The John Harold Ockenga Institute gained deep roots from the vision and support of Harold John Ockenga and Albert and Mercedes Shoemaker.
In its current structure, the Ockenga Institute is served by two departments: The Shoemaker Center for Church Renewal, which also houses our Center for Preaching, and the Hispanic Ministries Program, which also houses our Korean Studies Program. With these two departments the institute serves both the local and global vision to equip communities with the resources of the seminary.
For nearly half a century, Harold John Ockenga’s name was virtually synonymous with that of evangelicalism as he voiced its concerns and convictions and provided leadership for nearly every one of its institutions: serving as founder and first president of the National Association of Evangelicals for United Action; as president of the American Board of the World Evangelical Fellowship; as president, co-founder and later Chairman of the Board of Fuller Theological Seminary; as Chairman of the Board of Christianity Today; as a director of the Christian Freedom Foundation; as a member of the board of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; as editor of the Evangelical Book Club; as chair of the National Association of Evangelicals’ International Commission; and as the founding president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
In addition to these tasks, he found time to write some fifteen books and scores of articles, to produce over one hundred archival boxes of letters, journals, date books, and memorabilia, to produce nearly three thousand manuscript sermons and addresses and to leave a legacy of active ministry around the world. (written by Dr. Garth Rosell)
Through their significant generosity and fierce commitment to ongoing pastoral education, Mr. and Mrs. G. Albert Shoemaker endowed The Shoemaker Center for Church Renewal at Gordon-Conwell. Merdie developed an interest in the seminary during summer vacations on Cape Ann with her parents. “The local churches were supplied by Gordon-Conwell students while the resident minister was on vacation,” she once commented. ”The quality of preaching was impressive. After we were married, I interested Al in Gordon-Conwell.”
The Center for Church Renewal brings both the educational resources of the seminary and the larger evangelical community, to pastors, lay leaders and churches, with the intent to encourage and nurture personal and corporate renewal. Dr. Dennis P. Hollinger, Former President and Colman M. Mockler Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics, described Merdie as “a wonderful friend of Gordon-Conwell. She and her late husband, Al Shoemaker, have left a significant legacy for church renewal at Gordon-Conwell.” Countless individuals have taken advantage of conferences, seminars, sabbaticals, curricular resources and audio and video recordings at Gordon-Conwell because of the Shoemaker Center.