In 1998, Ron Sider hired me as a part-time editor for PRISM magazine, Christians for Social Action’s flagship print publication at the time. It was the answer to a fervent prayer of mine, to do meaningful work that would not only integrate my faith but also grow it. CSA was an extension of its founder, a man who both promoted and, with great integrity, embodied the kind of holistic faith I’d been looking for. I was thrilled, but at the time had no idea how working with Ron and CSA would shape, in almost every way, the person I would become.
Although a highly public figure with academic bonafides, a long list of publications, and impressive international experience, Ron was a down-to-earth, fatherly figure who hosted staff picnics in the back yard of his humble Philadelphia row house, warmly shared anecdotes from his own life, and always listened to my ideas and concerns. Eventually, he asked me to come on as the full-time managing editor of the magazine, and the publication became a kind of self-directed graduate program for my growing passion for justice of all kinds. Although Ron read and commented on every article that went into the magazine, he never micromanaged. He gave me almost total freedom to explore the issues that most intrigued my mind or troubled my soul. When I started researching sexual exploitation in 2007, he encouraged me to pursue training, build partnerships with other organizations, and write and speak about the incalculable harm being done. He thanked me for working to better the lives of his grandchildren, ever aware of how the seeds we plant today will impact generations to come, regardless of how impossible, costly, and unrewarding the work can feel today.
Ron respected my intuitions and supported my decisions, even when they made him a bit uneasy, because he trusted God’s work in my life. CSA’s Oriented to Love dialogue program exists today because Ron listened to me when I told him we had no right to talk about gay rights without getting to know gay people and hearing their stories from their own mouths. Ron led with vulnerability and a humble spirit, submitting to the leadership of those he deemed he had something to learn from, including his own staff.
In a particularly difficult season of my family life, Ron quietly and honestly shared with me some his own struggles on the home front and how he had come through them. He didn’t offer advice or talk down to me; he simply showed me that he understood and offered hope that I, too, would see better days. He gave me the gift of being 20 years ahead of me, as a spouse, a parent, a friend, and a person of faith. He was my boss for many years, but because he was so open and accessible to me, he was truly a mentor to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude for gifts that can be measured in personal confidence, professional opportunity, and spiritual maturity. Thank you, Ron, for the beautiful legacy you leave behind for so many of us! You lived well and died eager to meet your Savior.