Reformed Christians have lost one of their great theologians, pastors


(James Thompson/WikiCommons)

 

 

 

 

 

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TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, last week, as Americans and people around the world went about their Christmas preparations, a Christian theologian – a personal friend and a mentor of yours – slipped into eternity. R.C. Sproul, at the age of 78, passed away.

DR. REEDER: Just an absolute titan. We think of the great impact of a Billy Graham in the breadth of the church and his commitment to crusade evangelism.

For me, R.C. should be seen in the same way. His outreach commitment and impact was extraordinary as he took the great historic orthodox Gospel of Jesus Christ and all the theology attached to it, related to it, undergirding it, surrounding it, and he had this marvelous, wonderful -way of communicating it so that what was considered profound truth, he could communicate with such simplicity and attractiveness.

His commitment to reform theology is legendary. His commitment to the authority of the scriptures – their inerrancy, their infallibility – was truly church-shaking, church-encouraging, church-equipping, and that meant that it was world-shaking and world-impactful as well.

I had five mentors in ministry. Of those five mentors in ministry, one was R.C. Sproul and the other was James Boyce and both of those are with the Lord. Three of my mentors are still living, but now both of them are with the Lord.

By the way, interesting, James Boyce and R.C. were very close friends. If you’ve never read R.C.’s book, The Holiness of God, then you’re poverty stricken – it’s just so powerful.

In his book on the holiness of God, he gloriously describes this scene in Isaiah 6 where the seraphim were gathered around the throne and the angels and the seraphim were singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty,” and thresholds are trembling.

When they called me and told me about R.C. on the day he died, one of my first thoughts was, “I know R.C. will be so gloriously enraptured to see his Savior, but I also know he will love to see his mentor, Dr. John Gerstner. He will love to see Dr. Boyce, his dear friend for life. I know he’ll seek out Martin Luther – he loved to study the life of Martin Luther – and, in many ways, R.C. was a reflection of Martin Luther in terms of maintaining, maturing and growing the understanding of reformed reformation theology.

That glorious scene that he so wonderfully paints when he preaches and writes of the Isaiah 6 chapter, that he has now joined it and he is there with praise before the Lord and the trembling thresholds all around him as the glory of the Lord fills the presence of the Lord and R.C. is present in that presence.

And, by the way, R.C. was quite the sportsman. He loved baseball and played baseball. He loved golf –one time, a 2 handicapper – and he also tried to keep me away from making a reverse pivot on my backswing. He was always the coach, whether it was theology or golf. He loved to do trivia. I’d come up, we’d immediately go to three things: theology, Civil War, and baseball.

And, of course, he loved Pittsburgh and I actually played with a number of guys that were with the Pittsburgh Pirates and my dad was a scout in the front office of the Pittsburgh Pirates. That was another attraction that we had as well.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, it was back in the ‘60s and ‘70s when the Billy Graham Organization, Young Life Ministries, Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth for Christ, many of those were flourishing and many young people making commitments to Christ. R.C. came along and said, “You know, that’s good, but I really want to see people grow deeper in their relationship with Christ,” and he started Ligonier Ministries.

DR. REEDER: That’s right. And he also was an unabashed churchman. As you said, he was really breaking out in his ministry in the 1970s when I was at Covenant College. I had just graduated and I was a student pastor of a little struggling and new Bible church and he came and did a conference on the authority and sufficiency – inerrancy and sufficiency – of the Word of God – wonderful, wonderful time.

He comes into the PCA and I get to know him there and then, when I had my doctoral work, I had him for a number of classes with Reformed Theological Seminary. Of course, I always tell people, everybody thought that I loved R.C., which I do love R.C., but I loved Vesta more because she’s the one who graded all my papers. And it was wonderful: I got R.C. in the classroom and I got Vesta grading all my reports.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Of course, that was R.C.’s wife.

DR. REEDER: They did everything together. What a great model of loving your wife and what a great model she was for other wives, the way she loved her husband. And, of course, R.C. was an inveterate writer, and author and speaker.

