days?
FULLAM: No I do not preach, but I have two book manuscripts, both commentaries completed; one on Romans and the other on the Book of the Revelation. They are reflective, hopefully instructive and inspirational, that teaches and encourages, strengthens and inspires response to life with Christ.
VIRTUOSITY: Who has been among the most influential of persons in your life?
FULLAM: Dennis Bennett mostly. I was touched through him when I met him and read what he had to say. He opened me up to the work of the Holy Spirit in a more personal way and that was experientially wonderful. I had been a believer but through his ministry I found a deeper, richer life. The other person was my mother. She was the world's finest Bible teacher, and it was through her ministry that I was grounded in Holy Scripture.
As a child I hated Sunday school where I acted up and was thrown into my mother's Bible class, where everything became perfectly clear to me. She had the ability to open up the scriptures and reach me.
VIRTUOSITY: Did you grow up in the Episcopal Church?
FULLAM: No, I grew in a Baptist environment, but in College and Graduate School I gradually moved into the Episcopal Church. It satisfied both my aesthetic and liturgical sensibilities. I loved music, played the piano, got involved in church music and as I began to broaden my musical tastes I found the music of the Episcopal Church, especially the hymns began to speak to me. At the same time I did not go through a turning against my background. I knew I had been greatly privileged by having a godly mother and father who loved the Lord. They raised me in the nurture and admonition of the Lord but I found a wider home in the Episcopal Church.
VIRTUOSITY: What would you say are the key themes of your ministry?
FULLAM: The transforming work of the Holy Spirit in a persons' life, when believers learn to cooperate with the Holy Spirit instead of fighting the Spirit. It takes a while after conversion before you learn to follow the urgings and voice of the Holy Spirit.
VIRTUOSITY: Do you see the work of the Holy Spirit following both justification and sanctification as a third dimension?
FULLAM: Not necessarily. What happens after your commitment to Christ is that lots of people commit their lives to the Lord but they are not taught, and so they muddle along sometime for long periods with little help. Moreover the church doesn't encourage, strengthen or challenge them.
But then they come to an event like this and get inspired and take a large step forward in their faith and commitment. But you need a church, a body of believers to feed you and walk beside you and correct you.
VIRTUOSITY: Are you still a believer in the local church as the placed of spiritual growth and nurture?
FULLAM: Yes, I believe in the local church warts and all. The tragedy is that thousands of Episcopal churches are not offering a real closer walk with Christ with sound Bible teaching. A Christian without a church is a dying Christian.
VIRTUOSITY: Looking back on 40 years of ministry what are the highlights and mountain top experiences you can point too?
FULLAM: I had the good fortune to have a mother who was an absolute charismatic (not in the modern sense) teacher. She knew the Scriptures and we were taught from infancy from Scripture in a very gracious and winsome way. She had the wisdom to create a desire, working with the Holy Spirit, inclining our hearts and then instructing us to move forward, and then coming alongside us with more Scripture.
VIRTUOSITY: Any siblings?
FULLAM: I have one brother and sister; both are older and similarly affected by our mother. My brother is 10 years old and dynamic in his faith. We had parents who had wisdom along with a godly commitment to the Lord.
VIRTUOSITY: You had a vigorous secular education, studying philosophy at Harvard.
FULLAM: Studying philosophy strengthened me. I also had a foundation that was strong enough in Scripture. I was challenged and I loved it. I still do. I was never corrupted by studying philosophy. I was a deeply committed Christian, but I was not then a charismatic believer.
VITUOSITY: And your calling to the ministry?
FULLAM: It was a natural outgrowth of my whole life. I actually was told when I went to see the Bishop of Rhode Island while teaching at a Christian college that I didn't need to go to seminary. The bishop ordained me. I had taught, I was a good teacher and he said I never needed to go to seminary.
VIRTUOSITY: What happened then?
FULLAM: I took a parish at St. Paul's Darien, and the rest as you say is history.
VIRTUOSITY: What was the most significant thing to come out of your ministry?
FULLAM: I think it was the 50 or 60 people who subsequently went on to be ordained, and a lot of them are here at this AMIA conference.
Another highlight was that the Episcopal Church was beginning to stray even then. The Bishop of Connecticut was very sympathetic. We were the largest parish he had. I was classically orthodox and he knew that and he respected that. He was never hostile at all even though he was liberally inclined. He used to often say "whatever you are doing, don't stop." He loved to come to confirmations and hang around and we respected him. I taught myself New Testament Greek during that time.
VIRTUOSITY: Was it natural to leave St. Paul's and go onto a wider ministry?
FULLAM: All along my life seemed to flow in ways of wider ministry. It was not anything I sought, it was the Lord's leading and opening doors, because I never searched for a job or anything like that. I always had the feeling of being guided. I used often to pray, 'Take my life and do with it as you please, and place me where you want me to be, put me there and keep me there.' I think the lord did that. I have received a lot of blessing from the Lord in my life. I knew God was proving me and opening doors, so I felt from childhood that the Lord was directing me.
VIRTUOSITY: How do you perceive your stroke as part of the divine plan for your life?
FULLAM: I never felt bad about it. I realized it was a major change, but God has always led me and as part of the things he wanted me to deal with you. I never blamed God. I accepted it. It is part of life. I know that servants of the Lord are not exempt from all of the problems of life. I didn't feel badly about it. It was great change in limiting me. But I still see God working in me; I have never felt abandoned, that would be unthinkable to me. I committed myself to the Lord and reaffirmed it following the stroke
VIRTUOSITY: Have you had to change your lifestyle?
FULLAM: Yes. I had done lots and lots of travel - in the U. S. Asia and overseas to Africa for long periods of time. That has all stopped.
VIRTUOSITY: Do you ever feel bitter?
FULLAM: No I never do. I didn't even grieve over it. I don't say that pridefully, it was the grace of God that gave me the grace of God to receive whatever God was and is doing. It was a momentous change in my life but I am happy now as I have ever been.
VIRTUOSITY: What did you see as your ministry today?
FULLAM: I love to encourage Christians, especially clergy as they visit. I do a lot of writing to them. I have a ministry of encouragement, coming alongside people. The input I have had over the years is bearing fruit. Bishop Thad Barnum came from St. Paul's, Darien. I can see ways I have been able to help the church we are in. I see myself as a bulwark against the modernizing trends.
VIRTUOSITY: Has it worried you that the U.S. Episcopal Church never created a solid middle core of Evangelicals that you find in the Church of England? Would you do things differently had you known?
FULLAM: I don't know. All the time I was ministering, the great Episcopal churches were not connected up in the ECUSA. I have often wondered about that. It didn't happen. There was not enough vision.
VIRTUOSITY: Thank you Terry.
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