Oral Roberts’ Tribute to Howard Ervin

Its been 15 years since I published my theological biography of Howard M. Ervin called Pilgrimage into Pentecost. But this weekend I was looking back through some of my archival documents on Ervin and came across a tribute Oral Roberts wrote about Ervin for his funeral in 2009.

Howard Ervin’s relationship with Oral Roberts stretched back 40 years to 1964 when Roberts heard Ervin’s testimony of being filled with the Spirit as an American Baptist at the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Meetings in Los Angeles. Roberts was actively seeking Spirit-filled scholars to work at the new Oral Roberts University that was set to open the following year.

With a Th.D. from Princeton and an unashamed testimony of the Spirit-filled life, Roberts knew Ervin was exactly what the new university needed. At Ervin’s retirement party in 2006 (at the age of 91!), Roberts commented, “God knew I had to have Howard Ervin.”

Ervin eventually joined the faculty in 1966 and became an essential pillar of the founding faculty. In 1968, Ervin published his scholarly defense of classical Pentecostal view of the Spirit-baptism in his book These are Not Drunken as Ye Suppose. He taught Old Testament and served in leadership as Interim Dean of the Seminary in 1968-1969 and Chair of the Undergrad Theology Department that he was largely responsible for creating.

Roberts and Ervin were not just partners in higher education, they were close friends who ministered together on many occasions. Both believed deeply in the importance of the Baptism in the Spirit and they shared the pulpit many times with people who attended the many partners seminars and Holy Spirit seminars in the 1960s and 1970s.

Howard Ervin Speaking at Oral Roberts Partners Seminar in 1965.

This statement was read during his funeral and captures just a glimpse of the deep love and appreciation Roberts had for Ervin.

“If I have ever loved anybody in my employ, it is Dr. Howard Ervin.

I met Howard in Los Angeles. He had just preached and ministered to the people and I loved it. I saw he was a man who knew Jesus in both His saving and His healing power. After the service we met and talked for two hours about Jesus being the same yesterday and tomorrow. After our visit, Howard flew back to his home in New Jersey.

Not long after, I conducted a crusade in a city near his home. When I learned he had been attending the crusade, I immediately called upon him and offered him a position at Oral Roberts University. I had been trying to hire Ph.D.’s that were spirit filled to be professors at the new Oral Roberts University and Howard had every grace and gift of God that I desired.

Howard served at Oral Roberts University over 40 years and was a terrific leader. I will miss our close relationship and I know that he will be greatly missed by the faculty and students at ORU.”

Oral Roberts

It has been nearly two decades since Ervin was at ORU. Coming across this tribute reminded me of the incredible legacy that ORU theology professors, like Dr. Ervin, have left at ORU. It is this legacy that I hope to capture in an article about the theological heritage of ORU’s early faculty for a special issue of Spiritus this fall.

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