Memorial Service - Rev. Dr. Spencer T. Sutherland


Rev. Dr. Spencer T. Sutherland, the founder and president of the Vietnamese Theological College went to be with the Lord on August 18, 2015. 

Dr. Sutherland was born on November 24, 1930 in New York to Rev. Frank and Gertrude Sutherland.  When Spencer was a toddler, his family relocated to Southern California where he attended Coulter Academy before moving to Santa Cruz, CA for high school and college at San Jose State University.  There he met Barbara June Baker, a lovely contralto from Turlock, CA.  This duo sang their way through life starting at Simpson College, Fuller Seminary, a start-up church in Vallejo (where firstborn, Betsy came along), and then to Vietnam in 1957 as missionaries with the Christian & Missionary Alliance.  In Vietnam, Ron, Jill and Spencer (Bud) were born. 

After two years of language study, Spencer and family started in youth work in Saigon, but later he spent his Vietnam years teaching at the Bible Institute in Nha Trang, where he inspired so many men and women to follow the Lord in ministry. 

The family returned to the US in 1973 and, following his doctoral studies at the American Baptist Seminary of the West, he joined the new Alliance College of Theology in Canberra, Australia.   In Australia he also preached and taught at the Chinese Methodist Church which later became Evangelical Chinese Church in Melbourne where many refugees from Vietnam were worshipping. 

After a decade in Australia, he returned to Southern California to work with the Intercultural ministries of the Christian & Missionary Alliance for refugees from Southeast Asia where he devoted himself to the training of pastors and lay leaders. 

In 1986 he and several Vietnamese ministers from different denominations founded the Vietnamese Theological College, now Union University of California.  He served as the president and chairman of the board until 1990.   Later he served with the Vietnamese District of the C&MA where he taught theological education by extension (TEE), which he had done extensively while in Australia. Later he and the Vietnamese District of the C&MA founded the Vietnamese Alliance Divinity School where he taught until retirement.  During this time he also involved as a vice-president for Grace Mission University, a Korean-initiated seminary in Fullerton, California. 

Spencer tenderly cared for Barbara as she battled Parkinson’s disease, passing away on December 20, 2010.  He then married Olga Scolari in November 2011. 

He passed into the presence of Christ on August 18, 2015, surrounded by family and friends.  He is remembered as a man-after-God’s heart, a tender husband, loving father, doting grandfather, humble teacher and mentor.  His legacy lives on in the lives of his loving family and thousands of his former students and colleagues around the world.

Union University of California will hold a memorial service to honor his life and service on Saturday, October 3, 2015 at 3:00 pm at 14200 Goldenwest Street, Westminster, CA 92683.