Walter Dingfield and his wife Gladis arrived in Dallas in 1950 with their four children (ranging in age from six years to just three months). While earning his BA degree from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, he was heavily influenced by pastors from Dallas Theological Seminary so he knew where he wanted to attend once he decided to become a pastor himself.
In those days classes were not held on Mondays, so Walter worked in a print shop near downtown Dallas all day Monday and after classes the rest of the week. He completed his studies at DTS in 1954 with Th.M. in English Bible, just one of the sixty men in his graduating class.
Walter and his family moved back north after seminary and he began his pastoral career as an interim pastor in Tacoma. In March of 1955 he accepted the call to pastor Startup Baptist Church—“Yes, really!” he says—in Startup, Washington.
In 1958 the Dingfields moved to Los Angeles so Walter could work with DTS grad J. Vernon McGee at the Church of the Open Door. Dr. McGee believed that all 3,600 members of the church should be visited personally by pastoral staff and Walter was the pastor of visitation. He was well suited for the role, however, as he loved ministering to people one-on-one.
Walter was comfortable in larger settings as well. Dr. McGee told him that a Dallas graduate needed to be teaching the Word and assigned him to a Sunday School class of 175. With Walter’s teaching it soon grew to over 300.
In 1962 the Lord led Walter from sunny California back to the snow belt as he took over a conservative Baptist church in Fargo, ND. He pastored a couple of churches in the Midwest before returning to California in 1980 to First Baptist Church in Lodi, a small town south of Sacramento, where he remained for the next five years. From 1986 through 1999 Walter served as pastor of Village Baptist Church in Beaverton, Oregon. He still holds the title of pastor emeritus.
The Dingfields lost their youngest daughter in 1969 at the age of 19, and in 2003 Walter’s beloved Gladis went to be with the Lord as well, after 61 years together. In spite of difficult circumstances Walter says the Lord has been good to him. At 86 Walter praises God that all his children and their spouses love the Lord, and his six grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren are all being taught the Word (often by Walter himself).
He says his preparation at DTS enabled him to fulfill the two main functions of a pastor, feeding and tending the flock: a pastor feeds his people from the pulpit but must also tend his congregation. He is grateful for men like Howard Hendricks who taught him not only Bible study methods but also how to love people.
Walter currently lives in a retirement home in Beaverton and still serves the Lord with his pastor’s heart. In fact, as he graciously gave this interview he was reading the book of Philippians in preparation to teach a Bible study class. Walter Dingfield is just one example of a faithful pastor of the flock, living a life of service.
The mission of Dallas Theological Seminary is to
glorify God by equipping godly servant-leaders
for the proclamation of His Word and the
building up of the body of Christ worldwide.