John Shearer: The Ministerial Career Of Dr. Steven Sallee

Monday, May 6, 2013 - by John Shearer

Former Chattanoogan Dr. G. Steven Sallee’s ministerial career included leading the 13th largest United Methodist Church in the United States in terms of attendance.

But Sunday afternoon, it was not his grand accomplishments, but all the little people he touched positively, that were highlighted the most.

“He embraced everyone with the love of Jesus Christ,” said former Holston Conference bishop Ray Chamberlain during a more-than-90-minute funeral at Knoxville’s Cokesbury United Methodist Church, where Dr. Sallee had served as senior minister from 1996.

“He stood with the underdog, the misunderstood, and the mistreated. He was not judgmental and he was forgiving.”

Added the Rev. Stephen DeFur, his longtime associate and a graduate of Hixson High School, “He would bend over backwards to help if he could meet the needs of someone in trouble. There are countless people in Knoxville who are the direct beneficiaries of Steve’s generosity.”

Dr. Sallee, a Chattanooga “City” High School and UTC graduate and the pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in East Brainerd from 1982-96, died Thursday from complications related to heart disease and pneumonia. He was 61.

He had also served at Tyner United Methodist and First-Centenary United Methodist earlier in his career.

Hundreds packed the West Knoxville church’s main sanctuary as well as its more informal worship center across Kingston Pike to pay respects to the man who was known for having the golden touch when it came to growing churches at a time when many mainline denominations are facing declining numbers.

He did it through such innovative ideas as contemporary worship, excellent and diverse music offerings, and ministries to recovering drug and alcohol addicts.

“He will be remembered as an innovator who wasn’t afraid to step outside the box and try new things,” said Mr. DeFur. “Steve was an incredibly gifted man who wasn’t afraid to use to the maximum impact the gifts he had.”

But despite all the different ideas he and his staff developed at the 4,500-member Cokesbury church and previously at Christ UMC in Chattanooga, the thoughts were all grounded in the basic premise of showing Christian love.

“He spoke the words, ‘I love you,” as often as he could,” said Mr. DeFur, adding that he also learned from Dr. Sallee such lessons as to always be an optimist, practice generosity constantly, and stay on mission.

Added the Rev. Nathan Malone, the Knoxville District superintendent and the pastor at Burks United Methodist Church in Hixson until 2012, “He led people into loving other people and he led people into a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

The somber-but-upbeat funeral also included light-hearted but heart-felt comments from fellow staff members the Revs. Rebekah Fetzer and Kenny Faught, as well as comments from Dr. Sallee’s wife, Lynda, that were read by Ms. Fetzer.

Mr. Faught jokingly mentioned that Dr. Sallee taught him not to do anything to embarrass God, the Cokesbury church or himself – and he would often say that right before Mr. Faught was getting ready to preach.

Dr. Sallee was also described as having a deep love and appreciation for church music. As a result, the eulogies were interspersed with such diverse melodic presentations as a piano prelude by Danny Brian, some numbers led by Michael Rodgers, a contemporary version of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” by Kaley Farmer and Sara Clapp Gilpin, and “I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy” by Doug Richesin.

The attendees also sang “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and “Hymn of Promise,” while the church’s chancel choir sang “Amazing Grace” while accompanied by a bagpiper.

Humorous and sentimental videos and slides were also shown, with the Louis Armstrong song, “What a Wonderful World,” accompanying one.

Also, Dr. Sallee’s liturgical robe and a Duke basketball T-shirt representing his favorite college basketball team draped the altar.

Jcshearer2@comcast.net

 


Scenic City Women’s Network Prayer Walk/Vigil For Chattanooga Will Be Aug. 6

Scenic City Women’s Network will hold a Prayer Walk / Vigil for the city of Chattanooga and the families of the fallen servicemen in the recent Chattanooga shootings.  The event will be held at two locations on August 6, at 6 p.m.  Locations include the River Park off Amnicola Highway at the concession area and Grace Works Church, 6445 Lee Hwy. "Everyone is invited ... (click for more)

Bob Tamasy: Life Through The Lens Of A Camera

“Life is like a camera: Just focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives,  and if things don’t work out, just take another shot.”   Reading this post on Facebook, I resonated with it because that’s been my experience, both behind the camera and in life.  It’s no secret I love to write. (Actually, like many professional writers, ... (click for more)

$40 Million Traffic Improvement Set To Connect Hamilton Place More Directly With I-75 And Ease Congestion On Shallowford Road

The city, state and CBL & Associates are cooperating on a $40 million plan to make the Hamilton Place section more accessible to Interstate 75. The upcoming project will provide a direct connection for southbound I-75 traffic with Hamilton Place Boulevard. The project will also provide a new connection for those on Hamilton Place Boulevard to enter I-75 northbound. ... (click for more)

Owners Of Trucking Firm Involved In Tragic Wreck At Ooltewah Exit Ask That Cases Be Moved To Federal Court

The owners of a Kentucky trucking firm involved in a wreck in which six people were killed at the Ooltewah exit of I-75 on June 25 are asking that lawsuits in the matter be handled in Federal Court. Cool Runnings Express owners Billy and Cretty Sizemore are asking that the initial suit brought by Ryan Humphries of Cleveland, Tn., be moved from Hamilton County Circuit Court. ... (click for more)

How To Be #ChattanoogaStrong

Chattanooga is my home; I was born here 35 years ago. Without a doubt, this has been one of the most challenging times in our city's history. The #ChattanoogaStrong hashtag will remain for quite some time, but it means so much more than 18 characters on social media. It represents the sorrow and mourning, as well as the resilience and compassion, of our exceptional community.  ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Hero Is Coming Home

In late September, a very special funeral will be held in Bearden, Tenn., when 1 st Lt. Alexander “Sandy” Bonnyman Jr., will finally come home to lie in peace with his family. Sandy’s been dead for 72 years now, ever since he was killed in combat on the Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands on Nov. 22, 1943. He and a number of other Marine heroes were buried back then in a shallow ... (click for more)