R.C. was a big man with a big laugh – he loved a good joke, he loved good humor. One thing people don’t know is that, if you would talk to R.C. in the last 15 years of his life and ask him, “What has been the greatest joy of your life?” – of course Vesta would be there and there were many, many great things and he loved his children, his son and his daughter – but one of the things he would tell you, the greatest thing in his life was pastoral preaching.

When he became the pastor of St. Andrew’s Chapel, he would tell you that’s been the greatest experience of his life – his pastoral preaching Sunday after Sunday.

TOM LAMPRECHT: What do you think R.C. would want to leave as his legacy?

DR. REEDER: Theology matters because all of life is theology. The way you live reflects your theology. Your view of God, all of life is theology. My personal opinion is that would be what he would want people to understand so do your theology well.

R.C. was a stickler on this – he could not stand to hear people say, “God has an unconditional love for you.” He understood what they meant, but he said, “If God’s love is unconditional, then why is Jesus on that cross?”

God’s love is unmerited, God’s love is unstoppable, God’s love is relentless, God’s love is unconquerable, God’s love is glorious and triumphant, God’s love is overcoming and God’s grace is the outworking of His love into your life because of the unmerited favor of God, but it can’t be unconditional. God is holy and that’s the glorious thing about God’s love is He gave up His Son to satisfy the unimpeachable holiness of God.

He saw that statement, “unconditional,” as diminishing the majesty of God’s love and actually, ultimately, attacking the unmerited nature of God’s love. God’s love is not just a wink, “Well, I’m holy but it doesn’t matter.” No, God’s love is so glorious, He found a way when there was no way to make a way to save you and that way was the gift of His Son, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, there’s always a remnant – God always has a remnant. It’s sad to see someone like R.C. Sproul leave this earth and his gifts are no longer with us but, as we speak, God is raising up others.

DR. REEDER: I don’t even belong hardly in the same room with R.C. – I like the way Chris Larson says that he was omnicompetent – but guys like me are a remnant. There were ten of us that used to meet with R.C. every year. We’d go down to Orlando, play some golf, have a good meal, talk theology, challenge and encourage each other.

I think of all those guys – John Woods, Sandy Wilson, John Sartelle and a number of others, the guys at Ligonier – his dear compatriot, Burk Parsons and Chris Larsons, the Ligonier Ministry, which now has captured all of this material and now will be used of God for that, the Reformation Bible College and, of course, St. Andrew’s Chapel.

Let me just finish today by saying these two things: Pray for Vesta, pray for his son, R.C. Jr., and pray for his daughter, his grandchildren. He’s a big man and filled a big space so there is a big space. When you have somebody that loves you deep, and you love them deep, there is a deep loss so I’m praying for them.

Pray for Ligonier as it takes this next season. Chris and Burk have been preparing for this. Pray for St. Andrew’s Chapel as I’m sure Burk Parsons will continue that ministry, there.

And pray for the PCA – we’ve lost one of our great theologians. Pray for all of us that have been impacted that, somehow, we as that remnant, as you said, will be able to carry forward.

Pray that God will use this in just really glorious ways for the work of the kingdom because, if there was any time that we needed to know that theology matters and your theology is not from human imagination, but divine revelation, from God’s inerrant, infallible, sufficient Word of God, it is in this day.

That would be my second thing, my exhortation is: Take what R.C. has given us, use it, build on it and take it to the next generation.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

39 mins ago

VIDEO: Gun control, tolls are just a regional concern, racist Alabama Democrats and more on Guerrilla Politics …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Will a serious discussion about “gun control” take place, or will it be more politicking by both sides?

— Will toll talk spread beyond the citizens of Mobile and Baldwin Counties?

— Why are Alabama Democrats calling each other racist?

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Jackson and Burke are joined by U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) to discuss gun control, tolls, debt and the potential recession.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” where he argues that American institutions should put Americans first.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

2 hours ago

Alabama’s Margaret Renkl, writer for New York Times, launches first book, ‘Late Migrations’

A couple of years ago, Alabama native Margaret Renkl, who had made a career out of writing and editing, was stressed. Really stressed.

