We thought it would be just another meeting. But as the ministries directors met for the first Ministries Committee since the untimely death of their friend and colleague James Cress, spontaneous expressions of loss and love immediately took the floor. By God’s grace, the death of a colleague in the line of duty is rare in the experience of the elected staff of the General Conference. But clearly this death was felt at the deepest emotive level among those gathered. “Our Jim” was our colleague in ministry, our kindred spirit, our encourager, our confidant, our helper, our wise counselor, and our dear friend. Without him in our circle, a great void was opened that would not quickly be closed.
Jim’s contribution among his colleagues cannot be counted in a few words of tribute. As his colleagues remember him, he was first a man of faith, whose life among us was a reflection of the principles of Christ’s kingdom. Our stories honor Jim for his warmth, generosity, humor, kindness, wisdom, trustworthiness, and unflinching integrity. We will miss his team spirit, pragmatism, words of affirmation, friendship, encouragement, practical support, and heartfelt prayers on our behalf and for his church. We will miss his big vision of evangelism that moved beyond the baptistry to fostering a growing discipleship among all believers.
We loved Jim for his people orientation and his keen understanding of human nature. His inclination to see the best in his fellow human beings and his commitment to growing all called to ministry to their full potential in Christ was the hallmark of his personal ministry. He was affectionately recognized as the departmental “publisher,” more than ready to put our ministry handbooks and resources into print and even into mass distribution among pastors worldwide. He was particularly appreciated for his support of team ministry wherever husband and wife together felt the call to service in a ministry capacity. The model of self-sacrifice and service set by Jim and his wife Sharon will long set the standard for what God can do through couples who stand side-by-side in pastoral ministry.
In reflection, the words of Annie Smith’s early-Advent hymn on the spirit of the early pioneers come readily to mind. In the verse describing James White, she wrote:
“And one I saw, with sword and shield, who boldly braved the world’s cold frown,
And fought unyielding, on the field, to win an everlasting crown.
Though worn with toil, oppressed by foes, no murmur from his heart arose;
I asked what buoyed his spirits up, ‘Oh this!’ said he, ‘the blessed hope.’”
“Our James” also labored long and hard and well. He will be greatly missed! But we share his “blessed hope” and join Sharon and his loved ones in listening hard for the trumpets heralding Jesus’ return and the grand day of resurrection when death will forever be swallowed up in victory. Maranatha!
My love for Jim is impossible to put into words. He was everything—a knight in times of trouble, a trusted confidant in times of stress, a strength in times of sadness, and a reservoir of wisdom in times of uncertainty. He was my husband, best friend, soul mate, and partner in ministry.
Oh, there were times we drove each other crazy—interrupting stories, finishing sentences, CNN vs. Food Channel, animated political discussions, and responsibilities for household chores. My driving his car or reorganizing his closet always guaranteed a response. They made fodder for an interesting, never-boring marriage.
Jim always insisted we live our life together intensely and joyfully and with a keen imagination of what could and should be, not status quo. He modeled for me the importance of having a conscience for things that needed change even in environments that yield painfully. He taught me self-discipline and to never settle for less than excellence. He believed in me more than I believed in myself.
His greatest gift to me was to take me along on his journey of life, which always moved in fifth gear. Jim had big shoulders and an even bigger, more generous heart.
He was the greatest blessing God ever gave me.
Ministerial Staff Tribute:
We will remember Jim as dedicated to Jesus and ministry. We will also remember him as generous, kind and caring to colleagues, friends, family and strangers.– Anthony & Debora Kent
Dear Lord: Thank you for Jim—his laugh, encouragement, guidance, and love. He exuded You in his life. Praises to You, Amen.– Sheryl Beck
Jim was a “prayerful boss”—always lifting me up. The last time I was in his office, he prayed for me!– Ricardo Bacchus
Advocate, computer illiterate, dreamer, enthusiastic, forgiving, generous, loyal, loved challenges, thoughtful, witty, loved animals. That’s the Jim I knew, my boss, my friend!– Cathy Payne
I will forever be indebted to Jim for how he wisely and patiently mentored me.– Willie Hucks
Jim was a caring person and always showed appreciation. His ready laugh and Christian spirit will be greatly missed.– Shelly Lowe
GM: “James Cress, I see a snowflake, . . . several of them! It’s a blizzard!”
JC: “Seven snowflakes does not constitute a blizzard!”
GM: “I’ll miss you greatly, James Cress!”– Gloria Massenburg
I will remember Jim as a person who (1) loved the Lord, (2) loved his wife, (3) loved his work, (4) enjoyed eating sweets.– Paula Johnson
What a privilege to work with Jim! I lost one of my best friends. I am looking forward to that bright morning to meet him again.– Jonas Arrais
And God said, ‘Let there be a shining light in the firmament of the Ministerial Association’: and there was James Cress.– Peter Prime
I am thankful that Jim has given me multiple opportunities to serve here in the Ministerial Association.– Mervyn Lee
Sharing ideas with Jim was always a joyful experience. He not only loved good ideas but worked hard to make them happen.– Nikolaus Satelmajer
Jim always took a personal interest in the lives of his staff. We will greatly miss his cheerful attitude and compassionate nature.– John Feezer
Jim’s love and generosity made a difference in our lives. His life exemplified many virtues and the loving way to treat others.– Elizabeth Bediako