Last week I lost a good friend when Bill Hopper transferred his membership from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant. Those that knew Bill know that he sure fit the description of a member of the Church Militant.
Bill had a long and distinguished career in the PC(USA) and its predecessor branches as a missionary in Iran and Pakistan and in his service to the church on every level from the congregation to the General Assembly. To the wider church he may be best known today for his co-authorship, with Clifton Kirkpatrick, of the book What Unites Presbyterians.
To me Bill was a coworker in our presbytery — we would regularly see each other at presbytery meetings and events and exchange greetings and briefly catch up. But more than that Bill had the spiritual gift of encouragement. It seemed like every conversation we had, somewhere in it he slipped in some comment about how well I handled some report to presbytery or what a good job I did with a particular presentation. In the 15 years that I have been serving in various positions in middle governing bodies he was constantly encouraging me and supporting me in each new role.
But what I will remember Bill the most for was that he was a strong and vocal supporter of the joint governance by teaching and ruling elders. In a presbytery meeting if a ruling elder prefaced their remarks with something like “I am only a ruling elder but…”, he would soon be at the microphone encouraging them with something like “There is no such thing as ‘only an elder’ in the Presbyterian church,” and he would continue with a brief refresher on the nature of our joint governance.
Today would have been Bill’s 86th birthday. We will miss him but we rejoice that he has entered into his eternal reward.