Bro. Jeffrey Gros, Christian Brother with ecumenical spirit, dies at 75

August 13, 2013 in Faith Matters by David Waters

Jeffrey GrosBrother Jeffrey Gros, a scholar whose work and spirit brought together Catholics, Protestants and Pentecostals, died in Chicago on Monday after a long bout with cancer. He was 75.

Brother Jeffrey, who was born in Memphis, was a member of the order of Brothers of the Christian Schools (F.S.C.), taught at Christian Brothers University and Memphis Theological Seminary.

Two years ago, Brother Jeffrey became president of the Society for Pentecostal Studies during the organization’s 40th annual meeting in Memphis.

He was to deliver the keynote address at last year’s SPS meeting in Virginia, but he was too ill to attend. A colleague read his speech for him.

“I can leave us with no better admonition as scholars,” Brother Jeffrey wrote, “than that of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin to his own Charismatic Catholics shortly before he died: ‘My friends, always remember what you as a community continue to offer to the whole church of Jesus Christ and to a society so desperately in need of the fire of God’s love.’”

Hundreds of scholars attended the meeting, including Dr. Lois E. Olena, a professor at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary at Evangel University.

“It was a profound piece,” she said. “I am thankful that he showed us not only how to travel through life well but how to end that journey in courage, peacefulness, and love.”

Brother Jeffrey held a wide range of distinguished national positions over the years, including director of Faith and Order for the National Council of Churches, associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and dean of the Catholic Institute for Ecumenical Leadership.

Brother Jeffrey taught at MTS from 1975-1981 and again from 2005-2011. During his second tenure, he was named the seminary’s first Distinguished Professor of Ecumenical and Historical Theology.

“He had a passion for life evident in his intensity of purpose and his gentle manners,” said. Dr. Pete Gathje of MTS. “Every time we had a conversation I walked away with something to new to think about. . . He had a deep faith in the working of God in this ongoing work of reconciliation between believers.”

Brother Jeffrey taught at CBU from 1968-1969 and 1972-1981 , and was very involved in ecumenical and interfaith work in Memphis.

“He truly was a great human being who leaves a lasting legacy in drawing others to the table of communion of peace, justice and harmony,” said Janice Vanderhaar.

In the fall of 2011, Brother Jeffrey returned to Lewis University in Romeoville, IL, as the Catholic Studies Scholar in Residence.

He is surived by his sister, Sister Joye Gros, OP, of St. Louis. A Mass of Christian Burial will be conducted at 11 a.m. Saturday at Resurrection Cemetery in Romeoville, Ill. Memorials may be sent to De La Salle Christian Brothers Retirement Fund, 7650 S. County Line Rd., Burr Ridge, IL 60527.

Here’s more reaction to the death of Brother Jeffrey Gros.

Dr. Lois E. Olena, professor at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary at Evangel University:

“I worked with Jeff over the last three years in my role as Executive Director of SPS. He served on the SPS Executive Committee in our presidential track, which involved planning our important meeting in Memphis in 2011.

“He then prepared a remarkable presidential address for 2012, his year as president. It was called “”It Seems Good to the Holy Spirit and to Us: The Ecclesial Vocation of the Pentecostal Scholar.” Unable to attend  because of his cancer, his presidential address was read by Dr. Mel Robeck, a close friend and colleague in ecumenical work for many years.

“It was a profound piece, affirming the best of SPS and its vital role both for the Church and the Academy in today’s world. At the end, he said, “I can leave us with no better admonition as scholars than that of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin to his own Charismatic Catholics shortly before he died: ‘My friends, always remember what you as a community continue to offer to the whole church of Jesus Christ and to a society so desperately in need of the fire of God’s love.’”

Dr. David G. Roebuck, Director, Dixon Pentecostal Research Center, Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity, Lee University Church of God Historian:

“It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Brother Jeffrey Gros on Tuesday.  My first in-depth conversation with Brother Jeff came sitting at the banquet table of the Society for Pentecostal Studies in 1992.  He was a warm and energetic dialog partner, who proved to be a willing guide to the world of Christian ecumenism.  He actively shared his knowledge, connected people from different traditions, and encouraged conversation.  He became a member of the Society’s executive committee while I served as executive director.

“In his various roles as he moved from second vice-president to immediate past president, he frequently offered insightful and progressive advice about the plans and strategies of the Society.  When the Society met in Memphis in 2011, Brother Jeff put together a strong program highlighting issues facing global Pentecostalism and offering resources for Christian renewal.  His friendship and outstanding work will be greatly missed.”

Dr. Pete Gathje, Professor of Chrsitian Ethics, Memphis Theological Seminary:

“I am very saddened by his death.  He had a passion for life evident in his intensity of purpose and his gentle manners.  Every time we had a conversation I walked away with something to new to think about.  He was a mentor and friend to many aspiring theologians and professors, including myself.  Talking with Br. Jeff meant learning about new books, developments in the church, and perhaps a new cycling route to explore.

“I knew from students that in the classroom he was an animated and challenging teacher.  He helped students see the connections between present church realities and past church history.  Br. Jeff was widely known for his life-long and thoughtful engagement in the work of ecumenical reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics.  His scholarship, teaching, and many public speaking events reflected this commitment and his intellectual depth and breadth.  He had a deep faith in the working of God in this ongoing work of reconciliation between believers.”

Janice Vanderhaar, Pax Christi Memphis:

“(Dr. Gerard Vanderhaar) and I were blessed to call Br. Jeff our friend since our early days in Memphis when they both taught at Christian Brothers University.  They were definitely on the same wave length.  Br. Jeff went on to bigger venues with the National Council of Churches where he worked to find common ground with other Christian religions and then with the United States Council of Catholic Bishops in the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

“He made a difference in the Church and in the world,” .  I was especially happy when he returned to teach at the Memphis Theological Seminary and honored to have him serve as member of the Vanderhaar Symposium Planning Team.  Even after he left Memphis, he remained on the Team in an advisory capacity.  We often exchanged ideas through email.

“He truly was a great human being who leaves a lasting legacy in drawing others to the table of communion of peace, justice and harmony. “

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