From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Unburied treasure

Date 5 Jun 2002 14:10:52 -0400

Note #7186 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Unburied treasure

Unburied treasure

Part of writer&#8217;s legacy was &#8216;excerpted&#8217; from a rare Mormon book 

by Alexa Smith

MONTREAT, NC&#8212; Presbyterian writer David Steele may be dead and gone, but his spirit is alive and well at the Montreat Conference Center.

That&#8217;s partly because of the Book of Mormon &#8212; one volume of a collection Steele inherited, a first edition that sold at auction last year for $58,000.

It was passed down from his grandfather, who ran a Presbyterian school in Utah in the early 1900s.

Steele used some of the money &#8212; $10,000 &#8212; to provide scholarships for people from minority groups to the &#8220;Reclaiming the Text&#8221; conference for preachers, held annually at the conference center.

	Because of his largesse, 16 people from racial-ethnic groups were able to attend this year&#8217;s conference, according to Emily Enders-Odom, Montreat&#8217;s vice president for planning and administration.

The money covered registration, housing and meals for the May 27-31 conference, whose theme was &#8220;Recovering the Language of Lament.&#8221;

	&#8220;We&#8217;ve been trying to increase racial-ethnic participation in the life of the conference center,&#8221; said its president, Emile Dieth. &#8220;The (proportion) of racial-ethnic participants is generally equal to that of racial-ethnic people in the church; sometimes it is more. But this one is over 15 percent, because of the money David Steele left to us.

&#8220;David loved this conference. So this is what he did.&#8221;

	Steele told the story of his discovery of the treasure in his March 12, 2001, column in The Presbyterian Outlook. In a characteristically humorous vein, he described how his wife, Joan, acting on a hunch, took the book to an antique dealer for an appraisal.

&#8220;This book we have hauled halfway round the world is a valuable antique,&#8221; he wrote. &#8220;The pearl of great price has been sitting on our shelf, and we have ignored it completely. (Son Andrew claims that he used it for second base in a pickup whiffle-ball game, but he has been known to prevaricate.)

	&#8220;What to do?&#8221; he asked rhetorically.

	What he did, with the blessing of his brother, Jim, was sell it. Then the brothers made five grants of $10,000 in memory of their grandfather, Herbert Ware Reherd, and their father, Robert D. Steele. Besides Montreat, the beneficiaries were Westminster College, Utah Presbytery, Zephyr Point Conference Ground and the Covenant Network. Steele asked each of them to &#8220;spend it for inclusive, joyful, justification-by-grace ministries.&#8221;

&#8220;We both are tickled,&#8221; he wrote in his Tuesday Morning column, &#8220;to realize that this Mormon money is enhancing Presbyterian mission!&#8221;

David Steele, a longtime board member at Montreat, served briefly as its director in 1996 when it was in such dire financial straits that its survival was in doubt.

	Enders-Odom said Steele&#8217;s grant was timely, in light of the conference&#8217;s theme. &#8220;I&#8217;ve never been so delighted to spend money in my life,&#8221; she said. &#8220;We did not want people lamenting the absence of people who are marginalized.&#8221;

She recognized Steele&#8217;s gift during the closing session of the conference, describing him as &#8220;a wonderful human being, a mentor to me, and a dear, dear friend &#8230; the Ogden Nash of the Presbyterian Church.&#8221;

	Steele died last Aug. 28 of complications from cancer. He was 70.
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