By the Rev. Pat Simpson | Seattle District Superintendent

Do you ever wonder whether your discipleship makes any difference to this world? Thinking about Bishop Jack Tuell in the wake of his death last week has me pondering that question.

Jack was pastor of First United Methodist Church of Vancouver, Washington when I was a teenager there. In a large church youth don’t normally have much interaction with the senior pastor, but he made time for us. We gave him a silly part in a play, and he acted it to the hilt. He welcomed our efforts to remodel the early service with our music and prayers. He let us know that our headstrong faith and opinions were welcome in the church, and probably fought some battles with our elders to make it so. Week after week, his smart, interesting sermons taught me to think theologically about my life and the issues of the late sixties. His constant flow of good humor showed me that Christian life wasn’t all seriousness. When I learned about his firm defense of clergy colleagues arrested in an antiwar demonstration I thought, “Ministers do this? Wow.”

My youth group cohort went off to college, and he left our orbit to serve as a bishop. But something took. Four of us ended up in ordained ministry, and others are serving Christ boldly in their work and in the church.

Paul warned the Corinthians about focusing on who converted them: “For when one says, ‘I belong to Paul’, and another, ‘I belong to Apollos’, are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”

It is Christ we belong to, of course. But it’s a wondrous thing to plant the seeds of faith in someone’s life.

I will miss the man who baptized me – his courage, compassion, wit and warmth. I’m glad he got to see us grow and bear good fruit, along with so many others he inspired over the years. Beyond the books and bold leadership (which you can read about in this bio) we are also part of his legacy.

So I am asking myself: What seeds am I planting so God can give the growth? How will I make time for people whose faith is just beginning? Will my discipleship make a lasting difference? People of God, may these be your questions, too.


  1. Thanks, Pat, for this spot-on affirmation of a pastor whose positive influence on you and many has been life-long! His pastor’s heart was evident during the time he came out of retirement in order to serve as Bishop Ed Paup’s Superintendent of the Seattle/Tacoma District for a time. What a great cloud of witnesses have been impacted by his witness!

  2. When I was dealing with some difficult issues as the pastor in Nome, Alaska, I felt that Bishop Tuell “had my back”. One could ask no more of a bishop. Not only was he a good bishop, he was a good friend.

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