Living in Nashville, she had moved her mother up from Birmingham to help take care of her in her final years.

“After my mom died, and my husband’s parents had moved up here, too, it really was unbearable,” she says. “I was dealing with grief and caregiving, and two of my three children were still living at home. It was a lot.”

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Then, at the Southern Festival of Books, Renkl ran into an editor from The New York Times. The newspaper was starting a new series, The End, about end-of-life issues, and he urged her to write about her experience.

“I ended up working, first thing in the morning, 15 minutes a day, on an essay about my mother’s death and my mother-in-law dying, and at the end of the month, I sent it in, and they bought it,” Renkl says. “I did another piece, and they bought that, also. By that time, I was feeling a lot more confident.”

Her mother-in-law had also passed away, so Renkl had a bit more time.

“I was still sorting through these issues about grief, but I didn’t think of them as a book,” she says.

But they were a book, at least the beginnings of one, and last month Renkl released “Late Migrations,” a book of essays about two of Renkl’s passions – her family and the natural world.

The book has received rave reviews from celebrities and bibliophiles alike. Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine says Renkl “guides us through a South lush with bluebirds, pecan orchards and glasses of whiskey shared at dusk in this collection of prose in poetry-size bits.” Author Ann Patchett says the book has the makings of “an American classic … beautifully written, masterfully structured and brimming with insight into the natural world.” Actress Reese Witherspoon says Renkl “is the most beautiful writer. I love this book.” “Late Migrations” has been featured on NPR and in Garden & Gun and People magazines, among others.

It’s all a bit surprising to Renkl, who graduated from Auburn University with a degree in English in 1984 and earned her master’s at the University of South Carolina.

“The structure is unusual, and the subject is often sad,” Renkl says. “It’s a meditation on grief some ways, and I think we as a culture aren’t comfortable talking about death and grief. I’ve been surprised and heartened by the response.”

Renkl was born in Andalusia, but she moved to Birmingham while in first grade.

“The world I lived in in Birmingham was completely different from the world I lived in heretofore,” she says. “We went back to lower Alabama all the time, because my grandparents still lived there. That was pretty foundational for the way I think of my growing-up years.”

Renkl’s father was in real estate development, building apartment complexes, and she and her family would move from site to site, wherever her father’s company was building a complex.

“It’s a little ironic that I spent so much time in the outdoors, because we were living in the woods that my father’s company was tearing down,” says Renkl, who graduated from Homewood High School.

She and her brother, Billy, an artist who provided illustrations for “Late Migrations,” forged their collaboration early on with childhood books of poetry and illustrations. Later, Billy would be her art director when she was editor of her high school newspaper and also when she was editor of the Circle literary magazine at Auburn.

After graduate school, Renkl taught high school, but in her 10th year of teaching, she found herself on bed rest while pregnant with her second child, and since she couldn’t teach, she had to “find a way to make some money.”

She launched a 12-year freelancing career with an essay for Glamour magazine and later edited Chapter 16, an online journal for Humanities Tennessee, for 10 years.

After that, The New York Times, a publication she had failed to sell freelance essays to after several tries, came calling, and she began writing for The End. The Times soon hired her to write a regular monthly column, and six months later, they asked her to write weekly.

“I asked for my first contract to be six months instead of a year, because I wasn’t completely convinced I could come up with something every week,” Renkl says. “Then I signed a contract for a year, then another for a year. I’m pretty happy with the arrangement.”

As a regular writer for The Times, Renkl writes about “flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South,” according to the newspaper. She has written about her familyanimals and politics.

In the meantime, Renkl was continuing to write essays about her family – the grief of losing her mother, mother-in-law and, earlier, her father – and, thanks to her disdain for the 2016 political season and its aftermath, nature. “I started writing a little nature blog that had pretty much zero audience, but writing about the natural world reminded me that what was happening in the political arena was only temporary,” she says. “At some point, the other women in my writer’s group said, ‘You know this is a book, right? … This is a book about longing and loss in many different contexts.’”

