Terry Mattingly: Memory Eternal, for a Quiet Giant in American Orthodoxy

Fr. Gordon Walker

Fr. Gordon Walker

Source: Terry Mattingly’s On Religion website.

By Terry Mattingly

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — It was a typical evangelistic crusade in rural Alabama and, as he ended his sermon, the Rev. Gordon Walker called sinners down to the altar to be born again.

Most Southern towns have a few notorious folks who frequent the back pews during revival meetings, trying to get right with God. On this night, one such scalawag came forward and fell to his knees.

“Preacher! I’ve broken all the Ten Commandments except one,” he cried, “and the only reason I didn’t break that one was that the man I shot didn’t die!”

It didn’t matter that this man repeated this ritual several times during his troubled life, said Walker, telling the story decades later at Holy Cross Orthodox Church outside Baltimore. Now wearing the golden robes of an Eastern Orthodox priest, Walker smiled and spread his arms wide. The church, he said, has always known that some people need to go to confession more than others. The goal was to keep walking toward the altar.

With his gentle smile and soft Alabama drawl, Walker — who died on July 23 — was a key figure in an unusual American story. The former Southern Baptist pastor and Campus Crusade evangelist was part of a circle of evangelical leaders that spent a decade reading church history before starting an Orthodox church for American converts. Then in 1987, the late Metropolitan Philip Saliba accepted more than 2,000 pastors and members of their Evangelical Orthodox Church into the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.


Read the entire article on Terry Mattingly’s On Religion website.


  1. M. Stankovich says

    Sadly, these were a group of unappreciated men – true scholars to a man – who in order of importance loved the Lord, the Church, evangelism, and one another, but we’re simply “absorbed” into Orthodoxy generically. Perhaps it was humility and obedience, perhaps it was simply the satisfaction of what Fr. Peter Gillquist referred to as “coming home” after a long journey, or perhaps there was an element of distrust and threat for their enthusiasm on the part of their “cradle” peers. In any case, their vast talents, resources, and faithfulness, in my opinion we sorely underutilized. But on the occasions I had the good fortune to be in their presence, the presence of the Holy Spirit was undeniable, in their wisdom, their joy, their peace, their vision, and their love for one another. “You will see greater things than these.” (Jn. 1:50) Memory Eternal, Fr. Gordon!

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