Earlier today, Chuck Smith passed away at 86 after a long battle with cancer. He
was 86 was 86'ed.
His spot in the history of American Christianity as one of its titans is secure. It was Smith who founded the Jesus People movement with his Calvary Chapel, who revolutionized evangelism with Calvary Chapel's decentralized approach, ensuring that the movement would never fall to the traps of nepotism, bureaucracy, or apathy that has plagued denominational churches in the United States for decades. His embrace of Christian rock essentially founded the movement, as did his sponsorship of mega-events like Harvest Crusade, started by his disciple, Greg Laurie. And the Calvary Chapel empire, from the radio stations to the podcasts to the everything, will stand for decades.
On the other hand, Smith was an ass of a man.
The whole reason Calvary Chapel came into existence, of course, was due to the original Jesus Freak: Lonnie Frisbee, the man who saved Smith from a lifetime of obscurity. Frisbee's homosexuality would lead Smith to exile him from Calvary Chapel and effectively erase him from church histories for decades. His church's antagonizing of OC's LGBT community was infamous, and came to a hilarious climax when hundreds of his congregants blasted SanTana Unified for extending same-sex benefits to its workers back in 2004. More than a few child abusers went through the Calvary Chapel ranks, leading to allegations of coverups that are winding their way through the court system, and verified hush-hush settlements. And Smith called his church's mothership Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa even though the entirety of its operations are in SanTana. LAME…
Kind words, of course, are coming from across Christianity, so Smith's legacy is secure. His afterlife? Only God knows…