The first time I really met Frank Houtz was about 25 years ago at a Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) gathering on his property. I was a 5-year-old Christian just beginning to become aware of the Hebraic nature of the faith. This was my first experience with a “Feast.” I showed up after dinner, in time for the fireside discussion, a Sukkot tradition our congregation still looks forward to each year. At some point during the discussion, I was asked for my opinion on something related to the Jewish people and I began to answer as I understood at the time. My answer revealed how new and untrained I was as I shared how the Jews were all cut off from God, that they had been replaced, and that God was all but done with the Jewish people.
Despite my answer being entirely outside the realm of Scriptural truth, Frank never said a corrective word to me. Instead, he listened, he smiled, he nodded, and he let me say what was on my heart without interference. That night was about 25 years ago and yet it still, to this day, stands out as a reminder to be patient with those who might not be as far along in their understanding as others.
Frank Houtz was first a student of the Word, but then a bible teacher, a linguist, a historian, and in many ways the teacher that many teachers would turn to in order to get a unique, fair and in-context perspective. He was an author of countless short books on important biblical topics and concepts, and also lengthy seminars that really dug deep in areas of Scripture that are often controversial. His “Biblical Research Techniques” course and “Theological Swimming 101” were two multi-hour courses that helped build our faith. I have never met a person who took one of his courses that didn’t learn and grow from them.
For those blessed to sit under his teachings, Frank instilled a desire to be fair and in context not only with Scripture, but also with people and with how we apply Scripture to our life outside church walls. His unique ability to understand where somebody was in their walk and deal with them on a level they could understand was, and still is, an invaluable model for dealing with others on any topic. He even created a seminar topic that he called, “Complexity of Analysis,” where he taught others how to use this tool to determine where another person’s understanding was on any topic, Scriptural or otherwise. Those who were able to take that course before he passed still use it on a daily basis when interacting with people.
Frank was raised in Winchester, Kentucky. His upbringing was in the Church of Christ. In the 1970s, his father, LaVern Houtz, once the President of Southeastern Christian College in Winchester, KY, began to be influenced in a Messianic direction, attending special events at Beth Messiah Synagogue in Ohio. This had an effect on Frank. In 1984, he and his wife, Mary, began to host an Erev Shabbat Bible study in their home with a few close friends soon after they were married.
This weekly Sabbath eve meeting would continue as a Sabbath meeting only. That was until 1991, when the verse in Zechariah 14 about a future Sukkot jumped out to Frank and Mary as being significant. From that point on, the Houtz family began to celebrate all of the biblical holy days. That weekly meeting at the Houtz home eventually evolved into congregation Beit Minorah, a congregation that has met on a weekly basis since 1993.
It’s been five years since Frank passed. The loss of our friend and teacher left a hole in our lives that has not been filled, but he left many treasures with us: passion for truth, love of God and Scripture, the desire to dig for answers, and to be accurate and fair with them once found. Frank’s desire for peace among the people of God and the weight he placed on properly teaching others is still evident at Beit Minorah, the congregation he helped to create. Today, as Beit Minorah grows and evolves, the passion for peace and for truth, for providing students with a sound foundation to build on, and a willingness to be patient in finding – or waiting on – answers, is very much a foundational way of thinking among the leadership at Beit Minorah.
I believe Frank shared his wisdom with too few people during his time with us. We are part of a movement that is still prone to polarization, and very much in need of a more “Frank like” approach to Scripture. Knowing the importance of the principles he lived and taught, it is our sincere prayer as congregation leaders that we continue to impart them to the family of Beit Minorah, and beyond.