ACU Remembers: Dr. Charles Siburt

Dr. Charles A. Siburt Jr., who served as one of Abilene Christian University’s leading voices in Churches of Christ for more than two decades, died early this morning in Abilene at age 65 of complications from a nearly three-year battle with IgM Multiple Myeloma.

Following a private family graveside service, there will be a service honoring his life at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 14, at the University Church of Christ. Afterward, a time of visitation will be held with the family in the church’s Ministry Activity Center (MAC). The family will have a visitation and viewing Friday at the Piersall Funeral Home (733 Butternut) from 5-7 p.m.

Siburt underwent a bone-marrow transplant in March 2010 but had a relapse in January 2011. One of his goals was to return to teach in the Graduate School of Theology, which he recovered well enough to do briefly in May 2012. He also surprised students and colleagues by participating in Commencement earlier that month.

Formerly the vice president for church relations, Siburt served ACU as associate dean for ministry programs and services, O.L. and Irene Frazer Professor of Church Enrichment, director of the Doctor of Ministry program, and director of the Center for Church Enrichment. He joined the ACU faculty full time in 1988.

Siburt was a respected churchman who committed his personal and professional life to understanding the complex needs of congregations struggling with communication, conflict resolution, administration, and leadership training. He was a beloved mentor and father figure to countless numbers of students, providing encouragement and counsel long after they transitioned into ministry.

He led ACU’s popular ElderLink Forum program since its inception in November 2000, as well as sabbatical retreats for more than 400 ministers and spouses over the past 15 years through the university’s Ministers Support Network, both designed as proactive and restorative services for church leaders.

“My son says I’m a church doctor,” Siburt once said of his role. “Which means they bring me in to diagnose the situation and prescribe treatments for getting better.”

“These ACU-based ministries – one very public and the other private – have made a profound difference in Churches of Christ because of Charles and his commitment to serving others,” said ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91).

Dr. David Wray (’67), associate professor emeritus of Bible, missions and ministry, said Siburt’s genius was in finding a way through ACU’s ElderLink Forums to unite church leaders.

“ACU does a great job training and educating individuals for church ministry, and being a resource to churches,” said Wray. “The missing link, as Charles saw it, was the opportunity to communicate with church leaders. He believed it was essential for them to be able to come together and share thoughts. Because of the autonomous nature of Churches of Christ, it’s not common for congregational leaders to have much conversation with each other.”

Siburt and others worked hard to make resources available to them through ElderLink Forums in places such as Dallas and Houston; New Hampshire; Atlanta, Ga.; Portland, Ore.; and Brazil.

“Charles brought enormous credibility to every situation in which he was invited,” Wray said. “He had all kinds of expertise, knowledge and experience in relationships. He was a trusted expert in conflict resolution and was so well networked that you could hardly have a conversation with him without being interrupted by a phone call from a person who needed his advice.”

“One of his great character strengths was the shepherding sense he felt for people who sought his counsel. Our elders especially listened to Charles during times of conflict management and when hiring ministers,” said William E. Young (’57), who was a fellow elder at Abilene’s University Church of Christ. “He had a heart for resolving disputes. He was the consummate researcher whose appetite for statistical data to support interpersonal relationships and fairness have been invaluable to our missions projects and effective church governance.”

“There’s not a person who knows our churches better than Charles did,” said Dr. Eddie Sharp (’73), ACU trustee and pulpit minister of the University Avenue Church of Christ in Austin, Texas. “Not just on doctrinal issues but dynamics of interpersonal relationships between ministers and elderships. The people who heard him speak and listened to his wisdom were always blessed.

“For a man who was legally blind, he had more vision than anybody I know,” Sharp said of Siburt, who had a rare eye condition.

“I cannot imagine my career without his encouragement,” said Dr. James Thompson (’64), ACU professor of New Testament, and Robert and Kay Onstead Chair for Biblical Studies. “I think he knew everyone. His ability to recall details about people always amazed me, and although he spent most weeks dealing with the problems of other churches, he was totally engaged with University Church of Christ. I was always amazed at his awareness of the people and their personal crises.”

ACU chancellor Dr. Royce Money (’64) said Siburt was unique in every sense of the word.

“I have rarely known any person who was more attuned to God’s calling for him than Charlie. His God-given ministry skills, blended with a personality that could be tender or tough as the occasion demanded, made him one of the greatest servant leaders I have ever known,” Money said. “ACU was the perfect place for him to establish his base for ministry outreach to countless people and churches. That distinctive, booming voice, that sweet and caring spirit, and a heart brimming full of the fruit of the Spirit, will be dearly missed. But Charles Siburt’s influence will live on for generations in those servants of God who were touched by his life.”

Born Nov. 27, 1946, in Denison, Texas, Siburt graduated from Midland High School in 1964. He earned an associate’s degree from Lubbock Christian University in 1966 and a bachelor’s degree from ACU in 1968. Siburt graduated from ACU with a M.Div. degree in 1971 and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1978. He did post-graduate studies at Colorado State University, The University of Texas at Tyler and The Menninger Foundation, and was a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

He married Judy Bailey (’69) in 1967; they were named Outstanding Family Ministry Couple of the Year in 1998 by the Herald of Truth at the National Family Conference.

