Home > History > whatever happened to C. Sumner Wemp?

whatever happened to C. Sumner Wemp?

Sumner Wemp was Vice President for Spiritual Development at Liberty in the late Eighties; I didn’t realize this at the time, but he had not only been involved in the ministry since almost the beginning, but he left in the late Eighties, about the time I left.

Here’s Wemp’s own timeline; he doesn’t break down his history neatly, but he was at Southeastern Bible College for just a couple of years (1969-1971) and he was at Liberty for 17 years, so he must have left Liberty in 1988 or 1989. Not only does he have a website with sermons available for download,  there’s also a blog, which appears to be a fan site, since the authorial voice refers to Wemp in the third person.

We’re sorry to hear that his wife of sixty-plus years, Celeste, died earlier this month.

Wemp was something of a puzzle for me during my days at Liberty. He was clearly very important to the ministry, having been there since Liberty started, and he was the walking example of the preferred way for Liberty students and graduates to do evangelism. He was also full of war stories of how he met a stranger on a plane and before they landed in Charlotte or wherever the person was praying the Sinner’s Prayer. Unfortunately during my time there I heard several stories about him having run-ins with students, in which he came across as brittle, angry, authoritarian, and generally unpleasant. He didn’t appreciate students asking questions in his class; he had a reputation for dressing people down in public for relatively minor infractions.

I never encountered his wrath personally; I once made the mistake of bumping a loose railing during a chapel service where Wemp was speaking, causing the railing support to fall into its socket and make a loud noise; Wemp gave a look in my general direction that suggested that whoever the culprit was he’d interrupted God himself. To be fair it was a loud noise, and I may have caught him on a bad day. Regardless, it left me with the impression that at least at that moment his sunny persona was a patina of joy over some sort of deep smoldering anger. I don’t know what he was going through at the time, and he was in the waning days of his time at Liberty by then.

Most everyone at Liberty of a certain vintage had nothing but good things to say about Sumner Wemp; I have a hard time squaring what I heard second-hand with what I saw first-hand.

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  1. January 27, 2012 at 4:50 pm | #1

    Sumner Wemp is one of the most influential people in my Christian life. As a new Christian, I had him for Practical Christian Work at Moody in 1966-67 (I was saved in 1965). He would have been about 45 at the time (I think he was born in 1922).

    I am very surprised to hear that some people felt him to be angry, authoritarian or unpleasant.

    His passionate love for the Lord and his fervent zeal for winning the lost made a lasting impression on me. I always knew him to have a really sweet spirit. All of my classmate friends had the same impression of him. Unfortunately his influence didn’t rub off on many of them as much as it did on me.

    I lost touch with him around 1969, but I always knew where he was through mutual acquaintances.

    A few years ago I Googled him and found his web site. I had the chance to visit with him and Celeste several times in their home on trips I made to Dallas. I never found him to be angry or unpleasant in any of my latter contacts with him either.

    I thank God for touching my life through Sumner Wemp. I don’t think my ministry would have been nearly as fruitful as it was without the influence Sumner Wemp had on my life.

  2. Charis Williams
    February 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm | #2

    As a student of Liberty in the early to mid 80′s, I remember two of his famous quotes……”Welllllll Glory”! and “Don’t do it young people! Don’t do it!”

  3. M.A.
    June 4, 2012 at 7:28 am | #3

    And don’t forget “Don’t let Ichabod be written above your doorpost!”

  4. Rose
    October 21, 2012 at 6:30 pm | #4

    I was at Moody Bible Institute 1967-1970. C Sumner was there at that time (maybe left 6-70?). We were required to take his Personal Evangelism class as freshmen. Other teachers expressed thinly veiled contempt–Dickason, Feinberg. Feinberg, a DTS PhD said one might as well just put a blower on top of the school and blow tracts all over Chicago. Wemp was 99% tract distribution. Later, on a summer misdion trip to Spain as a student I met his daughter, also on the summer trip, at Liberty. She was genial, gracious, pleasant but a sterotypical Southern teen, beehive & makeup etc. As I recall he also had a child suffering myasthenia gravis.
    In retrospect, I’m surprised the Moody of William Culbertson’s day (Pres), which differs 100% from today, tolerated Mr Wemp for a calendar year. Bob, I entered Moody in 1967; had you graduated then? Wemp was truly not respected by my teachers, but they focused different points of view on evangelism with mild asides.

  5. December 30, 2012 at 8:41 pm | #5

    Dr. Wemp passed away on Dec. 25, 2012 in Dallas.

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