The Tyndale Community deeply mourns the loss of former President Rev. Dr. Gary V. Nelson, who passed away peacefully on January 22, 2024 surrounded by his beloved wife Carla, daughter Stacy, family and friends.
A word central to Dr. Nelson’s faith and ministry was shalom – a biblical term evoking peace, flourishing, and sharing life together. This concept expresses well the nature of his approach to life and leadership. In an age where divisions often run deep, particularly in the church, Dr. Nelson exemplified in his irenic and hopeful spirit a willingness to engage in dialogue, helping to bridge differences in order to deepen community and mission.
Gary was a team player in all that he did. He was a passionate cheerleader, a determined coach and dedicated teammate. His optimism was contagious, even in the face of challenges, and his glass was always full to overflowing. Dr. Nelson is warmly remembered not only for his visionary leadership, but for his personal investment in so many in the Tyndale community – students, staff, and faculty – who knew him as a friend.
Tuesday, January 30 | 1:00 p.m. (MST)
First Baptist Church Edmonton
Tyndale University is hosting a livestream of the funeral service at 3:00 (EST) on Tuesday January 30. All are welcome to attend.
The Chapel at Tyndale University | 3377 Bayview Ave, Toronto, ON
Missional Innovator and Scholar
Born and raised in Western Canada, Dr. Nelson spoke often about the endless blue skies of his Canadian childhood. He graduated with a Bachelor of Education at the University of British Columbia in 1976, and went on to complete a Masters and Doctor of Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary in California. He was a pastor for many years in urban congregations across Canada, the experience of which guided his ongoing reflection on the importance of engaging culture in a post-Christendom context and unwavering commitment to a generous, expansive view of church and mission.
Dr. Nelson was an active writer, producing multiple scholarly articles and books, as well as a sought-after speaker on missiology and church leadership. His books, including Future Faith Churches: Reconnecting with the Power of the Gospel for the 21st Century (1997), Borderland Churches: A Congregation’s Introduction to Missional Living (2008), Going Global: A Congregation’s Introduction to Mission beyond Our Borders (2011) and Leading in Disorienting Times: Navigating Church and Organizational Change (2015), engage questions of urban mission in contemporary society. Dr. Nelson was distinguished as the Honorary Doctor of Divinity recipient in 2020 from Acadia University, and was also honoured by Crandall University with their Leadership Award in 2021. Teaching at seminaries and universities across North America, as well as internationally in Lebanon, India, Bolivia, Czech Republic, Germany, Scotland, Kenya, Ghana, and Rwanda, he developed deep and meaningful relationships and partnerships with many worldwide, encouraging Christians to reflect on core questions of identity and mission: “What does it mean to be the church?”
In 2000, Dr. Nelson became the General Secretary of Canadian Baptist Ministries (CBM), overseeing the work of this ministry in its commitment to holistic mission and strategic partnerships with churches around the world. During his decade of leadership, the organization underwent a time of significant growth in missional initiatives worldwide, with a focus on education and community development. Dr. Nelson’s steadfast commitment to listening to the perspectives of the global church also led him to serve on the Board of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary and the Institute for Middle Eastern Studies in Beirut, Lebanon, as well as serving as Vice President of the Baptist World Alliance from 2005-2010.
Dr. Nelson became the President of Tyndale University in 2010. Throughout his tenure as President, a time marked by exponential change and challenge, he remained steadfast in his vision for Tyndale’s future. Gary was the leader the school needed at a critical time in its history. A champion for the underdog, he advocated for everyone to have a seat at the table and for the community to move forward together in sustainable and discerning ways. He envisioned Tyndale as a vibrant multi-cultural community, a microcosm of the diversity of the global church in the heart of Canada’s largest city.
Under his leadership, Tyndale navigated a major move from its previous location to a newly renovated campus on Bayview Avenue, a multi-year, multi-million dollar project which required patience and determination in equal measure. At the same time, with major expansions of degree programs and initiatives at both the seminary and undergraduate levels, the school continued to thrive and grow. For Gary, times of both growth and challenge were opportunities to work together with faculty, staff, and students towards a common goal.
Beloved Teacher, Mentor, and Friend
Gary surrounded himself with the company of others and devoted his life to listening, engaging with, and helping people. He had the unique ability to bring diverse groups together around a common vision, a skill which he brought to his leadership at Tyndale. It was his warmth and humour, ability to connect with those around him, and tremendous zeal for life that made him such an integral part of the Tyndale community.
Gary was often found in the hallways at Tyndale speaking with students, staff, and faculty with a glimmer in his eye and smile on his face. He was generous with his time, an encourager at his core with a quick wit and an enthusiastic, contagious laugh.
Even the briefest time spent with Gary quickly revealed his deep love and profound admiration for his beloved wife Carla. His stories were often filled with his grandchildren’s latest accomplishments or witty remarks over the phone, and upon retirement he was emphatically eager to embark on his move to Edmonton to be close to his daughter, son-in law and family. The Tyndale Community continues in prayer for his family during this time of deep grief and loss.
Above all else, Gary’s hope was deeply rooted in Christ. While we grieve the loss of a profound thinker, leader, and teacher we also celebrate and honour the life of a faithful Christ-follower, mentor and friend and thank God for the profound mark he has left on our community at Tyndale and around the world.
Shalom Dr. Nelson.