Education and Disciple Pastors

No. 3

This congregation has long had a tradition of well-educated ministers.  Our present minister, John McKinstry, in addition to his professional Doctoral degree from Lexington Theological Seminary, has a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Kentucky and is a licensed social worker in Iowa (He’s also a graduate of the University of Iowa).  Some of our ministers have been graduates of Yale or Harvard.  Since 1872, it is believed that all of the ministers of the church have been college graduates, with most of them having at least one graduate degree.  Two of our ministers were college presidents.  William Baird Craig, who was our minister from 1875 until 1882, became Chancellor of Drake University in 1897 and served in that office until 1902.  The other college president was Carlos C. Rowlison.

Carlos Rowlison graduated from Eureka College in 1891 and then received his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Harvard in 1895.  In 1896 he was one of the founding members of the Campbell Institute, an organization for young, liberal, sometimes maverick, Disciples ministers who were anxious to move the Disciples’ churches from conservatism to modernism.  In 1903 he was elected president of the Institute.

After serving as pastor of several Disciples of Christ churches in the midwest, he was appointed in 1905 president of Hiram College, a Disciples of Christ school located in Hiram, Ohio.  Scarcely two years later he became embroiled in a controversy on campus.  The students threatened to strike if he did not reinstate two students whom he had suspended for what the students saw as an “innocent lark”.  In August of 1907 he submitted his resignation to the trustees of the college, “seeking to bring peace” to the campus.

In 1908 Rowlison was invited to Iowa City to become minister of our congregation.  He revived in 1908 the practice of having extended meetings or revivals, a practice that had fallen into abeyance in the previous five years.  During his ministry, a new pipe organ was purchased and the debt of the congregation was extinguished.  Of special interest, it was during Carlos Rowlison’s ministry that in 1912 a determined effort was made to unite the Christian Church and the Congregational Church in Iowa City into one congregation.  Although evidence is lacking, it is highly probable that this effort was led by Rowlison, and its failure may have been one cause of his departure.

In 1913, feeling frustrated and constrained by the conservatism of the Disciples of Christ, he accepted a call to become minister of a large Congregational Church in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.  As he described it in 1919, “From the time of my graduation at Eureka, through my three years in the Harvard Divinitv School, and during eighteen years as a minister among the Disciples, I never felt free — free to think, free to speak, free to act. There was always the constraint of certain family traditions upon me. . . Since I knew that I was of age, I did speak and act according to my convictions, but I ever felt that I was violating the feeling of the home folks, and I had plenty of reminders that I was doing this !”  Carlos Rowlison remained a Congregational minister through the rest of his professional career.