Ed Dobson

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Edward G. Dobson (December 30, 1949 – December 26, 2015) was a Northern Irish-American pastor, at one time an executive for the Moral Majority. After becoming disillusioned with the Christian Right, he became the pastor of a megachurch in Grand Rapids, Michigan[1] and a nationally known author and speaker, especially after being diagnosed with ALS in 2000.[2]


In 1964, Dobson moved to the United States from Northern Ireland. He earned a BA (1970) and an MA (1972) from Bob Jones University and an EdD (1986) in higher education from the University of Virginia.[3] At 23, Dobson became Dean of Men at Liberty University, "but before long he was also teaching New Testament survey, coaching the soccer team, and taking on more administrative duties. In time, Dobson was named vice president for student life as well as associate pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church." When the Moral Majority was organized in June 1979, Jerry Falwell named Dobson to the board.[4] Three years later, the premiere issue of Fundamentalist Journal listed him as one of two senior editors; he became editor-in-chief two and a half years later and served as a voice of the Moral Majority.[5] Dobson and another Liberty faculty member, Ed Hindson, effectively ghost-wrote Falwell's The Fundamentalist Phenomenon (1981).[6]

By the late 1980s, Dobson had drifted away from fundamentalism toward mainstream evangelicalism and decided that the rationale behind the Moral Majority had been wrongheaded and that to a significant degree cultural problems could not be remedied through the political process.[7] In 1987, Dobson left Liberty (just as Falwell became responsible for the empire of failed televangelist Jim Bakker), and Dobson took the pastorate of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he remained for eighteen years (1987–2005).[8] In 1993, Moody Bible Institute named him "Pastor of the Year," and Dobson served as an advisory editor for Christianity Today.[5] While senior pastor of Calvary Church, Dobson mentored a number of young men who had recently entered the ministry or were considering doing so, including Rob Bell, Michael Hidalgo, Jim Samra, Brett Werner, and Marvin Williams. After Dobson's retirement, he mentored others in Grand Rapids.

After Dobson was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease) in 2000,[9] he wrote Prayers and Promises when Facing a Life-Threatening Illness.[10] A short, but widely viewed, video was made of his struggle in illness.[11] In Spring 2008, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary dedicated a "Dobson Study Center" in its classroom building to honor Dobson's long pastorate and television ministry in Grand Rapids.[12]

In January 2009, Dobson was interviewed on Good Morning America because he had attempted to live a year as Jesus had, observing Sabbath and Jewish holidays and festivals. Dobson said that he had voted for Barack Obama on the grounds that Obama "was closer to Jesus's teachings."[13] Some religious conservatives criticized Dobson for occasionally drinking beer while testifying about his Christian faith.[14]

Dobson's son, Kent, became pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church (formerly pastored by Rob Bell, whom Ed Dobson had mentored) but resigned in November 2015, telling the congregation that he was "not drawn to the orthodox or the mainstream or the status quo."[15][16][17] In May 2013, Dobson's son Daniel, a U.S. Army veteran of Iraq war, came out publicly as a gay Christian.[18]

Ed Dobson died on December 26, 2015, aged 65.[14]


  • Abraham: The Lord will Provide (1993)
  • Blinded by Might (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999) with Cal Thomas
  • Daniel: Making the Right Choices (1994)
  • King James Bible Commentary (1999)
  • The Knowing Jesus Study Bible, NIV (2000) with Ed Hindson[19]
  • Mastering Conflict and Controversy (1992)
  • Prayers and Promises When Facing a Life-Threatening Illness (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007)
  • Starting a Seeker-Sensitive Service (1993)
  • What the Bible Really Says about Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage (1986)
  • The Fundamentalist Phenomenon (1st edition 1980, 2nd edition 1986) with Ed Hindson and Jerry Falwell
  • The End: Why Jesus Could Return by A.D. 2000 (1997)
  • The Year Of Living Like Jesus (2009)
  • Seeing through the Fog: Hope When Your World Falls Apart (2012)
  • Ed's Story (2001 - 2015)[11]


  1. ^ "God In America: Interviews: Ed Dobson - PBS". God in America. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  2. ^ "Facing death, a top pastor rethinks what it means to be Christian". Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  3. ^ Marquis Who's Who, 2008.
  4. ^ Dean Merrill, "The Education of Ed Dobson," Christianity Today, August 11, 1997.
  5. ^ a b https://web.archive.org/web/20080618223609/http://www.zondervan.com/Cultures/en-US/Authors/Author.htm?ContributorID=DobsonE&QueryStringSite=Zondervan. Archived from the original on June 18, 2008. Retrieved June 30, 2008. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999). Dobson said that they produced "the material so he could edit it....we were putting Jerry's political agenda in writing."
  7. ^ Blinded by Might, 15.
  8. ^ Liberty University website. During Dobson's pastorate, Calvary planted Mars Hill Bible Church, led by Rob Bell. Christianity Today website.
  9. ^ "Leave Room For God - Leadership Journal - ChristianityTodayLibrary.com". Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  10. ^ Edward G. Dobson, Prayers and Promises when Facing a Life-Threatening Illness (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 13.
  11. ^ a b "Ed's Story". Ed's Story. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  12. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20080515073606/http://grts.cornerstone.edu/prospects/admission/campus. Archived from the original on May 15, 2008. Retrieved July 1, 2008. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ "Critics: Man 'living like Jesus' should not have voted for Obama". The Christian Century. 2009-02-10. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  14. ^ a b "Ed Dobson, retired pastor and onetime Moral Majority leader, dies at 65". Religion News Service. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  15. ^ Heidi Fenton, Religion News Service. "Mars Hill Bible Church Names Rob Bell's Successor: Kent Dobson". ChristianityToday.com. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  16. ^ "Profile: Mars Hill Bible Church pastor Rob Bell". MLive.com. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  17. ^ "W. SCOTT LAMB: Megachurch pastor decides being a pastor 'is not really who I am' - Washington Times". The Washingtion Times. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  18. ^ Honey, Charley (May 29, 2013). "Daniel Dobson, son of prominent West Michigan minister, talks about being a gay Christian". Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  19. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20080512054122/http://www.faithfulreader.com/features/gold_medallion_awards.asp. Archived from the original on May 12, 2008. Retrieved July 1, 2008. Missing or empty |title= (help)