Environments of grace

International TravelReformedChristianityUnrest, Conflicts and WarTravelU.S. ArmyJackson (Hinds, Mississippi)

Rev. James Carter

Title: Pastor since July 1 at New Presbyterian Church,Pompano Beach.

Other job experience: Former Army chaplain at West Point and U.S. Army War College, Carisle, Pa.; former chaplain for Fourth Infantry Division and senior chaplain for Multi-National Division-Baghdad; retired with rank of colonel.

Education: Degree from Belhaven College, Jackson, Miss.; master's degree in divinity and master of arts degree in marriage and family therapy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Miss.; working on doctorate of ministry at Erskine Theological Seminary, Due West, S.C.

Personal: 50. Born and raised in Monroeville, Ala.

Family: Married to Terri, a housewife. Two children.

Has your military service informed the way you view a pastorate?

It's allowed me to travel all over world. That helped me to see the Kingdom of God in expanded way, seeing Christians throughout the world. And it had me work in a collaborative way with Christians of many denominations.

It also allowed me to work in very large organizations. The administration, the organizational development, is sometimes needed as we build the church.

Have you had to deal with any particular issues because of the split that created New Presbyterian?

I haven't had to deal with those issues. I know it's been a painful experience. What happened or whose fault it was, I don't see that. I only see a congregation of 500-700 people. I can't fix the past. I can only provide comfort and encouragment and the gospel.

Do you have an overall philosophy of ministry?

I am a leader and an elder among other elders of the congregation. We are to be servant-leaders of character and commitment and conviction. We are accountable to Christ and to our congregation. So we develop relationships of trust within environments of grace. We go out and listen to needs. Then we seek to do our best.

How do you like to relax?

We're a tennis family. I also enjoy working out. I jog and lift weights. I also like basketball and racquetball.

What's your favorite vacation spot?

We lived in Germany for three years. We loved traveling throughout Europe. especially Holland. We also enjoy Myrtle Beach and the Hudson Valley in New York. Beautiful area, with quiet villages.

Favorite music? Favorite performer(s)?

One is Celtic Thunder. Irish Christian music. But basically, I enjoy traditional hymns. Like "And Can It Be?"

Do you have a hero?

I'm here as a result of many men investing in my life over many years: father, coaches, professors, senior leaders in the military. In scripture, the one who stands out besides Christ was Daniel. He served in a pagan king's court. He chose the harder right over the easier wrong.

What person in history would you like most to meet?

I was always impressed with Dwight D. Eisenhower and his journey, from a small boy in Kansas to president of the United States. He tried to remain a man of character throughout that journey.

Do you have a treasured possession?

My wife. She is a lady of tremendous grace and consistency. And flexibility. We've lived in 16 homes over my military career. My last tour at the U.S. Army War College included a congregation of strategic military leaders, with their families. She has given to God and our country.

What's the best sermon you ever preached?

(laughs) Probably my first one. It lasted five minutes.I was 18, at a Youth Sunday at a church in Alabama. The youth pastor asked me to prepare it for 20 minutes, but it last five. I was embarrassed when people said, best sermon ever heard.

Is there one thing you can't stand?

It's if someone is disrespectful in a purposeful way. I'm a big believer in courtesy and manners. If you're wealthy businessman or someone in poverty, you need to be greeted with honor. That's something I think our society has lost.

What's the most important thing you've ever learned?

Besides the gospel and the message of grace, it's the power of involvement. We often don't know our neighbors because we're afraid of involvement. Sacrifice in many ways is about serving.

Motto, or favorite scripture verse?

James 1:17: "Every good and perfect gift comes from above." Every gift is from God. Not because of what I or somebody has done.

Do you know someone we should profile? Tell James D. Davis, Religion Editor, Sun Sentinel, at 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL. You may also e-mail him at JDDavis@Tribune.com or call at 954-356-4730.

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