Milkweed Editions agreed and worked with Renkl on “Late Migrations,” which includes memoir-type essays along with essays on nature and drawings by her brother.

“This was his family, too,” Renkl says. “So it seemed natural to me to have my story of my family include work by him. … Also, Billy’s artwork is very often about birds and insects and stars and flowers and leaves.”

Initially, Renkl paired her work with pieces her brother had already created, but he ended up creating 20 original pieces for “Late Migrations.”

“As I was reading the early drafts of the book, I came to realize that I wanted to use my voice to amplify the beautiful connections between Margaret’s backyard observations of nature and her stories about our family,” Billy Renkl says. “Eventually, I decided to aim for a carefully calibrated relationship between images that seemed to reference the history of wildlife identification guidebooks and family photo albums – images that were equal parts objective observation and idiosyncratic family myth.”

Though some have referred to “Late Migrations” as a memoir, Renkl disagrees.

“To me, that means comprehensive and complete,” she says. “These essays make no pretense to be comprehensive. I’m not telling the story of my life. I consider it primarily to be a meditation on loss and human life and in the natural world. I took great comfort, in writing both sets of essays, in seeing how what happens to us in human life is being played out all around in the natural world.”

Renkl says her parents would have loved “Late Migrations.”

“They were so proud of me, and the book is a love letter to them,” she says. “It’s a love letter to family life, to the natural world. It’s a praise song. They would have loved that.”

Margaret Renkl will be signing “Late Migrations” on Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. at Pebble Hill in Auburn; and Read Herring books, 105 S. Court St. in Montgomery, on Sept. 5. You can find her book tour schedule here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

Samford University’s Ida Moffett School of Nursing receives $3.5M Nurse Practitioner Residency Grant

Samford University’s Ida Moffett School of Nursing will receive $3.5 million over four years to place nurse practitioner graduates in rural, underserved areas for primary-care residency. The grant is the largest in Samford University’s history.

The Advanced Nursing Education – Nurse Practitioner Residency Program Grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration is designed to prepare new nurse practitioners to deliver high-quality primary care in community-based settings. During the year-long program, nurse practitioner residents will complete academic coursework and clinical hours in underserved population locations.

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“For nearly 100 years, Ida Moffett School of Nursing has prepared well-equipped, compassionate nurses to serve the underserved,” said Nena Sanders, vice provost of Samford’s College of Health Sciences and nursing school dean. “This grant affords us the opportunity to enhance the knowledge and skill sets of our graduates and intentionally place caring, competent nurse practitioners where the needs are greatest.”

The grant will facilitate the launch of the first residency program housed within the nursing school.

The program will focus on developing new family nurse practitioners with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to improve the quality and safety of rural health care systems. According to professor and grant manager Stephanie Wynn, the program will place a special priority on addressing value-based care, telehealth, obesity and mental health issues.

“This residency program will distinctively position new nurse practitioners to face the complexities which occur when providing care to rural and underserved populations,” said Wynn. “Ninety-eight percent of Alabama’s counties are designated, either all or in part, as a Medically Underserved Area or a Health Professional Shortage Area. This program will transform communities by increasing the quality and quantity of primary-care providers who are trained to provide innovative, compassionate care.”

Fifty-five of Alabama’s 67 counties are considered rural, and only two of those 55 are considered to have the minimum number of providers available. According to Wynn, the state’s population-per-physician ratio well exceeds 3,000 to 1 in many rural areas. “Nearly 44% of Alabama’s population is living in rural areas, yet 70% of primary care physicians practice within Alabama’s five largest counties,” said Wynn. “Health care must shift to better meet the needs of today’s population.”

During their rotations, residents will receive training in vital telehealth technology reducing accessibility issues for patients who would otherwise need to travel long distances to seek care. “By providing residents with telehealth training, rural communities will gain direct access to specialists in the urban areas,” said Jill Cunningham, nurse practitioner department chair.

