In Memory of Dr. Felix Gilbert
On Tuesday morning, April 27, our dear friend and colleague, Rev. Dr. Felix Gilbert, passed into the presence of the Lord.
Felix has been a part of the Denver Seminary community for some time completing his Master of Divinity in the Fall of 2008 and his Doctor of Ministry degree in May 2017. He joined the faculty in 2013 and served as assistant professor of Pastoral Leadership and Ministry and director of the Urban Initiative and was the founder of the Black Student Fellowship. He and his wife, Kotane, served as co-pastors of Restoration Christian Fellowship. Felix is survived by Kotane and their three adult children, Veronica, Gerald, and Eddie.
Our hearts are broken as we grieve the loss of our dear brother in Christ.
We are honored to share these tributes to Dr. Gilbert. If you’d like to share a tribute, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Preacher, worship leader, pastor, professor, encourager, mentor, and friend, Dr. Gilbert enriched our lives and changed Denver Seminary in profound and beautiful ways. A courageous and compassionate soul, Felix walked alongside me into difficult, soul-searching, heart-wrenching, badly needed and long overdue conversations about racial reconciliation with leaders in the Black community. He earned respect and engendered trust through patient love, a generous spirit, and persistent hope. His love for Jesus was contagious. We are a better seminary because God graced us with Felix Gilbert. More importantly, we are better people because God used him to change us. Oh, how I loved him.
-Dr. Mark Young
For the past several years I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with Dr. Felix Gilbert through the
Denver Seminary Urban Initiative. Only he was Batman and I was Robin. He was a man of God, visionary leader, power preacher, encouraging teacher, mentor, friend, and a father figure. He always encouraged and supported me as a woman in ministry. We challenged each other to new heights and we always had each other’s back. Our working relationship was sustained by mutual respect and a God-given alignment in mission and vision. When you find someone who you can work so seamlessly with, it just doesn’t get any better than that. I will miss you my friend.
I join the community in mourning this monumental loss but I do not mourn as if there is no hope. Until we meet again my friend, I’ll testify of the battles we’ve won, the seas that we’ve crossed, and the waters God parted. To the family, RCF community, Denver Seminary community, and community at large I pray that God may comfort our hearts as we navigate through this time of shock, disbelief, and sorrow. May He illuminate the pathway for us to discover peace in His steady hands. May God give us strength for the journey ahead.
-Nichelle D. West, MDiv
Urban Initiative Community Liaison
Words fail to express the depth, breadth, and character of Felix Gilbert’s life and ministry. He was not only a tremendous preacher of God’s Word, but a lover of people, a peacemaker, a connector, and an encourager. Denver Seminary is a different and better place because of his presence and service here. I’m as grateful as I am sad.
– Dr. Don Payne
Associate Professor of Theology
I’m sad, very sad, and justifiably so. We have lost a lion of the Faith, Dr. Felix Gilbert, to an untimely death. While Felix is now with our Savior and happily so, his presence with his family, his congregation at Restoration Christian Fellowship, and the faculty at Denver Seminary will be sorely missed. I had the privilege of knowing Felix as a student, a colleague, and a friend over the last 27 years. He was a man of character, vision, and joy who inspired all those he encountered. Moreover, he was a ‘preacher of preachers’ who possessed a unique ability to connect and lead others towards greater spiritual depth. While our hope is in the resurrection and our reunion with those who have gone ahead (I Corinthians 15), I suspect that I will lament the passing of Felix for a considerable length of time. Some people touch our hearts and they are not easily forgotten. One of those for me was Felix Gilbert, a church planter and pastor, a professor, a leader, a musician, a great family man and true lover of Christ.
-Dr. Scott Wenig
Professor of Applied Theology
Haddon Robinson Chair of Biblical Preaching
Though I take no credit for Felix’s skills or character, there is a special pleasure in someone who was once a student becoming a respected colleague and much appreciated friend. One brief story, among others, which says much about Felix: A little over a year ago I was faced with an extremely delicate and potentially very volatile situation. It was clear that I needed wise counsel. I entrusted myself and my situation to one person, Felix. He graciously ministered to me, counseling me with wisdom, integrity, courage, sensitivity, and more. With so many others, I am blessed to have been touched by God’s good gift of Felix Gilbert.
-Dr. Dave Buschart
Chair, Theology Department
Professor of Theology & Historical Studies
I first met Felix when he was a Masters’ student with us, and I followed his career through his doctorate, delighting in getting to know him better and in a new capacity when he joined our faculty. Felix always radiated enthusiasm for whatever he did. Two memories stand out above all others. The first was when he led our worship at a faculty retreat several years ago, standing and playing on an electric keyboard and trying to generate some movement out of a rather tired and unresponsive group of mostly white colleagues. He then told us a story about once having taken a singing group to a Lutheran church in the area, made up largely of older people of Scandinavian descent, and trying everything he knew how to do to get them to get their bodies involved in worship. Feeling like a failure afterwards, he confessed as much to the church leader who had invited him. The leader responded, “we were really getting in to the music, couldn’t you tell?” Astonished, Felix said, “no.” “Didn’t you see us raising our eyebrows up and down?” came the reply!
The second memory was one time when he preached in our seminary chapel dressed in a neatly pressed full black suit, but he became so animated that he started jumping straight up and down, as if he were practicing his vertical leap, trying to make his points with ever more passion. Yet he could also be very quiet and sensitive, and almost every time I saw him, he asked how I was doing in a way that was not at all the typical perfunctory greeting that so many of us offer; he made it clear he was genuinely interested. He had almost died of cancer while he was a student and he did not take his extra lease on life for granted.
Felix, I hope by now you’ve taught my German Lutheran and Swedish Methodist mother and father, respectively, how to do vertical leaps as you play your keyboard to the numberless multitude from every tribe, family, tongue and nation!
