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In loving memory of Dr. Rob Staples

The NTS Community mourns the loss of Dr. Rob Staples, AB, BD, ThD, Professor of Theology at NTS from 1976-1996.

Beginning in 1963, Dr. Staples spent well over three decades teaching at Southern Nazarene University and Nazarene Theological Seminary. Rob was a sage teacher-leader who provided wise counsel to the Church of the Nazarene in the midst of some of her most challenging periods. He often said that if you want to change the Church you must do it from the inside.  And generations of students, pastors, missionaries and church leaders would testify that he embodied his theology in that very way.  Rob loved Christ’s Church, and he loved the Church of the Nazarene.  With unswerving conviction, he embodied in his faith and witness a robust theology of the Church of the Nazarene that is indissolubly connected to the universal Church.

His deep and abiding love of the Church of the Nazarene, combined with his clear thinking skills, provided theological balance that helped the Church of the Nazarene find its way through a couple of difficult times in the final third of the twentieth century.  As the baptism of the Holy Spirit debate rocked the Church of the Nazarene, General Superintendent Dr. William Greathouse asked Rob to write an essay on the historical development and theological issues surrounding this topic.  Dr. Greathouse had invited Rob to the NTS faculty in his final year as NTS president before being elected General Superintendent.  That essay became the resource the General Superintendents used as the Church struggled to find room for devoted church members on both sides of the debate.  The controversy was painful for Rob and yet he modeled for all a dogged determination to stay and love the Church in the midst of such quarrels.   When the “worship wars” were buffeting all American Christianity, Rob wrote his signature work, Outward Sign and Inward Grace: the Place of the Sacraments in Wesleyan Spirituality.  Once again, he was helping the Church of the Nazarene come to understand that she belonged to the whole Church, the Body of Christ.  Rob’s lifelong study of John Wesley helped the Church of the Nazarene to reimagine her doctrine of entire sanctification [dynamically] in light of the character and will of God. From that revisioning, his theology of the Church has helped the Church of the Nazarene baptize her most distinctive doctrine of entire sanctification into a rich ecclesiology that has already begun to give back to the Church a doctrine of holiness that truly marks the life of the Church. 

Rob was known in the Academy as a scholar of John Wesley. He served as president in the Wesleyan Theological Society, as well as a lifelong member. He is remembered by many for his limericks and Kentucky wit and humor. Rob’s penchant was to put his theology to a limerick. He was a teacher par excellence! He was always about teaching his students not so much “what to think” as much as he was passionate to teach his students “how to think.” His unstoppable curiosity and vivid imagination, always armed with his distinctive humor, put his students at ease and gave to them the courage to ask and think. Today, Rob’s students are at work in the Church around the globe, working and loving even through disagreements, with the same spirit and imagination that was in Rob. Rob’s love of God and the Church lives on in us all.  The communion of the saints lives on!  Thanks be to God for Rob L. Staples! May we be as faithful.

The NTS faculty and staff have started a 70th anniversary scholarship in honor of Dr. Rob Staples as we celebrate the 70th year of NTS. Those wishing to add to this fund in memory of Dr. Staples may make donations online by clicking here (select “Endowed Scholarship Fund” and type Rob Staples in the Comments section).    Donations (marked for the Staples Scholarship Fund) may also be mailed to NTS, ATTN: Office of Advancement, 1700 East Meyer Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64131.  

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