Dr. Rev. Paul Swanson, one of the first ministers to work closely with the Unification community, ascended to the spirt world on July 18, 2015.
Below is a testimony from Rev. Bruce Sutchar, who worked closely with Rev. Swanson.
My Brother Paul
By Bruce Sutchar
I first met Dr. Paul Swanson in the early 1980s when Dr. Michael Jenkins began a dialogue with theologians in Chicago called the Pastoral Research Association. At the time, Dr. Swanson was a professor of Marriage and Family Counseling at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. I first met him when I did my seminary internship with Dr. Jenkins in Chicago during the summer of 1984.
Dr. Swanson was really a simple and kind human being, but he held a wealth of theological knowledge and as a result was always challenging our Unificationist belief systems—not attacking, but challenging. I truly believe that because of these challenges we all have become better theologians. Recently my wife and I went to worship with him and his beautiful wife, Cordie, at their home church in Indiana. During the service I was able to stand up and introduce myself and mention that we were guests of the Swansons, whom we had known and fellowshipped with for over 30 years.
Over the years Dr. Swanson participated in just about every Unification-organized event you can imagine. The Interdenominational Conferences for Clergy (ICC) in Korea, the various theological conferences that we held all over the United States, our more personal theological conferences at the Unification Theological Seminary (UTS), the CAUSA and American Leadership Conferences, our True Family Values Banquets in Chicago and, lastly, our monthly American Clergy Leadership Conferences in Chicago. There are far too many memories to put down on paper, but I will try to reflect on some of the most significant.
Dr. Swanson grew up in Michigan. His father was a Lutheran minister who was responsible for admitting the first African-American student into a Lutheran seminary in the United States. His older brother became a U.S. Navy chaplain. Dr. Swanson did his graduate work at Andover Newton Theological School near Boston, where a surgeon introduced him to his daughter who six months later became his fiancée and then his wife, Cordelia. That was over sixty years ago.
I remember walking down to the Hudson River with Dr. Swanson and another minister when they came for one of our famous “White Room” theological seminars at UTS in 1983. I remember this because the other minister nearly had a heart attack during our walk on Father’s Trail.
Dr. Swanson would never just accept the Principle hook, line and sinker. He always would ask probing questions and demand logical answers. I always felt that he had a deep personal love and respect for Jesus—probably much more than many of us. (True Father scolded us once at Belvedere and told us that if we truly want to walk with him, each of us must have a personal relationship with Jesus as he does.)
In 1984, I met Dr. Swanson at a Christmas party at the Lutheran School of Theology. While we were sitting and drinking some Christian eggnog, the school president came by and Dr. Swanson introduced us. It was still the time of “Moonies,” and the president lambasted me for being in this weird “cult.” From then on we always laughed about it, but Dr. Swanson still would apologize for the incredibly rude and inappropriate behavior of his school president.
Dr. Swanson taught at the Lutheran School of Theology for over twenty years. Eventually he would take early retirement, in part because of the ungodly attitudes that he felt the newer students were taking. I remember especially how turned off he was by all the homosexually oriented texts in his own Lutheran bookstore.
Dr. and Mrs. Swanson adopted two children who grew up to be very successful adults. John manages just about every Dollar Store in Northwest Indiana, and Roseann is in the medical field. If there was ever an injured, sick or abandoned cat anywhere in Northern Indiana, the animal was deposited on Cordie’s doorstep, where it was assured of being well taken care of. My children loved to visit, because at one time the Swansons had 37 cats in every shape, size or denomination. One time when I visited, Cordie was a few hours away at Michigan State University, where she had taken one of the cats for open heart surgery. In retirement they were down to seven cats and a beautiful 13-year-old Weimaraner dog, to say nothing of the deer that came up to their back fence for the block of salt they would leave out.
One result of all this cat-sitting is that it was very difficult to ever have Cordie leave home for very long. However, several years ago, when True Father came to speak at our banquet and we awarded Dr. Swanson the True Family Values Award, Cordie was at the banquet hall early in order to surprise him. The only problem was that since they were sitting up in front, Cordie was getting angry at True Father, because he kept hitting his translator, Peter Kim.
At another time, I remember Dr. Swanson trying to follow True Father’s speech in the speech booklet. He kept flipping through the pages, trying to find what True Father was saying. Of course, True Father’s extemporaneously spoken words were not in the booklet.
During True Father’s 50-city tour in 2001, Dr. Swanson and I went up to hear him speak in Milwaukee. By then, True Father was reading only the first couple of pages of his prepared speech before moving into an extemporaneous sermon. After about three hours, Dr. Swanson got up and left. I followed him out of the room to see if everything was all right. When I asked him, he answered, “If Jesus had spoken that long, I would have gotten up and left.” As a Lutheran, Dr. Swanson would never preach for more than twenty minutes (usually more like eleven) and the entire service would never last more than one hour. Whenever we invited him to give a prayer, he would always come with the prayer neatly typed out.
In Chicago we have been having a monthly prayer breakfast for the past 15 years. Until most recently, Dr. Swanson attended roughly 95 percent of these breakfasts. This means he would either drive in from Northern Indiana or take a train to the University of Chicago where we would pick him up. Most often, Dr. Swanson would be the only mainline white minister in attendance. Given his family history, he never had a problem with this, but years ago he commented that if we really wanted to change the world and be a significant influence in the religious makeup of America, we had better expand to include more mainline churches.
Last year my wife, Ilse, and I visited Dr. and Mrs. Swanson. He was about to join us for the Holy Ground Ceremony in Chicago, but some people felt that standing in the hot sun for an hour after a three-hour prayer breakfast might be too much for an 86-year-old gentleman. So Dr. Swanson invited us to worship with him the next Sunday. We drove about two hours to Indiana to listen to their new Indian Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Dr. Lloyd A. Sewdin. He delivered an excellent sermon, and thus I am including it as the conclusion to this article.
“Don’t stay trapped in your problems—pray”
God needs us to keep in touch
We need to pray
We need God
A prayer-less person doesn’t think he needs God
Our prayer is to God—not to a human
Pray to God—for whatever you need
Wherever your emptiness is, there will be your answer
You must be as an empty vessel
If Peter didn’t pray—God wouldn’t have gotten him out of jail
Samson prayed—God, give me a second chance
Hezekiah prayed—and God gave him another 15 years to live
Hagar prayed—and God found her and Ishmael a place to live
Hannah prayed—and God allowed her to give birth
Solicit others to pray for you
The value of family participation
We must pray for one another
After you use your brain, skills and training
It is in the hands of God
Sometimes our prayer request is not granted
If our request is wrong
If the timing is wrong
If the prayer is wrong
If the request and timing are right
God will grant our prayer