-Dr. Craig Blomberg
Distinguished Professor of New Testament
Words fall short for what we felt the moment we learned of your passing. Rest assured; it was one of the saddest in recent memory. Although your time here with us seems far too short, we are eternally grateful that God allowed our paths the cross. We are persuaded that your living, your labor, and your love was not in vain.
-Revs. V. Keith and Iantha Brown
Denver Seminary student and alumna
To My Dear Friend Felix Gilbert Upon Your Death
One day I will be blessed to share these words with you when I join you in death. You are better now than you have ever been, but I am worse off without you.
I remember when I first got to know you. I was on your MDiv orals committee. I had some critiques of what you wrote. You embraced them, appreciated them, and improved. Your humility and passion for learning and growth impressed me. Over time I came to admire those qualities in you.
Then you entered the DMin program. Your growth continued. I was impressed when you wrote, “I must change. I must be an example. I must live the life I preach about if I am going to become the person God created me to become.” That was you as I knew you. You were self-reflective, seeking to grow spiritually as you sought to grow others.
When you began writing your thesis, you asked me to be your first reader to guide you through the process. That was one of the great privileges of my life. I admired your readiness to work hard. You were committed to spiritual growth and worked hard at both learning and doing what you learned. I saw your growth in the development of your thesis as you rewrote and continued to learn.
And your thesis was so consistent with who you are! You wrote: “The problem studied was the effect of training the formal leaders in humility and listening skills to conduct a large group process to solve problems that impede the ministry.” How like you that was: training in humility and listening! You lived what you taught! You inspired me! In your thesis you presented your ten-year vision for Restoration Christian Fellowship. Your goal was “to move it from infancy to maturity.” Your timeline to accomplish this was from 2011 to 2021. You made it! You made it to 2021!
You remain in my heart and I will always miss you. Until we meet again, I am your friend who loves you.
Professor Emeritus of Christian Leadership
Felix Gilbert was a faithful follower of Christ and tireless servant of the church. He was an outstanding communicator of the Gospel. I first met Felix during his student days. His perseverance to complete his education in the midst of many other responsibilities was noteworthy and an example to all. I will remember his warm and inviting spirit and his commitment to bridge building and reconciliation. May the Lord grant comfort to Kotane, his family and church family.
-Dr. Randy MacFarland
Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Care and Leadership
Dr. Felix Gilbert was my pastor, friend, and spiritual father. When I first joined Restoration Christian Fellowship, I sang on the worship team. One day Pastor Felix walked up to me and said “God has a call on your life; do you know that?” ummm (I knew). From that day forward, he became my ‘Master Po’ and I became his ‘grasshopper’ (taken from old Kung Fo movie). He trained me from Big Idea preaching to Inductive Bible Study to leading worship. I am in seminary because according to him, I absolutely had to enroll in seminary and most importantly it HAD to be Denver Seminary.
Hey Pastor, I love you very much and I will see you in the morning. Rest well sir!
Denver Seminary Student
I will so much miss having Felix as a colleague. During one academic year I was in his prayer group which enabled me to get to know more about him, his family, his ministry and his life. He was working on finishing up his DMin thesis at that time, and I remember rejoicing with him when it was completed. I so much appreciated Felix’s gentleness, kindness, and passion for people and God’s work. He was the “real deal” and his loss will be felt by so many.
-Dr. Heather Davediuk Gingrich
Professor of Counseling
Rev. Dr. Felix Gilbert had a love of Jesus that was infectious. He embodied joy – not saccharine sentimentality or the surface appearance of happiness, but the deep joy of a person who had experienced seasons of tremendous suffering and come out the other side with a deeper trust in God and with a profounder knowledge of God’s love. Felix was an encouragement to all around him and to me in particular during my early days of teaching at Denver Seminary. I will always be grateful for the ways in which his commitment to racial justice and to theological education for the whole church have shaped, and will continue to shape, my own vocation as a theological educator. I pray that his family, his colleagues and students, and his congregation will experience the comfort of the Holy Spirit at this difficult time. I trust that the Lord will continue to multiply Felix’s example of love and faith through all those who knew him and loved him.
-Dr. Erin Heim
Former Colleague and Friend
Felix will be greatly missed at Denver Seminary. His wisdom and insight into important matters were always at the forefront. Felix never shied away from addressing difficult topics, and from suggesting healthy and robust solutions. He was a problem solver, a wise counselor, and a wonderful colleague. One day, we will see him again, in glory, in the presence of our Lord. May God comfort and sustain his family, friends, and church—Restoration Christian Fellowship.
-Hélène Dallaire, PhD
Earl S. Kalland Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages
I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Gilbert this past week. I met him when he came and spoke in our “Obstacles and Opportunities in Ministry” class, about his DMin experience. He spoke with such humility, grace and simplicity. Later I read a portion of his doctoral thesis in preparation for one of my papers. I was really encouraged by the words he spoke during the class and by his doctoral thesis. Even though I only met him briefly, I was really inspired with new hope to keep working on this very challenging DMin degree. Truly he will be missed by many!
Pastor Felix was a great man, he made me a better Christian and a better husband. He was truly a servant of the Lord.
Member of RCF Ministry
I am acutely saddened by the untimely passing of my friend, Dr. Felix Gilbert. His cheerful smile testified to his abundant joy in the Lord, and this joy filled whatever conversation he had. He was a visionary who saw the power of the gospel to make a better, more just, community. He chose to see the good in everyone, and to call out injustices that hurt the vulnerable, especially people of color. He worked tirelessly and joyfully to bring the redemptive message of Scripture to his community. He fostered high educational goals in his Lay Ministry program. His godly character and humble spirit demonstrated Christ-likeness to all, and I will deeply miss him.