General Superintendent Emeritus John A. Knight died in his sleep Sunday night, February 1, at his home in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Funeral services will be held Tuesday, February 10, at 2:00 P.M. at the Bethany, Oklahoma First Church of the Nazarene.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to the John A. and Justine A. Knight Religion Scholarship Endowment at Southern Nazarene University.
The following story of Dr. Knight's life and ministry was published in the May 2001 edition of Holiness Today magazine as Dr. Knight was retiring as general superintendent:
John A. Knight: A Nazarene
After 50 years of ministry, retiring general superintendent John A. Knight defines his life's work: "I asked the Lord to give me the ability to make clear and attractive our distinguishing doctrine-holiness."
John A. Knight is a Nazarene. Never mind his 16-year tenure as general superintendent, his service as president of two Nazarene colleges, his authorship of eight books, and his reputation as one of the finest theological minds in the church. Dr. Knight's life as a Nazarene began long before his lauded accomplishments, when he was just one day old.
"My dad preached his first sermon the day after I was born," he recalls. "He preached an hour and seven minutes. I've been a Nazarene ever since."
The journey began in Mineral Wells, Texas, Dr. Knight's birthplace. Under the gentle leadership of his parents, young John learned to be sensitive to the call of God.
"When I was eight years old, I had a dream that I was called to preach," he says. He was sanctified as a young teenager under his father's preaching and left home for Bethany-Peniel College (later Bethany Nazarene College and now Southern Nazarene University) when he was only 16 years old.
"During my junior year at Bethany, God confirmed my call to ministry," he says. "I knew from the beginning that I would be in Christian higher education. Many times I would leaf through the college yearbook and look at pictures of professors. Only one or two had Ph.Ds. I made up my mind I would have one too."
After graduating from Bethany-Peniel in 1952, Dr. Knight continued his studies at the University of Oklahoma, receiving an M.A. in philosophy. By the time he was 25 years old, he was teaching undergraduate students at Trevecca Nazarene College (now University) while earning the bachelor of divinity degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School. Before long he added a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University to his credentials.
One of the undergrads he taught at Trevecca was Justine Rushing, daughter of the late Rev. and Mrs. O.C. Rushing. Over the semester, Dr. Knight says, she moved from the back row of the Old Testament class to a seat near the front. On the day of the final exam, Justine wrote a message at the end of her paper: "Prof. Knight, this exam is entirely too long for one 55-minute period and too difficult for most sophomores. I know every answer. If you want to know if I know the answers, take me out tonight."
They were married within six months. She was 23. He was 26. Over time the family would include three children: John Allen Jr., James, and Judy.
Justine continued her education, earning the bachelor of science degree from Peabody Teachers College of Vanderbilt University and the master of science degree from the University of Oklahoma. But above all, she was well suited to a life of ministry. Reared in a pastor's home with seven siblings, she understood the meaning of sacrifice and service.
For 11 years, Dr. Knight pastored on the Tennessee District and served on the Trevecca faculty. He later taught in the religion department at Bethany Nazarene College and then was chair of the religion department and chaplain at Mount Vernon Nazarene College (now University). In 1972, the call came to serve as president of MVNC. Dr. Knight was the school's second president, and the college received its 4-year accreditation during his final year there.
In January 1975, he was elected editor of the Herald of Holiness (now Holiness Today), a position he held for a year and a half.
The next call came in 1976, when Dr. Knight was named president of Bethany Nazarene College. He counts his nine years at Bethany among the most fruitful in his ministry. He began his tenure while the college was emerging from a $2.3 million debt reduction campaign. Within 2 years-5 years ahead of schedule-the debt was retired. Dr. Knight then launched a $15 million program to develop campus facilities. In eight years, the goal was exceeded. New construction included a 10,000-square-foot physical plant facility and a 32,000-square-foot business and home economics building. Before Dr. Knight left Bethany, plans were approved and funds raised for a new commons building as well. On the academic side, Bethany earned a rare 10-year renewal of accreditation under his leadership, and he inaugurated the master of ministry program, the first at any Nazarene college. Bethany's adult learning curriculum (MHR) was another Knight-initiated innovation.
On June 26, 1985, the 21st General Assembly, meeting in Anaheim, California, elected Dr. Knight to the Board of General Superintendents, an office he never anticipated. As he retires, he looks back on an experience both rewarding and enlightening.
"All my life I've heard general superintendents say that Nazarenes are the same wherever you go," he says. "That's really true. Though cultures are different, we share a unique fellowship. We are a community.
"Holiness, missions, and education are the hallmarks of who we are," he explains. "Over the years we've learned better ways to proclaim the holiness message. For Nazarenes, education and evangelism walk hand in hand. Without evangelism, education can become rationalistic and sterile. Put them together, and they are a powerful force for changing people and society."
The reason the Church of the Nazarene exists, he says, is to share the holiness message. Since he received his first district minister's license in 1951, John A. Knight has done just that.
"When I began preaching as a young man," he says, "I asked the Lord to give me the ability to make clear and attractive our distinguishing doctrine-holiness. Together, the Lord and I have worked at it — it's been fun."
--By Bonnie J. Perry, as published in the May 2001 edition of Holiness Today magazine
(Perry currently serves as director of Beacon Hill Press of Nazarene Publishing House)
Additional information will be posted when it is available. Prayer is requested for the Knight family.