(Article courtesy of Dr. Kristina Campos Davis, Director of Communications, Hardin-Simmons University.)
Dr. Phil Christopher, pastor of Abilene’s First Baptist Church, was honored with an honorary doctorate degree May 12 during graduation ceremonies at Hardin-Simmons University. Christopher was cited for his influence in the lives of thousands of people during his 40 years of ministry.
Christopher has been senior pastor at First Baptist Church since 1995. Since 2000,
he also has served as adjunct professor at HSU, teaching Ethical Decision Making for Leaders in the Doctorate of Leadership program, along with several courses at Logsdon Seminary. His wife, Dr. Mary Christopher, is a professor of educational studies in the Irvin School of Education at Hardin-Simmons. Her responsibilities include director of the Doctorate in Leadership program and program director of the Master of Education in Gifted Education.
The awarding of the honorary doctorate to Phil Christopher came during commencement exercises as more than 200 graduates received their diplomas for bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.
Dr. Bob Ellis, Dean of HSU’s Logsdon Seminary, characterized Christopher as
possessing spiritual creativity, saying “he is able to get to this place of listening for the leading of the Spirit along with a wonderful openness to doing things creatively. Rather than rushing off to do everything in a conventional way, he’s open to fresh approaches to worship and serving Christ in and through the church.”
Christopher grew up in San Antonio, earning his high school diploma from Texas
Military Institute, a private institution now known as TMI Episcopal. In 1972, Christopher earned a bachelor of arts degree in sociology at Baylor University, followed by a master of divinity degree in 1975 from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1986, he earned the doctor of ministry degree from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
In 2014, United Way of Abilene recognized Christopher as Volunteer of the Year. His community involvement also includes serving as vice chair of the Abilene Association of Congregations and sitting on the board of Noah Project, a shelter for victims of domestic violence. He previously chaired the board of Abilene’s Eunice Chambless Hospitality House, sat on the board of trustees for Hendrick Medical Center and chaired the Baptist General Convention of Texas Ministerial Ethics Committee.
Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, said, “Phil is
a leader of both strength and gentle heart. He has been a colleague who brings out the best in his co-workers by encouraging new depths of faith and commitment to Christ. Phil has been the steward of God’s love as he has accompanied church members across the many seasons of life, celebrating, grieving, and praying for well being and peace.”
In January 2018, Phil and Mary Christopher celebrated 42 years of marriage. They have two adult children. A son, Jeremy and his wife, Caroline, live in Nashville. A daughter, Natalie and her husband Andrew Abrameit, live in Victoria. They have one child, Mary Catherine, 1 year old.