History of Harbor: The Pepperdine Bible Lectures
In 1987 as Pepperdine University turned 50, former president Howard A. White wrote of the Bible Lectures, "A serious way in which the college communicated with its church constituency was the Annual Bible Lectureship which began in 1943. Church members were invited to attend several days of classes and lectures on campus. Usually one individual was designated 'chief lecturer.' In 1949, 60 speakers were on the program, with E. W. McMillan filling the central place. Mr. Pepperdine often chaired some of the meetings. Chief lecturers in other years included A. R. Holton, M. Norvel Young, and Reuel Lemmons. For many years Marshall Keeble was prominently featured as the closing speaker." The lectures were organized by respected religion professor, W. B. West, Jr., and Dr. West directed the first nine Bible Lectures programs.
By the early 1960s, the lectureship had outgrown the Los Angeles campus auditorium. In addition to the largest gathering at the L.A. Sports Arena, there were years when the lectures were held at the L.A. Shrine Auditorium. Dr. White wrote of 1962, "Despite his depleted energies, Mr. Pepperdine put forth a supreme effort and attended the Bible Lectureship in the Sports Arena on March 22, 1962. Before an audience of about 10,000 people, a red and white ambulance drove onto the basketball court, and attendants wheeled out a stretcher on which Mr. Pepperdine rested. Pepperdine vice president William Teague handed him a microphone. With a slightly quavering but clear voice, he spoke of his joy at being with his brethren of the Church of Christ. The crowd gave him a standing ovation. He returned to his bed at home, where he died on Tuesday, July 31." Unfortunately, attendance at the lectureships began to dwindle in the late 1960s, but then with the opening of the Malibu campus, interest increased in the 1970s. As Jerry Rushford took the helm in the early 1980s, there was a new wave of excitement and energy in the Bible Lectures.
By the 50th anniversary year of 1987, President White could write: "A significant way in which the University relates to the Churches of Christ is in the annual Bible Lectureship held during the spring school holidays. Leading ministers and scholars in the church give lectures and teach classes to approximately 4,000 people each year." Jerry Rushford, who stepped down from the Bible Lectures after his 30th Bible Lectures (1983-2012), noted that "When the closing prayer ends on Friday evening, May 4, 2012, I will know that I was uniquely privileged to set the table for an annual feast for one entire generation. That's a humbling thought. I'm very grateful that God led me to Pepperdine." ("A Conversation with Jerry Rushford," The Christian Chronicle, April 2009). Jerry now serves as director of the Jerry Rushford Center for Research on the Churches of Christ and Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement and is in demand as a teacher and preacher across the country. His last year brought lecturers and attendees from 45 states in America and from 35 nations around the world.
President Andrew K. Benton named Mike Cope, a widely respected national figure in the Churches of Christ, to direct Pepperdine's Bible Lectures program following Rushford's transition at the conclusion of the 2012 lectures. Benton added that Rick Gibson, associate vice president for Public Affairs and chief marketing officer, was appointed to the position of vice president for Public Affairs and Church Relations effective November 1, 2011. Jerry Rushford shared his support of these announcements. "President Benton is to be commended for encouraging these two multi-gifted church leaders to provide leadership and direction in Church Relations and Bible Lectures at Pepperdine. I know the president is elated that they have agreed to serve, and I share his joy."