An attorney who became a stay-at-home mom, Cindy Pirtle always has had a love for learning. So much so that more than 20 years after finishing law school, she went back to school to further her education, this time as a seminary student.
It’s that kind of never-ending quest for knowledge that enhanced Pirtle’s faith and led her down the path to become one of the Presbyterian Lay Committee’s newest board members.
“I’m a lover of knowledge,” Pirtle said. “I love to continue to learn because there’s still so much out there for me to know.”
A lot of that learning for Pirtle has come from immersing herself in Scripture. She taught a class on “The Bible in 90 Days” at Windwood Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas, and that merely made her thirst for more knowledge from a Biblical scope.
“I do not consider myself a Biblical scholar, but everything I read in the Bible makes me want to learn more,” she said. “The more trust you have in God, the greater your faith is. It’s an amazing thing to continue to learn, whether it be in seminary or elsewhere.
“We have to keep going forward; we can’t rest on the past. That thirst for knowledge continues to help me grow in my life.”
Born in Conroe, Texas, Pirtle attended junior and high school in Enid, Okla. Eventually, she found her way to law school at Oklahoma University in Norman before moving back to Texas where she now resides in Spring with her husband Phillip, a physician, and daughters Katy, 14, and Cassie, 10.
She spent 10 years as a trial attorney, specializing in oil/gas litigation and pipeline regulatory work. After changing firms, she dealt with constitution law, civil rights litigation and criminal law for a while.
“I went from the defense to the plaintiff; that’s strange,” Pirtle quipped.
But Pirtle walked away from actively practicing law. She and her husband both were working 12-15 hours each day, taking them away from their girls. So, they decided a change was in order. Pirtle stepped away from her career, choosing to be home with her daughters.
“We worked, that’s what we did,” she said. “Finally, we had to make a choice where we would raise our children or have somebody else do it. While law can be thrilling, there is no more important job than raising your children. We were blessed that my husband also had a job that could support us and allow me to be home with the girls and volunteer with the church.”
That has become a major part of Pirtle’s life. She still is a licensed attorney, though she does not practice. She has not lost her connections in the legal world, though.
“Everything I do is pro bono work for the church and people in the church,” said Pirtle, who is an elder at Windwood, a church of approximately 1,300 members in the New Covenant Presbytery. “I pretty much live at the church and get paid in peach cobbler these days.”
Pirtle’s desire to serve the PLC came about from a common theology she shared with the board.
“Obviously, I had read The Layman and met (President and Executive Editor) Carmen (Fowler LaBerge) a couple of times and found that the Lay Committee impresses me,” she said. “I think that right theology is crucial. The church is such that we have to depend on God’s Word. If people are misled by bad theology that is a huge step backward, something that makes my heart hurt.
“Scripture is always first. God called out error where there was error, and a lot of people in this world won’t do that. Apparently, (PLC board members) are people who will stand up for the faith and what is correct and right in Scripture. If I’m going to be part of an agency like that, wow, how exciting! If I can help others through the Lay Committee, how better a way could there be to answer God’s call?”
Pirtle admits there are plenty of challenges facing the Presbyterian denomination these days, but she said the goal to overcoming those should be a simple one: Look to God.
“We’ve got to look up; we have to keep our eyes up to God,” she said. “But there are challenges to that. Everybody has his/her own interpretation of Scripture, and they all can’t be right. Even the ‘church’ disagrees on what is right. If the ‘church’ can’t agree, how can I know what is right? We’ve stopped being the ‘church’ and started being a whole lot of churches. We’ve got to look to God to know what is right.”
It’s a thirst for that kind of knowledge that continues to drive Cindy Pirtle in her service to the Presbyterian Lay Committee.