Cunningham and Wynn are leading the residency and curriculum development with the support of an interprofessional team of educators. The first cohort of 10 nurse practitioners will begin their rotations July 1, 2020.

“More than 20 years ago we launched a nurse practitioner program to fill a need within the health care system, and that vision hasn’t changed,” said Jane Martin, senior associate dean for Ida Moffett School of Nursing. “We are producing well-trained, compassionate nurse practitioners who are breaking health care accessibility barriers.”

Ida Moffett School of Nursing offers nurse practitioner coursework that is aligned with the needs of today’s heath care environment. Students choose from specialty areas such as family, emergency or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and entry points are available for associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree holders. Advanced practice registered nurse, nurse practitioner certificates are also available.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

Josh Laney to head Alabama Office of Apprenticeship as skills program expands

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Ed Castile, deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce and director of AIDT, announced that Josh Laney has been named director of the newly established Alabama Office of Apprenticeship (AOA) as the state moves to expand a program that elevates the skill levels of workers.In his new role, Laney will partner with industries and education providers across the state to develop and expand traditional and industry-recognized apprenticeships for youth and adults.  He will also lead the AOA’s support of larger workforce development infrastructure for Alabama to identify and promote the recognition and use of valuable credentials.

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Laney previously served as senior director for Workforce Development at the Alabama State Department of Education, where he supported local school system efforts to align the career technical training initiatives with workforce needs.

With over 20 years of experience in education, Laney’s career path has taken him from the classroom to administrative leadership in junior high and high school settings before assuming the role of career technical director for Phenix City Schools in 2011.

Under Laney’s leadership, the AOA will expand Alabama’s registered apprenticeship opportunities, resulting in additional skilled employees in the workforce and increased economic activity for Alabama.

“The Alabama Office of Apprenticeship is a game changer. Having someone like Josh who is passionate about education and dedicated to the growth and preparedness of our workforce is a home run for Alabama,” said Castile, who heads Commerce’s Workforce Development Division.

MEETING DEMANDS

The establishment of the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship represents another step in Alabama’s strategic efforts to develop a comprehensive workforce system. Apprenticeship programs allow the state to meet the current and future demands of business and industry, while also creating greater opportunities for Alabamians.

Registered apprenticeship programs are innovative work-based learning opportunities that rely on business involvement and provide on-the-job training while also providing wages from employers during training.

Apprenticeship sponsors develop highly skilled employees, while reducing turnover rates and increasing productivity.

Alabama has five industry focused sectors for apprenticeships:  Healthcare, Construction/Carpentry, Information Technology, Distribution/Transportation & Logistics and Advance Manufacturing.

“The success of Apprenticeship Alabama over the last few years made us realize that we needed to go bigger,” Castile said. “With Josh’s extensive background in workforce development and education it was natural fit for agency.”

Laney’s appointment follows the passage of Senate Bill 295, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, which not only established the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship but also expanded the Apprenticeship Alabama Tax Credit from $1,000 to $1,250.

The legislation also increased the number of apprentices one employer may claim from five to 10, as well as the tax credit cap from $3 million to $7.5 million, and established the Alabama Apprenticeship Council.

The AOA will serve as the registration agency for all registered apprenticeships in the state of Alabama.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

6 hours ago

Huntsville’s economic future is tied to our airport’s success

Huntsville is one of the fastest-growing local economies in our nation.

Boosted by federal and private sector investments, our region is on a strong economic trajectory. In fact, a recent population boom has put the Rocket City on track to potentially be the largest city in Alabama in the next six years. Our airport represents a key component to continuing this trend because current and new industry considering locating to our region depend on passenger and air cargo operations that support their own operating needs. The local economy depends on our ability to connect with other communities across the globe, so Huntsville International Airport (HSV) is vital to maintain those bonds as the region’s gateway to the world.

