In just a few short days our Atlanta Emory District lost three godly saints: Betty Jane Moore (clergy spouse of the late Rev. James Moore), Dr. Bill Mallard (church history professor, Candler School of Theology), and Rev. Chris Carlton (Emory Clergy Care). These three gave so very much and filled our hearts and lives to overflowing. We are better men and women because our paths and our lives crossed theirs.
Both Betty Jane and Dr. Mallard lived long, full lives, and their investment into God's kingdom on earth can never be measured. The churches, the students, the lectures given, the spouses supported, the education imparted . . . their endeavors will always be a part of our lives. We express our love for these saints, and we offer our support to their families in their time of loss.
Chris Carlton, well that's a different story. His loving and tenderhearted life was much too short. Those of us who had the privilege of knowing Chris, who called him colleague and friend, have seen first-hand the impact his ministry has had on pastors and congregations. In his too-short life, Chris gave his all and continued to give from his heart.
Chris always reminded us to take care of ourselves. We needed check- ups. We needed to share with counselors. We needed vacations. And we needed to stand up for who God made us to be. Chris reminded us to care for our families. Chris set an example with his love and devotion to his wife, Debbie, and his daughters, Sophia and Phoebe. (He'd always say, "These folks come before the job.") Chris reminded us to be honest and share our true feelings, knowing we will be loved by those who know us best.
Chris was a member of my DMIN (Doctor of Ministry) Cohort, where he proved himself an academic and insightful student. He kept on learning in order to keep on serving. He was also one of my preachers who served with excellence. Most importantly, he was my friend.
Chris's death is tragic and a deep loss for Debbie and the girls. It is also a deep loss for The United Methodist Church. We will wonder, "What could have been?" We will ask, "Why?" We will doubt, shout, cry, and shout some more.
Chris did not mean for us to suffer; he could not bear knowing our heartbreak. But mental illness is a terrible disease, and it takes no prisoners. This disease may have won the battle last Friday evening, but God won the war and is embracing our brother, our counselor, our friend with loving, healing arms of grace as we read this very message.
Please pray for the Moore Family, the Mallard Family, and for Debbie and the girls. These are our folk, our people, our family. Please reach out to them and support them with Christ's love, the very love that supports you and me.
Well done, good and faithful servants! We love you, and we will miss you with all our hearts!
With love to each of you my friends, my colleagues ... I treasure you and do not take you for granted.