Siburt served as a minister to Churches of Christ in Imperial, Lingleville, Austin (University Avenue), and Tyler (Glenwood), Texas; and Fort Collins, Colo. (Meadow-Lark). He also served as interim preaching minister for Abilene’s Highland Church of Christ from 1990-91 and Lubbock’s Broadway Church of Christ in 1989.

He served on the boards of the Center for Parish Development, Texas Commission for the Blind, Hospice of Abilene, and Christian Village of Abilene, on Hendrick Hospice Care’s Community Council, and on Abilene High School’s Campus Consultation Committee. Siburt also was on national steering committees for the Association for Doctor of Ministry Education, and was a frequent speaker at lectureships, retreats and conferences.

Among survivors are his wife, Judy; two sons, John Siburt (’96) and his wife, Sarah (McKinney ’99) of Garland, Texas, and Ben Siburt (’00) and his wife, Emme (Luster ’99) of Abilene; two sisters, Elva Devers of Canyon, Texas, and Myra (Siburt ’65) Holmans and her husband, Jim, of Abilene; and four grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Dr. Charles and Judy Siburt Endowed Fund for Church Enrichment, the Dr. Charles and Judy Siburt Endowed Scholarship Fund for GST Student Assistance, or the Charles and Judy Siburt Endowed Scholarship, c/o Abilene Christian University (ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132) and to the Charles Siburt Clinical Pastoral Education Study Center at Hendrick Medical Center Foundation (1900 Pine Street, Abilene, Texas, 79601).


26 Comments

  1. Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Thank God for the church doctor! His teaching and heart continue to bless my ministry experience.

  2. Terry Cartwright
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    “Well done good and faithful servant.” Simply stated, Charles was one of the greatest influences in my life and in the lives of the congregations where my family and I have worshiped. Heaven is a brighter place today and His Kingdom is better because of Charles’ influence and faith. Our prayers go up for Judy, John, Ben, and their families.

  3. Dan Cox
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Charles was one of the wisest yet most humble men I have ever met. He took time to come to our little church of 60 or so to talk about church conflict and eldership. I sought his counsel often. His advice was first rate. To Judy and family: May our God comfort you in this time. Truly there was rejoicing in heaven today. How many thousands of us did he positively influence? Praise to the Father for sharing him with us as he did.

  4. Charles Stephenson
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I was privileged to have known Charles’s parents and know his strong family background of commitment to our God. Charles grew his dream ministry through the programs he developed at ACU. Only our Lord will know the extent of his influence in the kingdom fully. What a service he gave to those who were struggling to be the church. We at the South Plains Church of Christ are continually indebted to Charles and the leadership he shared with us. Blessings to all of his family and his ACU family.

  5. Johnny couch
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Awesome teacher, and Christian man. I am sure the Lord said welcome home.

  6. Bruce Pierce
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Like the Good Shepherd, Charles Siburt picked many a preacher and church leader up. He comforted us and renewed our spirits. We continue to serve because of your love and service to Christ’s church. Thank you

  7. Valorie Barrett
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    The church has lost a great servant today. He will be so missed by churches throughout the world but his great influence will remain forever. Judy you were such a blessing to me at MSN a few years back. My prayers are certainly with you. Valorie Barrett, Snyder, TX

  8. David Rains
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Dr.Siburt is such a blessing to everyone he touched. Through the Ministers Support Network he guiding my family through healing and into hope and will forever be a milestone holder in my life? Thank You Charles and rest with the angels!

  9. Sherri Scott
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Siburt was an incredible man! What a loss for us here on Earth: but I know Heaven rejoiced having their son home. Peace and blessings to the Siburt family during this difficult time.

  10. Paul Lakey
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    I know of no one who has blessed the Kingdom of God more than Charles! He has helped countless ministers and churches in their journey to be Christ-like. He has meant so much to my personal journey and will be sorely missed. I can only imagine the conversations that are already happening now with Charles joining the discussion. Judy, John, Ben and families, our prayers are with you.

  11. Posted July 11, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    It was my personal joy and good fortune to call Charles Siburt my friend. I loved him for many reasons. His kindness to me and my wife while I was a part of the D.Min. program made a tremendous impression upon my life. I count it all joy to have known this great, godly man.

  12. Don Anderson
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    No words can adequately describe the impact that Charles has had on so many lives and churches. There is a great sense of loss today for those of us who often turned to this great mentor for guidance and comfort ourselves. Yet, our loss pales in comparison to those who loaned him to us so willingly and often … his family! Thank you seems like such a little token of our appreciation, yet it is all we can feebly offer in your time of grief. Please forgive our weaknesses!

    Heaven is a better place today because of Charles’ presence. There are hundreds of ministers who are better equipped to minister in this world today because of Charles; thousands of church leaders who are more proficient because of his efforts and many many more than one could list who have benefited by his wise counsel. A finer family you will find nowhere than his own … his work on this earth will go on living through the countless lives he made better!

