Douglas Reed Oldham, nationally known gospel singer, died earlier this week. It came as a shock to those of us at Warner Memorial Camp Meeting. I had requested prayer for Doug upon arriving at camp (thanks to Dave Coolidge). For many of us, it was the passing of one more popular icon in the Christian Church, one that we loved.
Doug grew up in the home of a Church of God (Anderson) pastor-radio evangelist, the son of the greatly loved voice of the Christian Brotherhood Hour of Anderson, Indiana. When I arrived in Anderson in 1945, Doug was a newly transplanted Buckeye from Salem church in Dayton where his father had a very successful ministry that led to national prominence as pastor of the Park Place Church in Anderson.
It was widely rumored that Doug struggled with never being able to measure up to his father’s stature, and truthfully, some of his peers were not all that impressed with the mature fifteen-year-old “local kid” who covered the girl beat on campus at AC. I was eighteen at the time, enamored with his father, simply aware of the “youngster.”
In time, Doug found his niche in music. It took him a few years to find his way in his spiritual journey, but he became a minister of music and eventually won the heart of the church as part of the popular CBH Quartet, (Christian Brotherhood Hour). He became a fixture with Ron Patty and Ernie Gross, and a coterie of others completing the quartet at various stages.
Bill Gaither played a huge role in Doug’s life as well. Some of Bill’s songs (sometimes inspired by Dale Oldham) not only revealed places in Doug’s spiritual journey but they became part of his ministry to multitudes of people who loved to hear Doug sing and who followed him for the remainder of his days in a ministry to a denominationally-diverse audience. People listened to him sing “He Touched Me” and they knew God still transforms lives today.
I was a little intrigued at reading of his burial from Lynchburg, VA by the younger Falwell, but Doug sang for Jerry Falwell’s revival ministry for many years--a ministry greatly admired by Doug's dad. I also see some Church of Godders reacting ever so slightly, reminding us all that Doug was, after all, really Church of God.
Yes he was! Doug was not Baptist, and I doubt seriously that he gave serious allegiance to some of the Calvinistic tenets of Falwell, or even some of his politics. The truth is, Doug was a “Christian.” His allegiance was to Jesus Christ. Sometimes we Choggers find ourselves in an interesting position.
People love our inclusive message relative to the church; they do not always understand our lack of allegiance to church membership and other denominational peculiarities. We lay no claim to being THE church and we only recognize ONE church--the church of which a relationship with Jesus makes you a member. We don’t separate ourselves from Pentecostals, or Calvinists, or Wesleyans; we fellowship “every blood-washed one” be they Orthodox, Catholic, Reformed, or Wesleyan, or ...
So, as they lay Doug to rest in Lynchburg on Monday, may the amazing grace of our Lord Jesus, that he experienced and sang about for all these years, continue to play a medley in the hearts of Christians everywhere (I could mention a few of my favorites, but you have your own).
Doug’s ministry became a living tribute to the powerful gospel message that his father proclaimed internationally for many decades. To get a panoramic view of that church that Jesus is building, take a close look into the lives of the Gaither series of Family Reunions. Interestingly enough, you will discover Christians of very many denominational stripes--both Reformed and Wesleyan denominations--Catholic and Protestant--singing a common gospel in songs that touch the masses.
That was what Jesus did best of all. That was what Doug Oldham did at his best … we’ll miss you, Doug, but we thank you for your reminders to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ …
From Warner’s World, this is