Thiel returns to the pulpit

Published 10:59 am Thursday, January 29, 2009

Brian Thiel is answering a call he first heard at age 16.

It has been 40 years since he last stood at the pulpit, but the Austin resident and former House of Representatives candidate is returning to his initial career as a church pastor.

“I just felt at this stage in my life … I felt open to it, and I said ‘yes,’” he said.

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Thiel has accepted a part-time position as resident pastor at Grace Christian Church in LeRoy.

Retired after 25 years in information systems, Thiel serves as a sports official and runs a part-time Web service business. He has been active in Austin Church of Christ — a sister congregation to Grace — as an elder and in many other capacities.

Last year, Thiel, 69, ran as the Republican-endorsed candidate for District 27B, but was defeated by incumbent Jeanne Poppe.

“I will never return to politics,” he said.

Grace Christian Church, a Church of Christ congregation founded in 2006 in the building of the now-disbanded First Baptist Church, is affiliated with Crossroads College in Rochester.

Thiel explained that Church of Christ is a nondenominational, “Bible-centered” church. They have no church headquarters or president, and congregations are considered autonomous.

“We’re not a separatist movement or anything of the sort,” Thiel said.

Grace is one of five active churches in LeRoy, he said, and has a small congregation which he hopes to grow.

Thiel, who prefers to be called “Brian” rather than “Pastor,” said his focus as a minister is to “try and understand what was said in its (the Bible) original context … and then translate the core principals beginning there to a modern text.

“That’s a dimension that’s, sadly, not very well developed in this day,” he said. “You have to adapt and stay current and respect the wisdom of the ages.”

The Kimball, Minn. native holds a master’s degree in religious education from Emmanuel School of Religion in Johnson City, Tenn., and did post-graduate work at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz. He also has a bachelor of theology degree from Minnesota Bible College (now Crossroads College).

Hi ministry experience includes a two-year position at a country church in Sugar Grove, Wis. and positions in Blountville, Tenn. and Phoenix, Ariz.

Grace officially named Thiel its permanent pastor Jan. 18. He and his wife, Sharon, plan to move to LeRoy in the near future.

“Sharon’s a very supportive kind of person,” Thiel said. “We share that passion.

“It’s exciting in the sense that my day to day involvement will be more extensive than it has been,” he added.

Thiel succeeds Dick Burlingame, who resigned last year.

Grace Christian Church is located at 115 E. Frederick St., LeRoy. For more information, visit