Dr. Gary B. McGee, longtime Assemblies of God educator, slipped from this life into the arms of his loving Savior shortly before noon today, December 10, 2008. McGee was hospitalized on November 13 with complications due to a bacterial infection and a weakened immune system from a long fight with cancer. McGee was released from the hospital yesterday and passed away at home with his family present.
Few Assemblies of God educators have attained the breadth of influence achieved by McGee. His extensive college and seminary teaching experience spanned five decades (1967-2008). He was a prolific author, and he helped to build bridges through his leadership in numerous professional and interchurch organizations. He was Distinguished Professor of Church History and Pentecostal Studies at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, where he taught since 1984. He previously taught at Central Bible College (1970-1984) and Open Bible College (1967-1970).
McGee authored seven books, edited and contributed to three books, and he wrote chapters in fifteen books, 41 journal articles (since 1993), and 129 articles in twelve dictionaries. He was a frequent contributor to denominational publications, including Today’s Pentecostal Evangel, Assemblies of God Heritage, Advance, Enrichment, and Paraclete. He is probably best known for his two-volume history of Assemblies of God World Missions, This Gospel Shall Be Preached (GPH, 1986, 1989), for his biographical approach to Assemblies of God history, People of the Spirit (GPH, 2004), and for coediting the award-winning Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Zondervan, 1988). He completed his last book, Miracles, Missions, and American Pentecostalism (Orbis Books, forthcoming 2010), just weeks before his death.
McGee traveled extensively and also taught at Asia Centre for Evangelism and Missions, Singapore; Continental Theological Seminary, Brussels, Belgium; Evangelical Theological Seminary, Osijek, Croatia; Kiev Bible Institute, Kiev, Ukraine; Romanian Bible Institute, Bucharest, Romania; and Southern Asia Bible College, Bangalore, India.
McGee emerged as one of the most highly-respected and loved educators in the Assemblies of God, as well as one of the most articulate voices concerning the history of Pentecostal missions. In the academic community, McGee was best known for his publications on the history of early Pentecostalism and missiology. His family and friends knew him as a man of sterling character, good humor, humility, spiritual sensitivity, and personal warmth. According to fellow historian Grant Wacker, McGee “was always ready for a joke as well as a prayer.”
Gary McGee’s family came into the Pentecostal movement after his maternal grandmother accepted Christ in an Aimee Semple McPherson evangelistic campaign in Canton, Ohio, in 1921. The family became faithful members of Bethel Temple Assembly of God in Canton. McGee was born on April 22, 1945, the second oldest of five children.
Upon his graduation from Central Bible College in 1967, he began teaching at Open Bible College (Des Moines, Iowa). He received his ordination from the Iowa District Council in 1969. He returned to Springfield, Missouri, in 1970, where he would become a fixture for the rest of his life. He began teaching at his alma mater, Central Bible College, and in 1971 completed the Master of Religious Studies at Concordia Theological Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri). McGee completed his M.A. in Religious Studies at Missouri State University (Springfield, Missouri) in 1976, and his Ph.D. in Church History at St. Louis University in 1984. Upon completion of his doctorate, McGee began teaching at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. He was named Distinguished Professor of Church History and Pentecostal Studies in 2006. In March 2008, the Society for Pentecostal Studies conferred on him the Lifetime Achievement Award.
McGee demonstrated how a holy man – a man of God – can die well. During the last ten years of his life he suffered from cancer and arthritis, but McGee did not complain. Instead, he joyfully focused on other peoples’ needs and labored to complete the tasks he believed the Lord had given to him. Former student Jennifer Strickland Hall wrote, “Watching the grace and beauty you have displayed in the midst of your suffering over the years has taught me more than any book on the subject.” And McGee did, by the way, write a book on the subject: How Sweet the Sound: God’s Grace for Suffering Christians (GPH, 1994). Just before his final hospitalization, he finished the manuscript for his last book. In the past two weeks, McGee tied up loose ends, said goodbyes, and did not show despair, but faith in his great God. This has been a difficult, but beautiful, time.
McGee leaves behind a wife, Alice; two daughters, Angela Brim and Catherine McGee; and two grandchildren, Bailey and Marshall Brim, all of Springfield, Missouri. Other survivors include his mother, Velma L. Davis; two brothers; two sisters; and a host of other relatives.
Visit the AGTS website for more information about McGee’s funeral. Readers are encouraged to send messages to the McGee family, either by posting them on the AGTS website or by mail: Alice McGee, 1920 E. Sayer Circle, Springfield, MO 65803
By Darrin J. Rodgers