After the gay nightclub shootings in Orlando last June, the senior pastor of a conservative evangelical church in New Hope recalls standing before his congregation and “making a comment that we, as a church family, are grieving.”
Afterward, said the Rev. Matthew St. John, his predecessor, the Rev. Stephen Goold, “came up to me as a friend, very quietly,” and made a special point of praising him for saying that.
As the pastor of a leading megachurch with thousands of members, Goold had been a prominent voice in Minnesota political disputes, opposing abortion rights and gay marriage. “Yet this man of strong convictions also had a genuine love and concern for all people,” St. John said. “He loved all people as God loves all people.”
Goold, 68, who died on Sept. 13, became a national figure in his denomination as longtime leader of the 3,000-strong Crystal Evangelical Free Church, now New Hope Church, which has a staff of 100 today.
“It was a flagship church in our denomination when he got here and he only built it further,” St. John said. “He was the real deal.”
As the aging suburb’s demographics changed, he said, Goold reached out to newcomers. “That will be a legacy of his. ‘People of many tribes and tongues’ became, really, our great aspiration here, though we have a long way to go,” St. John said.
At a memorial service for Goold at the church this week, the Rev. Tom Allen spoke of a man who began turning up at his church in Des Moines in 1973 as a youthful but already impressive insurance industry executive.
Goold and his wife, Pam, were “very successful people who were suddenly hungering for something,” Allen said. “Pretty soon you couldn’t get Steve out of the Bible. It was consuming his life.”
His church life went from success to success as his business career had, Allen said. “Everything he touched, worked,” Allen said.
After seminary training in California, Goold became pastor of a church in Burbank in 1978, then took over the New Hope church in 1990.
During his 24 years at the helm, before retiring in 2014, Goold was a leading figure in the state’s ministry in many domains, from a prominent role in the Billy Graham crusade at the Metrodome in 1996 to a place alongside then Roman Catholic archbishop Harry Flynn at an anti-abortion prayer service in 2002.
While that role is remembered today with memorials directed in part to the Family Research Council, a conservative lobbying group, his memorial service recalled his roles as pastor and family man.
“The voice others heard, boldly proclaimed the truth,” said daughter Lori Shedd. “The voice I knew told me day after day, month after month, year after year, ‘Your Dad loves you so very much.’ He told me I was beautiful. He cheered me on. He pointed me toward Jesus.”
Son Steve, known at home as “Steve 2,” recalled his father’s embarrassing cheers — “Way to go, Steve boy!” — interrupting the silence after his concert performances, before the crowd’s applause.
“Nobody else’s Dad did that,” he said. “He never stopped cheering for me.”
Goold is survived by his wife of 46 years, Pam; daughter Lori; son Steve; several grandchildren, and siblings Jo Harris, Linda Hulett, Bill Goold and Alice Sorrell. Services have been held.