A man without guile

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He was thirteen years younger than me. He was just starting out, really, and somehow, we hit it off.

His name was Gerald Harvey Griffith II, but everyone called him Chuck. After getting to know him, I asked why are you called “Chuck?” His reply was, “Well, when the choices are Gerald and Harvey, which would you choose to be called?” I never did find out the origin of the moniker, but he was always Chuck.

He was a young Assemblies of God pastor, ordained in 1989, and he and his wife were aspiring to plant a church in Fayette County, just the next county over from my church. By the time we met, I had been in ministry for almost 20 years, and I encouraged him at every opportunity.

It’s been many years but, if my memory is correct, he was a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, FL. He was married to Sherry Killingsworth, a truly beautiful young woman and, later, they would have two daughters.

When I asked Chuck what he brought to the table as someone offering a new church, he said, “We really do love people.” And they did. The church I served provided office space for Chuck, so we conversed daily about ministry, life, and a host of other things.

We also played pool and ping pong, as the church had both tables available for the youth. Sometimes, we would drive to Fayetteville and have a lunchtime of pool at the Classic Cue. Both of us were competitive anyway and, when my church’s youth minister, Tim Newby, joined in, the games were positively cut-throat. We were guys, after all.

Chuck and I both were working on our master’s degree at the same time and often attended classes together either at Lakeland, FL or Springfield, MO. We both finished our program and he graduated from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in 2008.

Chuck and Sherry would, indeed, plant a church and serve the congregation faithfully. Property was purchased, a building built, and Chuck was elected to office in our local ministerial group, called a “section.” Eventually, I left the church I served to go another direction and Chuck, too, would later relocate, ultimately ending up as the lead pastor at Trinity Assembly of God in Columbus, GA.

His leadership continued to be recognized and appreciated and he was selected to be the Presbyter (think of an auxiliary bishop for those of liturgical backgrounds) of the Georgia District Western Region.

Sherry would also be ordained and serve in numerous leadership capacities. I ran into her at a restaurant a couple of years ago and we had a brief happy reunion. I meant to call Chuck and drive down to see him in Columbus, but I put it off.

Pastor Chuck Griffith had a heart attack last week and, after fighting hard, died in the hospital. He was 57 years old.

John 1:47 says, upon Jesus’ meeting Nathaniel, “As they approached, Jesus said, ‘Now here is a genuine son of Israel — a man of complete integrity.’” One version says, “a man in whom there is no guile.” Other versions translate this phrase, “a man in whom there is no deceit.”

I could not express it better. Chuck was a Nathaniel. He was a kind man, a genuinely good man, and one of the very few men I have ever met that I would describe as a “pure” man — a man of morality and integrity. He was a dedicated and devout man of God.

I wasn’t old enough to be a father figure to Chuck — perhaps, a big brother figure. But Chuck was also an example to me. His character, his humility, his dedication to the work was always an essential part of who he was. He was a genuine man, an authentic man, and, yes, a godly man.

Chuck and Sherry became grandparents not all that long ago and I earnestly hope these beautiful children learn about the man their grandfather was. If I could, I would tell them that he was a loving man, a caring man, a man that embraced life and God. And I would tell them that I was privileged to be his friend.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the pandemic, the church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life) He may contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]