There will be more time for skiing, hiking and traveling now. Although whether the Rev. Earl Palmer plans to spend his retirement doing...

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There will be more time for skiing, hiking and traveling now.

Although whether the Rev. Earl Palmer plans to spend his retirement doing those things remains to be seen.

Palmer, 74, has announced he will be retiring from University Presbyterian Church, one of Seattle’s largest congregations, where he has served as senior pastor for 15 years.

He plans to stay on until a search committee finds a successor — a process that typically takes about a year. He then plans to teach, speak, write and advise other pastors through a new nonprofit foundation to be formed by members and friends of the church.

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“I don’t believe in retirement,” Palmer said. “I believe you move into different eras of your working life and your career and fulfilling your interests.”

Planning to retire from running such a big congregation “seemed right,” he said. “I’ve been a pastor of a church for 50 years. So it seemed like: Why not try a new and expanded and wider ministry where I would be able to travel and teach in other places?”

Palmer, who is married with three children and seven grandchildren, is perhaps best known locally for his biblically centered, practical and uplifting preaching and teaching.

“He’s someone who’s helped people understand and open the Bible in a new way,” said the Rev. Tim Snow, executive pastor at University Presbyterian. “He’s an amazing preacher and teacher of scripture. He’s someone who’s helped people understand the Jesus of the Bible and not just the Jesus of people’s imagination.”

Longtime parishioner Harriet Hartquist says Palmer points out small details of scripture that many people might have missed.

“He’s probably one of the better Bible teachers that we’ve ever had at our church. We’re going to miss his teaching.”

During Palmer’s tenure, the church has grown from about 3,100 members to some 4,500.

The reasons are many, including the church’s emphasis on youth outreach; its many small groups, missions and ministries; and its sizable staff and resources.

Palmer is another reason.

“He did what is difficult in today’s society and that is to help a mainline church to grow,” said the Rev. Sanford Brown, executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle.

“University Presbyterian Church is a model for what we’d like to see out of more of our mainline churches — that there is a lot of vitality there and a lot of lay ministry. Much of that is because of Earl’s leadership.”

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com