New pastor’s career spent pondering the ethical questions

by Clarke Davis
Dr. Richard Randolph

Dr. Richard Randolph, pastor of the Meriden United Methodist Church. Photo by Clarke Davis

Dr. Richard Randolph has spent his adulthood pondering the many ethical questions about life. He’s been an adviser to many from coast to coast and before long he will have completed a book, “Christian Environmental Ethics.”

Today he is pastor of the United Methodist Church in Meriden, salaried on a three-quarter time basis and commuting from the Shawnee Mission area.

He holds a doctorate in Christian ethics from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif. He was the program director at the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences at Berkeley when Dolly, the sheep, was cloned and among those taking calls from the national press at that time.

More recently he spent seven years on the faculty of Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, one of 13 United Methodist seminaries in the United States. He then went to the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences to launch a new program in bioethics for aspiring osteopaths.

Randolph is a North Carolina native and the son of a United Methodist minister who served small, rural parishes in that state.

“In those days we moved every four years,” he said. “I got to start over with a clean slate each time we moved.”

He grew up in the church and it was his father’s wish that he be called to the ministry, but it took his eldest son awhile to come to that decision.

If he were to become a minister “it had to be God calling me to do so; not because my father wanted it.” (In time, his two younger siblings, a brother and sister, would both be ordained.)

He had religious doubts in college and became interested in studying Christianity and religion in general.

“I needed to find out about other religions,” he said.

He took an interest in ethics and the social sciences that eventually landed him his undergraduate degree in political science at Duke University.

Because he wanted to go to Yale, an expensive school, he took a job as a youth minister for a couple of years at Wallingford, Conn., and that experience cinched his decision to enter the ministry. He left Yale with a master’s in divinity and a master’s in international and developmental economics.

After being ordained in the United Methodist Church, he served two parishes over a period of seven years before going to Berkeley for his Ph.D.

Ethics, and in this case Christian ethics, has given the minister a wide range of experiences serving as a consultant to the Chlorine Chemical Council and being on several advisory groups for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“What if they discover life forms beyond this planet? What are the ethical obligations?” he said.

NASA believes there are other forms of non-intelligent life in the solar system, he said.

“We aren’t talking about the creatures that appear in movies,” he said. “But these assignments have been interesting.”

Randolph, 55, recently told his bishop that he would like to return to serving a church congregation and in July was assigned to Meriden, which has a Sunday attendance between 90 and 100.

He described the congregation as having extraordinary strong lay leadership.

“There’s a lot of key people with real potential,” he said. “I’m here to help the church grow and I think in time they will have a full-time minister.”

The congregation recently built a large addition to the church and has a debt to get rid of first.

“The people of the church felt a commitment to expand the building as an outreach to the community and it has been successful,” the pastor said.

The addition to the church is serving many purposes. He pointed out that it provides a place for a fall basketball clinic conducted by John Olson, a former college basketball player, for boys and girls in grades 3 through 6. It’s a gathering place for Fifth Quarter, a social place for seventh- and eighth-graders to congregate after home football games, and it houses the goods in December for an adopt-a-family program at Christmas that involves God’s Storehouse and other churches.

Besides Sunday services, the pastor is at the church every Wednesday and then attends to the needs of the congregation as needed.

His wife, LaGreer, is a systems engineer for Hewlett-Packard. They have a son, Justice, a graduate of American University and now working on a master’s in political science at the University of Kansas, and a daughter, Eden, a senior at Shawnee Mission South High School.

“I feel like God has led me to this church and I’m happy to be here,” he said.

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Posted by on Oct 16 2011. Filed under Featured, The Vindicator. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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