Remembering Marcus


When I first arrived at Oxford, my supervisor, George Caird, suggested that I read the work that one of his students had done. That student was Marcus Borg. At the time Marcus was yet to publish his dissertation and he had returned to the United States without a teaching position. But his dissertation, which illuminated the teaching of Jesus against the backdrop of first century Judaism and Roman domination was a brilliant piece of work. I spent weeks on end, poring over his thesis in the … [Read more...]

Remembering King


Image source: Wikimedia Commons Years ago…I visited the Martin Luther King Center and purchased a children’s biography of King for my six year-old daughter.  This led to a collection of King biographies that over the years [grew] in sophistication.  When she was nine, she played on a frequent basis with a large number of other children in the cathedral close in Jerusalem.  Among her friends was Jamie, a younger Canadian boy, and Alex, an American who had a reputation for being something of a bul … [Read more...]

“Je Suis Charlie”


I am not a huge fan of satire.  Oh, admittedly, when it's done well, I do laugh.  But the difficulty with satire is that, by nature, it exaggerates and relies on caricature.  So, while the avowed purpose of satire is to offer up a subject up for examination, it almost always invites ridicule as well.  There is little room for conversation, nuance, or true bridge building, when an individual or a group of individuals is belittled.That said, satire and many other forms of speech are protected, … [Read more...]

Final Lessons: A Tribute to Rueben P. Job


In the fall of 2013 when I was installed as the first holder of the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical, I understood well that I was not only assuming responsibilities for my students, but that I was shouldering the on-going work of the man whose name graced the chair that I hold.  His prayerful, measured, and visionary leadership stretched across six decades, touching people in the Dakotas, the Armed Forces in Europe, and Iowa.  His work on behalf of the United M … [Read more...]

We need a Francis

As I follow the news about the ministry of Pope Francis, I’m often struck by the way in which people project their personal expectations on his ministry.  People seem to expect him to function like a progressive Protestant or hope that he will.That, it seems to me, is unrealistic.  His training and orientation to the world is decidedly Catholic, which should be no surprise, and he was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II.  His position in the Catholic Church also requires far more of him than … [Read more...]

No Cause for Celebration: Question Three, “Can I avoid using stained-glass language?”

Introduction to the seriesMy brother, Dave, battled a fatal brain cancer for nearly eight years and he died in January of 2013 as the result of a fall that was due in large part to his illness.  In reaction to Dave’s quest to find a durable faith and supportive friends, I wrote a book calledThe Dave Test. The book distills Dave’s quest into ten questions that any of us can ask ourselves, when we are in one of life’s hard places or when we are trying to support those we love.  Whether that har … [Read more...]

Prejudice and the Partisan Future

 The lasting concern over the hacking of email at Sony Pictures will no doubt revolve around the question of what the perpetrators do with an early script from the James Bond franchise.But what we should be paying attention to is the evidence of prejudice that thrives behind closed doors among the Sony leadership elite.  Co-chair Amy Pascal and Producer Scot Rudin are, it seems, capable of the same childish, mean-spirited prejudice that some would have us believe thrives only on the … [Read more...]

Seminaries and the Unthinking Future

I've thought a lot about the future of theological education this semester. Some of that thinking was inevitably a product of engaging the task itself. Some of it was associated with my responsibilities as a member of The Episcopal Church's Board of Examining Chaplains, and some of it emerged from watching the situation at General Theological Seminary. Here is what has crystallized for me: One: While the situation at every seminary is different and many seminaries (my own included) are secure … [Read more...]