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But similar to other airports around the country, HSV needs infrastructure investments in order to continue to be able to meet the expected flow of passengers and goods in the future. Projected growth in the area and HSV’s desire to continue to propel this region forward is why in 2012 the airport completed a major $92 million dollar terminal and landside project that included creation of a public waiting area, a new security screening checkpoint, a new baggage claim and a second parking deck. Those necessary upgrades that were a part of the 2002 Master Plan update, have improved the passenger experience and the efficiency of the airport.

Although HSV has seen many improvements and aesthetically offers visitors a very warm welcome to our community, other portions of our terminal are between 30 and 50 years old and in immediate need of improvement. As determined by HSV’s current Master Plan update, the parts of the airport’s facility that passengers use every day like our elevators, escalators, restrooms and concessions need redevelopment and expansion to keep up with demand. In addition, these anticipated terminal improvement projects are imperative to adhere to new federal standards and provide our passengers with facilities that meet their expectations like nursing rooms and pet relief areas. The aforementioned terminal improvement projects would reinvigorate HSV and set the stage for continued growth for our region for years to come.

We are grateful to Senator Shelby and our Alabama congressional delegation for recently securing significant FAA discretionary grants, however, these funds are designated for specific federal government high priority airfield projects. The previously mentioned terminal improvement projects are considered a lower priority for federal discretionary grants. Therefore, our challenge is to find funding for these necessary terminal improvement projects that are currently on hold.

The good news is that there’s a solution that doesn’t require taxpayers to foot the bill. If Congress would lift the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) — a small user fee paid only by air travelers on which airports depend to fund their infrastructure – HSV could begin this project immediately. The PFC is federally capped at a maximum of $4.50 and it hasn’t been updated in nearly 20 years, making it ineffective and inadequate to serve 21st-century airports that have experienced inflation just like everyone else. For example, HSV’s current PFC dollars are already committed through 2030. By modernizing the PFC for the first time since 2001, Congress would allow our airport to generate funding from only the people using the airport, for the project referenced above – all without a dime of taxpayer dollars.

Starting these terminal improvement projects would have a major impact on our region’s economy. On top of the tens of thousands of jobs that Alabama’s airports already support, it’s estimated that these projects would create 608 construction jobs and inject $19.1 million into the Huntsville economy via construction labor wages alone.

Some will say that we should leave the PFC alone. However, those voices fail to acknowledge that maintaining the current PFC could result in stalled growth in Huntsville. The airport has a major footprint on the local economy, with a total regional economic direct impact of 7,692 jobs equating to a payroll of $474,327,000 and a total multiplied impact of 24,293 jobs equating to a payroll of $942,828,000. Failing to upgrade our airport infrastructure could harm our economy and job growth. We have recently experienced lower fares at HSV due to the addition of two new carriers and the competition that those carriers created in the market. The improved and expanded infrastructure projects will further encourage the airlines to grow and expand, therefore modernizing the PFC can have a positive and direct impact on passenger fares.

HSV is not alone, America’s airports need nearly $130 billion in infrastructure over the next five years in order to match the demand. It sounds like a staggering number, but the number of passengers traveling through U.S. airports has doubled since 2000 to approximately one billion annually. Conversely, the PFC that pays for critical infrastructure of those airports has not increased in nearly two decades. These airports in their current state were designed for half of that traffic so it is clear that something must be done to modernize airports.

Airports across the country and organizations like Airports Council International-North America and the American Association of Airport Executives stand alongside numerous conservative organizations asking Congress to consider eliminating the PFC cap entirely or, raising the cap and adjusting it periodically for construction cost inflation.

There’s no doubt that Huntsville is a city on the rise. With a strong economy and a growing population, we are poised to continue to enjoy this success. HSV has always worked to provide the community with an airport that acts as an economic engine by taking proactive measures that allow for immediate and long-term growth. However, to stay on this path we must ensure that our airport is able to meet the vital needs of the growing population and business community. Modernizing the PFC isn’t just important for HSV – it’s critical for the future of our region.

Rick Tucker is the executive director at Huntsville International Airport