    Yes, Charles will be missed! But we rejoice in his greatest victory … he is now cradled in the arms of Jesus and made whole once more! Well done Dr. Siburt, well done!

    “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord … they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” – Rev 14:13

  13. Sharon Crozier
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Go rest high on that mountain … Charles, your work on earth is done! I’ve known Charles Siburt since he was in high school. His father was the minister at Fort Worth and Jax in Midland, TX. He was an unusual young man and an awesome adult.

  14. Tommy Gore
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    At a time of great church trauma, Charles was a wise and caribbean friend. He refreshed my spirit and equipped me for another twenty years of ministry. What a blessing to the church, what a gifted minister to ministers. God’s comfort to his wonderful family.

  15. Betty and James Muns
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    I am not sure I have ever known anyone in the church with more wisdom and foresight. He was able to span miles of questions with just moments of clarity. To Ben, who spent weeks in our home, our most loving thoughts are with you today. May the Lord Bless and Keep all this great Christian family.

  16. Lily Jo Abston
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Charles Siburt came to the Austin Street congregation in Garland about nine years ago to help in time of need. He met with all the elders and their wives and before we even met him he had learned something about every one of us. I drove a pickup truck at that time and when we met he teased me, a small woman, for driving a truck. Every time afterward when I saw him, he mentioned my truck. He was kind, gentle and had an incredible way of knowing what one was thinking. I am so glad that he touched Bill’s and my life. We are blessed by knowing him and pray for God’s loving comfort on all his family. The angels are rejoicing by the addition of this Godly man.

  17. Karen Kennedy
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Dr Siburt was a pillar for so many of us who have been involved in ministry. I look forward to seeing him again one day to thank him for his work here: something I put off doing till it was too late here on this earth. God bless his wonderful family, indeed, God bless us every one as we mourn our loss.

  18. George Q. Offutt
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Charlie & Judy were such an encouragement to Linda & me as well as the entire Broadway Church during some trying months for that congregation when Judy drove him from Abilene each Sunday to proclaim God’s goodness & encouragement. Charlie has been a constant encouragement to our son, Brian, & many other young ministers. We loved & appreciated our dear brother & friend more than words can express. Blessings, Judy & family.

  19. John & Debbie Cook
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Charles and Judy, thank you! You have made a lasting impact in the lives of so many!

  20. Posted July 12, 2012 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    I was blessed to attend Lubbock Christian with Charles and Judy. Charles was the finest example of Christianity at that age until death.

  21. Gregg Marutzky
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Charles changed my life through his teaching and modeling of servant leadership. Both of my daughters attended Christian colleges due to his mentoring and guidance. I will be one of many of his students who will seek to carry on his legacy as a spiritual, wise, honest, visionary minister. May Judy, John, and Ben experience peaceful comfort from the Spirit. Charles will always be remembered by me for extending love and grace. I am grateful he received my calls for counsel and advice. Charles will be dearly missed by all of us who sought his help in serving the church. My family loves Charles for providing comfort and hope when we needed it most. I look forward to our reunion in heaven.

  22. Evans lartey
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Charles Siburt remotely influenced and mentored me to pursue counseling as a career. Memories of him will never fade from my thoughts. He took me to Pappadeaux in Dallas and promised to eat with me there when I visit the States. I will miss your smile and encouragement. Rest in peace.

  23. Oscar de Vries
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    I live in Cape Town, South Africa, and am the father of Dr. Sheldon de Vries, who studied at ACU under the guidance of Bro. Siburt. I am always deeply saddened to hear of the passing of dear people like him, who unbeknownst to many, have been great supporters and wise advisors to those like my son. My deepest condolences and God’s Richest Blessings to the family.

    • Sheldon DeVries
      Posted July 13, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Amen … Charles Siburt was a great source of guidance and wisdom in my career and helped me not only to narrow my focus in ministry, but also helped place me at a church that far exceeded my expectations. A great man, with a giant heart … a blessed wife … and a great family. Love and prayers to you all during this time.

  24. Jon Schwiethale
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Charles Siburt was such a blessing to me and my family. He was not only a Church Doctor, but he was also a Preacher’s Shepherd who bound up the injured and strengthened the weak. Thank you God for men such as Charles Siburt.

  25. Posted September 28, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    I miss you Charlie! Thank you for the Retreat, the guidance and the funny stuff.

    God rest your blessed soul!

4 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Dr. Charles Siburt passed away early this morning.  I am particularly thankful for the way God used Charles in my deepest pits and highest peaks. [...]

  2. [...] Ron Hadfield shared some very helpful information about Charles’s life. [...]

  3. By The Measure of a Man « of my mind…. on July 12, 2012 at 9:11 am

    [...] wasn’t ever close to Charles Siburt, a colleague of mine from Abilene Christian who passed away yesterday, but I respected him highly [...]

  4. By July 15 — South Fork Church of Christ on August 27, 2012 at 1:07 am

    [...] some comments from the ACU web site announcing Charlie’s passing. You can read the whole article online: Siburt was a respected churchman who committed his personal and professional life to understanding [...]

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